Why teach online? Why not teach online?


I was thinking about this question this morning —

There are some obvious reasons to choose to teach online — mostly my own convenience. It’s nice to contemplate days I can spend in my pajamas, teaching, and getting paid :).  I can also do it from wherever I find myself, as long as I have internet.

The thing is, teaching online requires a lot of preparation before the class.  Making sure all the materials are sufficient for students to do their own, self-guided, learning is a lot more challenging than choosing a textbook, dividing the chapters you want into groups and putting dates on a syllabus.  At least in philosophy, students often need more help understanding the material, so I have to help them figure it out online.

I know the material so well by now that I rarely prepare for a specific lecture the way I used to.  I also lecture a lot less than I used to, so my face-to-face students have more opportunities to ask questions, get clarification, and generally benefit from my time thinking and talking about these things.

Working with D2L (our course management system) isn’t easy — and they keep changing stuff on us, so there’s that.

There’s also the challenge of getting SOME (really, a few.. ) students to pay attention to the details.  I don’t know how many different places I’ve written that the weekly work in my course starts with a reading quiz and a student must have 80% on the quiz to open the discussion section associated with that quiz.  The computer isn’t subjective, it won’t let you slide by with a 70% — and open the discussion for you anyway, just because you ask nicely.

On the student side of things, I like the fact that their work must be more self-guided.  They need to do the intellectual discovery needed to understand the concepts without me telling them what the reading says.  Instead, they need to sort it out on their own.  I like to tell myself that they’re learning on a deeper level — but, I’m not at all sure about that.

On the down side, even though I’m an introvert I kind of miss seeing my students in the classroom — I miss the casual conversations, the jokes they’ll tell in class that they may not say online, and the look of surprise when they actually “get” it!


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Filed under Academia / college life

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