Seven reasons why online and hybrid classes are better (and more rigorous) than the traditional classroom

"Girl Browsing The Internet" by Stuart Miles at
“Girl Browsing The Internet” by Stuart Miles at

I’ve been teaching hybrid classes this entire year, and I’m looking forward to also teaching my Modern Brazil class as a hybrid next year. In the long term, I will probably move to teaching mostly hybrid classes.  I’ve been struck by how different these classes are from traditional format classes, mostly in positive ways. But I too often hear some of my colleagues (whom I respect and like- it’s a great department) denounce the move towards hybrid and on-line classes with comments such as “There is no concern for quality!” Or “They want us to be a vocational school!” I’ve spent a lot of time patiently trying to describe the advantages of classes in this format, and how they can be just as transformative and creative as any other class. But I don’t think that I’ve had much success. I have two awards for teaching excellence, and wouldn’t teach this way if it wasn’t good for students. And now I’m tired of this. So here are seven reasons why hybrid and on-line classes are not just as good as other classes, they are better. And more rigorous. …

Equity in Internationalisation

In my previous post, I talked about Susan Gillespie’s critique of international education during an era of globalization. Clearly, Gillespie’s concerns are still part of a global conversation, because last week 24 international higher education organizations passed a resolution in favor of more equity in their field. The participants expressed concerns that for-profit programs were increasingly dominating international education, which has shifted the focus in this field away from concerns about ethical and equitable relationships.  At the core, the declaration called for making sure that international activities (study abroad, exchanges) guarantee mutual benefits to both sides, so that higher education policy is value-driven. While valuable, the devil is in the details in these agreements, particularly when higher education in North America is under increasing financial pressure. I know that at my institution there is a real desire to create truly equitable international partnerships, but that can be challenging to do at an urban institution with limited resources. What I’d really like to see are some examples of such programs that are sustainable and large scale, particularly at public, urban institutions.

Prof. Smallman, Portland State University

Critiques of International Education

This week I’ve been reading a series of critiques in the area of international education, and I’d like to take some time to review some of the better articles in this area. Susan Gillespie’s article, “The Practice of International Education in the Context of Globalization” A Critique” was published in 2002 by the Journal of Studies in International Education. Despite the passage of more than a decade, many of the points that Gillespie makes are worth considering in the current context. Her work begins echoing a point that Katz’s recent piece made, which was that the United States turned inward after the 9/11 attacks, which the was the opposite response to what happened after WWII and the start of the Cold War. Reading the article, one is reminded how much the United States moved to disengage from the world after 9/11, even as the nation fought two wars. Diane Feinstein proposed a moratorium on student visas, and only relented when reminded of the economic impact. Parents were afraid to allow their students to study abroad. But the focus of Gillespie’s critique was not this political and social trend. …

PDX Scholar

I have blogged before about the importance of open access journals to provide access to academic articles that too often wind up behind a pay wall or on a university shelves in another state or province. Recently my university developed its own response to this problem when it created a new database called PDX scholar, which allows the university to give free access to works by PSU academics and students, as part of the Digital Commons Network. For the top ten downloads, see here. You can also search by discipline, such as International and Area Studies. You can also seem some of my publications in International Studies here. Of course, not every journal or publisher gave permission to place material on-line. But it has some of my presentations, book reviews and abstracts. I hope that other libraries can also adopt this approach, and help to break information out of their current silos. Shawn Smallman, Portland State University


New Trends in Global Education

"Kings College" by Phil at
“Kings College” by Phil at

Just two years ago, people were predicting that the global education system would change dramatically because of the emergence of massive open online courses (MOOCs). Universities across North America created centers for innovation and technology, and senior administrators warned their faculty that they were now competing in a global marketplace, where their students might be farmworkers in the Amazon. But it hasn’t turned out that way. Of course, it’s very early to judge the future of MOOCs. But at the moment, the time seems to be flowing out as quickly as the wave of innovation came in. Steve Kolowich has an article in the Chronicle of HIgher Education that describes how Sebastian Thrun, the founder of Udacity, says that he has a “lousy product.” The completion rate for people taking MOOCs is terrible. Those people who do finish these courses, for the most part, are the most privileged students, for whom access to education was never an issue. So what does this mean for trends in global education? …

Open Access Journals

Library with Books by Marcos, courtesy of
Library with Books by Marcos, courtesy of

I teach at a large, urban public institution that has dealt with declining state support by rapidly increasing both tuition and fees over the last decade. While that has allowed the university to survive, we face numerous budget challenges: slowing enrollment growth as we price ourselves out of the market, the heavy burden of the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) on state finances, and the impact of sequestration on research funds. While all parts of my institution have been affected, one unit has faced particular challenges: the library. Like many institutions, the funds for books are facing a shortfall because of the rising costs for journals. If you are an academic, this probably sounds all too familiar. …

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