Not Detached?

It was an article that made me sit up and take notice. The Faculty is Remote, but Not Detached was recently published in the New York Times. In fact, some of the faculty referenced in the article appear to have either taken a detached stand-and-deliver style to the Internet, or won’t move to the Internet at all because they don’t believe it will work (in this case, I don’t either).

Stephen Ruth, professor of public policy and technology management at George Mason University, said that while online classes could be very effective, they were “not on par, in my opinion, with traditional classes at top-tier universities.” One reason is that “the general ambience of the class provides a better experience,” he said.

The writer herself may not understand the power of the enabling technologies of Web 2.0, as evidenced by this statement:

And technology like Web streaming has made online learning more like a real classroom experience.

These are outdated paradigms of what could and should be happening in our classrooms (and beyond). First, there is more than enough evidence that online learning is on par with classroom learning. But more important, engaged learners who are so engaged by virtue of Web 2.0 tools (including streaming) have the potential to do better than in a stand-and-deliver environment.

I invite Ms. Tahmincioglu to visit with some of the teachers she mentioned in her article – Robert Vernon and Terry Baron – and to interview other students and professors who are both highly engaged and interactive in their online space. I might even venture so far as to suggest that there can be more engagement in an online environment that is not bound by time and space.

I for one am taking two online graduate courses this semester. I have never met either professor nor most of my classmates face to face, but through various communications technologies I have had a wonderfully enriching experience and built connections that will outlive the end of the courses.

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4 Responses

  1. Speaking as one of those professors, I feel the same way. I feel like I know you better than most of the students I used to have in lecture environments. We encounter each other in a diverse range of learning environments, often with other students and instructors, where it is impossible to distinguish teachers from students. Everyone is a learner, and the boundary between formal and informal learning disappears. That’s not just fun–which it certainly can be; it is powerful, and goes far beynd what we can accomplish in any bounded classroom. How impoverished we would be if we were held captive in those four walls.

    Thanks for the reminder that there are a lot of educators who just don’t get it. But isn’t it exciting to be part of the redefinition of what it means to educate?

  2. Thank you SO much for sharing your positive experiences in an online learning environment, it’s imperative that the thinking change on this as more and more people are looking to e-learning for quality content. I look forward to reading the article you referenced……….

  3. This is my second online class and I have had two drastically different experiences. I am enjoying this class because the professors are using the technology to engage all of the students in the material. At no time have I ever felt that my professors have not been available, in fact some times it is hard to separate the professors from the students. In my other online class it felt as if the professor was distant and disengaged from our class.

  4. Online classes have, in my opinion, have 2 unique challenges. Both benefit the university institution

    1.) Money(from the article) …”Some in academia also say that online learning has created a second tier of instructors who work hard but are paid less than traditional professors.
    While some colleges report paying teachers up to $4,000 a course, that’s not the norm.”

    2.) Intellectual property… You develop the course, use an online tool to deliver the course. You leave. Where does the course go? Who owns it and the content? Comments?

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