On-line teaching

There’s a neat article in the NYTimes Sunday Education Life section on good on-line courses, and about how professors make them work. These folks are amazing–I love great lectures. But I also note that none of the article’s winners were teaching skills as part of their content. If information is all that a course is predicated upon, the corporate model may work very well. I’ve not taught on line (yet), but those who have tell me that it takes an extraordinary amount of energy and time–much more than it takes to do it in person. The time it might take to teach a skill like writing on line, about literature or anything else, boggles the mind.
There are two principles here:
1) Communication is the heart of teaching a skill. It’s necessary not just to get across a point, or to encourage, but also to discern a student’s individual problems with writing. I too often at present can’t uncover what makes a student tick until too late in the term. Depriving students and teachers of real contact can only make that harder.
2) Writing teachers don’t agree on much, but one thing they do know is that to learn it, you have to do it. It’s a practice. Larger classroom sizes lead to less writing, inevitably. If the course delivery method means that preparation and teaching take up more time than in the classroom, writing assignments will suffer, or be reduced to what can be delivered over a clicker.
I wonder–will administrations, if they want us to do this, give us time to develop and teach such courses?
It’s not just the professors who are grousing about this (stole this from UD).

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