Online teaching and excellence

Image of a globe on a light, McGill University. Photo by Smallman

I’ve been teaching online for several years now, and it’s become not only the only way I teach, but also the impetus for some of my research. For me, moving my teaching online led me to change my pedagogy. I have become an advocate of both Universal Design and the Negotiated Syllabus, which not only create more inclusive classes, but also engage students in their own learning. I began to use Turnitin not so much to catch plagiarism, but as a tool for students to learn how to paraphrase and cite correctly. It also became one part of a lengthy process of peer review that I now use to teach students that by adopting an iterative process they can transform their writing. I’ve also revamped my assignments so that they develop particular skills, such as the ability to locate, manipulate, and interpret data. When I look at my syllabi now, they are far different than they were a decade ago. Even though I had more than once won teaching awards for my face to face teaching. I think that my online classes are better than their face to face (F2F) predecessors. …

The Campus Politics of Online Teaching

A few years ago I moved my teaching entirely online. One of the joys of online teaching is that it allows faculty to better know our students. In a conventional classroom, I would come to know the four or five students who spoke the most. In my online class every student must do two detailed discussion posts a week. There is always someone in the class who finishes their first lengthy post by saying, “I don’t normally talk in class, so this is unusual for me to say so much . . . ” Teaching online also allows for greater creativity, and has enabled me to rethink my pedagogy. Over the last two years I have become inspired by the principles of the negotiated syllabus, in which students choose their content in the course. In my classes students take increasing responsibility for the content as the course progresses. For example, in my Global Drug Trade course this quarter every student creates a 12-15 page research paper, which they share with their peers in the final week of the class. This is the only content in the course for this week. At the same time that my course is based upon a negotiated syllabus, the entire content of the class is shaped around the principle of Universal Design, which fosters the learning of diverse groups, such as people for whom English is a second language, and those with different learning needs. I teach at a public university that has historically has an access mission, and I believe that teaching online enables me to continue to serve those students who would otherwise have difficulty completing their degree. As such, online education reflects our core institutional values. …

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