Brave New World: Teaching Online for the First Time

http://literarydancer.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/odyssey.jpgToday was the first day of the online class I’m teaching this summer.  It’s Western Classics, a survey of world literature that is part of the liberal arts core at Asbury.

What can I say?  It was quiet–very quiet in class.  Which is not to say it wasn’t busy.  Students were posting various introductory assignments all day long and asking questions about books, how to do certain things on the website, and even starting in on the first work we’re reading, Homer’s Odyssey.

I’ll try to reflect on this experience as the summer goes.  I think it will be similar to learning a new language or traveling to a different country or region.  You suddenly become aware of how your own culture works because you’re somewhere foreign, where they do things differently.  I’m no stranger to being online, and I actually use a lot of online technology in my regular teaching.  But I’m also accustomed to using my mouth a lot–literally–I’m one of those profs who looks at students packing up and says, “What are you doing? We’ve still got 30 seconds here.”

Instead, I’m having to take content that I would normally communicate verbally and communicate it through videos and discussion forum postings.  We will try a few times to use the virtual classroom–Big Blue Button–which lets us video chat in real time.  I’ll have to pick a time when they kids and dogs are quiet–or else go to my office.

That, of course, is the other surreal aspect of all of this: me sitting at my desk at home, drinking coffee and replying to students while my kids are asking for more cereal or letting me know the dogs need to go outside.  My wife’s been good to tell them, “Not now, Daddy’s teaching,”

Just glad the video’s not on then.