Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Students with faces are better

My university is trying hard to get tenured and tenure-track professors to teach online courses over the summer. They are offering $5k to plan the course over spring semester, plus the usual pay for teaching the summer course, plus a grader (paid 3.5times more per student than graders normally are).  There are about 20-25 students.

It is tempting, the extra $5k.  But I just don't know how I feel about contributing to the online course trend.  I don't want to be a Luddite.  If that is the direction universities are headed, then I should take the $5k while it is still being offered.  That said, I don't think this is a good way to learn.  And frankly, I would much prefer interacting with students face to face rather than via email.  I nearly always really like a student in person--not so much in abstract.  I don't know if I would want to teach if this became my only option.  And I don't know that students will learn as well--especially the best students.

So I'm wondering, do I really want to contribute to this trend?  Is this what university teaching will become? Or is it just another option, not threatening to replace face-time teaching?  What is lost and what is gained for the professor and student?

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