I recently read an editorial from a college professor titled Why I Won’t Teach Online which details the reasons he would never teach on that particular platform. Overall, he has some good points. He has more weak points, however. The following is my response to his essay.
This seems like a pretty standard argument against change to me. It doesn’t matter what the argument is: the doctor who needs to update her knowledge of nutrition or a hiring manager who needs to adjust his perception of what people with disabilities are capable of doing. Change involves doing things differently, and there are a rare few who embrace the discomfort involved in change.
There are often many unique benefits to an old paradigm that has lasted the test of time. The argument for this old way of thinking will involve a laundry list of all the positive things that can not be replaced with the new approach. And this is true. In this essay by Christopher Schaberg, as a matter of fact, I agree that many, if not all, of the characteristics mentioned about face-to-face classes that can’t be replicated exactly in an online environment. But everything has both benefits and detriments. If you focus on or address only the negatives, then yes, the traditional way of doing something will appear to be infinitely better.
But there is another side. Although the article mentions a couple of benefits to online learning, let’s look at a few more. As noted, online learning can reach people that may not have other options for education – refugees and people restricted by distance to name a couple. Then there are students with disabilities who can access a video with closed captioning or listen repeatedly to an online lecture. There are students who have social anxiety for whom large lecture classes, or even small seminar classes, are unthinkable. English language learners can also find the self-regulated pace of instruction beneficial. There are benefits to face-to-face classes that can’t be replicated, but there are just as powerful advantages to online learning that can’t be replicated in a traditional classroom.
I am less convinced that students do not want online learning than I am that the specific students of Loyola University that take English classes, that choose face-to-face classes do not want online learning. If you are unwilling to change then you will find an argument against it.
As a student who has completed a whole degree online, I will admit that I miss the lasting connections I have had in on-campus classes. I felt awkward going back to a professor I hadn’t spoken to in two years to ask for a letter of recommendation. I was lucky that I seemed to stand out as a student. If I hadn’t, I wonder what would have happen with my request?
I would like to see more from the people responsible for facilitating student learning. As educators shouldn’t we be more willing to embrace change? Isn’t that exactly what we are asking of students? Aren’t we asking them to use their explorations of knowledge to rethink their perceptions and adjust them accordingly? That is certainly foremost in my mind as an foundational component in my teaching.
Tools that I used for this post:
Pixaby for the photo
Thanks to Mark for proofreading.