Although it rarely serves me well, I really like it when I can conclude that the answer is black or white. If the answer is clearly one side rather than the other, then I know where I stand. I like knowing where I stand, which doesn’t require me to be in that messy, uncomfortable in-between place. There are no subtleties or much effort required to fully understand a situation or person if the answer is seemingly clear. However, the answer is hardly ever simple, and I believe to understand the full complexity of something often necessitates being uncomfortable.
That is the result of the dissertation research of David D. Hoffman titled, “Considering the Crossroads of Distance Education: The Experiences of Instructors as They Transitioned to Online or Blended Courses.” It’s the reaction of instructors as they live in the anxiety provoking space of learning a complex new tool. If we could get a peek into their story, it might sound something like this.
Tucked in a corner of the first floor, past the chemistry lab and the rarely used restrooms, far from the prying eyes of students, is a room on the right where the teachers meet. If clichés held true, then the elongated hallway ceiling light would flicker and buzz. But this one doesn’t. This one shines steadily in all of its fluorescent glory. Inside the room, and directly across from the entrance, is a large bulletin board jammed with overlapping newly updated travel posters and pamphlets.
And in this room is the one thing that calls across the winds to all educators regardless of age, race or gender – the coffee maker. It sits in the middle of the counter in this room that still smells faintly like nicotine and smoke from years gone by. Although the room is well worn, the shiny Swiss designed pot looks greatly loved. And here are two instructors who confer about the new changes in the their school.
“I’m delighted that the administration gets it.”
“I don’t know, administration could ‘get it’’’ Molly air quoted. “. . . a little bit more.”
Carlita paused. “Yeah, but you know, the people in the . . . what’s the name of that department?”
“Online and Blended Learning.”
“I have always found them extremely helpful. If I have a question they always get back to me right away. Nobody wants to make all these changes, but having someone available to answer questions is unspeakably helpful.”
Molly looked into her coffee cup or the-only-thing-that-makes-my-life-worth-living-cup, as she likes to call it. “I was somewhat worried about the new LMS, but it’s easier that the old one. It makes online classes easier – from a teaching perspective. Although, the time required to do that for the first time is a pain in the ass.”
“I heard we might get a bonus at the end of the year for teaching online classes. It doesn’t matter to me, I’ve wanted to teach online for a while now, but it doesn’t hurt either.”
Molly got up to refill her mug. As she did, she patted the coffee maker gently, and cooed, “There, there my love.”
Carlita’s gaze moved around the bulletin board from a beach in Thailand to a vineyard in Italy. As Molly sat back down, Carlita looked away from the beauty of the Eiffel Tower, “There’s a lot to teaching online when the students are engaged and learning, which is most of the time. I think I might even like it better than face to face classes.”
“Students do have this ability to work together in a way I’ve never seen before. They open up more easily.”
Molly sighed and said, “I really need to get going. Are you ready?”
Carlita stood up, “Yeah, let’s go.”
As they exited and switched off the lights, the coffee maker made a long and mournful blurp.
Things to think on:
- If you have any interest in teaching online, what about it appeals to you?
- If you have never taught online, how do you think you would approach it differently from the classes you teach now?
- What challenges do you think you would personally have to deal with to teach online?
Tools that I used for this post:
Pixaby for the photo.
Hoffman, David D., “Considering the Crossroads of Distance Education: The Experiences of Instructors as They Transitioned to Online or Blended Courses” (2016). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. Paper 4910.