This blog was originally posted on February 25th, 2015.
It’s always surprised me that I don’t teach online. I am a tech-heavy guy, often an early adopter, and much of my work has involved computers and composition. But I tried teaching a writing course online once and, frankly, I thought it was a disaster. Granted, I was doing it somewhere around the turn of the millennium; I’m certain the technology has changed since then. But I’ve been stubbornly dead set against writing instruction online for most of my career.
That must change.
In part, it’s my whole “teachability” thing: I think I need to look back and reexamine old conclusions. A more pressing part, though, is a new mandate from our school to get our FYC courses online. It’s not entirely clear where the pressure is coming from: eLearning, the Dean of Undergraduate Studies, the Provost. Dunno. But the orders have come and now the challenge is making it happen in a way that maximizes student learning and success.
My basic objections have always been related to two points. First, composition classes are process-based classes, not content-based. Sure, I can see how it would be easy to put a video lecture on Blackboard, toss up some quizzes, add an exam and be done with it. It seems easy to me to deliver content through Content Management Systems (duh). But how does one teach process online? It strikes me as being as odd as trying to teach sculpture online.
My limited experience suggests that any attempt to do so triggers my second objection: time. Specifically, it feels like writing courses takes a lot more time online. If I am having discussion in a 50-minute class it takes 50 minutes. Move that discussion onto a discussion board, though, and I have to read each student response, engage appropriately, and redirect or respond, a process which I think ends up taking a lot longer than 50 minutes.
Maybe I am wrong. I have to be. I know that lots of schools teach writing online. I’m just not sure how they do it effectively.
I may be signing up for the Cs workshop on the topic and you can bet I’ll be reading widely in the field. But if you’ve taught online and feel that you’ve found a way that really works, let me know, OK?