Daily Archives: February 12, 2013

Online teaching presents different challenges

Since I’ve been teaching exclusively online for nearly a year and a half now, I thought it might be the right time to step back and make some observations. My thoughts are intended to be commentary on the online experience as an entirety, simply the way I’ve found it in that time.

Full Sail often comes under a lot of fire because it’s a “for profit” university and that makes the skin crawl for those in traditional academia. I’m not really sure WHY it does because by the time you add up all the costs, it’s all roughly the same. I know that THREE (count’em, 3!) universities made a profit off of my combined nine (9) years of higher learning…and two of those were “state” schools!

But that’s not the point. Those of you who know me know that once you get me started on a topic I enjoy, it’s tough to shut me up. That’s one of the reasons, I think, I’m a potentially decent teacher of writing—I absolutely love it.

But the online student is not able to sit in a classroom and listen to me and know that I have a tendency to be a bit sarcastic, not in a mean-spirited way, but in a that’s-just-so way. They’re not able to toss out and idea and back-and-forth it live for maximum creative feedback and to see me get worked up and excited when talking about stuff students have done well or fully grasped.

Thus, the biggest challenge in online learning, it seems to me, is to communicate the teacher’s passion for the subject. “Knowledge” can be presented in a matter-of-fact/here-it-is kind of way…and it isn’t always really exciting. To hear someone lecture on the same material can be to see it in a completely different way.

The biggest problem, though, is student engagement. The Full Sail model is one of “online” but not “part-time.” Many students (and probably non-students—maybe some of you reading this) interpret it to mean part-time and they put a bare minimum into the work, barely scraping by.

GIGO, right?

I sometimes have students complain about the amount of work…and I always bite my tongue because I want to respond “but YOU are the one who signed up to cram all this information into one month—why are you so surprised?” I generally respond with something a little nicer that still says buck up and get the work done.

For me, it all goes back to the spirit of effort we teach athletes. We often hear athletes, even during off-season, talking about how bad they want it. Which is to suggest or ask what is it they’re willing to do (and NOT do) in order to best prepare themselves for the game/season.

Writing is the same way, of course; how much are you willing to give up in order to spend time writing?

Students in the online model of learning who don’t fully engage are only hurting themselves. I now find myself asking those who are struggling to find time or to make time…

“How bad do you want it?”


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