By Dr. Pelham Mead
With the sudden onset of the coronavirus schools and Colleges have been thrown into chaos by the necessity of using online courses to avoid virus infections. Ten years ago I was tell College Professors that Online Courses were the future for Education. They presented an economically cheaper way for Universities and Colleges to deliver courses with no overhead for classes and instructors running courses instead of PHD Professors. The Professors did not believe me. At St. Johns University the Professors were afraid to do Podcasts because they thought that the University would record their lectures for future use and eventually replace them with their own lectures. Well canned aonline courses may well seem good to avoid a virus and cheaper to run in the long run but their are many short comings. Students at US San Diego recently challenged their University as to why they should pay for Dorms when they do not need to be on campus for classes. They can dial up their classes from home and not have to pay the dorm fee. The second valid object the students had was why should they pay for classes where they never get to meet or talk with the Professor? Paying for a highly experience PHD or EDD Professor is one thing, but getting an instructor that does not have a Masters or Doctoral degree on the subject being taught cheapens the product. The UC San Diego University at this time, June 2020 is holding steadfast to the principal that all classes will be online this fall despite the fact that the students may decide to drop out instead of paying for canned online courses and paying for a dorm they do not need.
So how does a Professor develop an online course? To begin with they have to accept the fact that in person teaching with a blackboard and or project is not the same as teaching online. For online course lecturing and Powerpoint slide shows alone does not work. The NEW emphasis online is projects and the flipped classroom as it is called. Instead of the Professor spoon feeding the students in a live class, the emphasis changes to here is a task, solve it briefly and cite your references and return it to me in a timely fashion. Putting Assignments on a TIME basis changes the game greatly and requires active participation of the students online, whereas in a class a student could be dreaming or just taking mindless notes. For Instance in a Literature Course Studying Robert Frost and the Poem, “The Road Not Taken.” Students after you read Robert Frost’s Poem called, “The Road Not Taken,” what is the theme of the poem? How would you apply the meaning of the poem to your life in 100 words or less. You have one hour to finish this task. When you are done, send the Essay to my mailbox on Blackboard. This is a Lockbox remember which tells me what day and time your entered the mailbox with your assignment and your name and class section. If your assignment is late it will cost you one grade level penalty, so don’t waste time. I will be online in one hour.
A creative approach to a project is to assign two student to work together on one assignment. Let’s say the course is, “World Politics.” You discuss in an online Powerpoint briefly that status of NATO with regards to America. The question is, “Is President Trump right about NATO and that American is carrying them and paying all the fees? Second question should NATO allow Russia to join as President Trump has suggested?
Find Exact quotes and sources and cite them, however based on other sources state your informed opinion about NATO today and whether American should withdraw or what. Be specific and keep your project to two pages of 250 words maximum. You may add a Biblio at the end of one additional page of the current sources both or you found and used in your report.
Online teaching is all about the teacher as a Coordinator rather than a lecturer. Students can learn by themselves. They just need direction from the online teacher. Chat rooms can add to the positive motivation for a course. Immediate feedback is a vital success item. Friendliness on line is most important. For some reason because Students think they are anonymous they can be rude online to the instructor. This is a big mistake. Just because an Instructor is using Zoom or FaceTime or whatever online platform they have available doesn’t mean civility goes out the window. I have seen from experience that students for some reason forget this and they ending up with a backlash from the instructor. Some students feel their opinion is more important than the instructors opinion and end up being forced to drop the course by the instructor.
Some Universities will overcrowd an online class with 40 students which means the response rate will slow down from the Instructor because of the large class membership. The magic number for an online course is under 20 students to make it manageable.
To be continued.