Making the transition to online teaching…

If you are among the many face-to-face instructors who believe that online can’t be as effective as face-to-face, you may want to read this article (see reference at end of post). Beth Hurst from Missouri State University shared your skepticism about online learning. Forced to begin teaching online due to market forces ( graduate programs in her department were losing students to fully online programs) she entered the online classroom in her words “kicking and screaming.” One of the author’s biggest objections to online instruction was the her perception that the same goals could not be achieved online as in face-to-face. In Hurst’s classes social interaction was a critical component to the learning process. Could this be achieved online?  Hurst compared student work to see how well the students in her face-to-face courses met course objectives as compared to students in her online section of the same course. She also compared student comments in end term course evaluations. The result, there were no detectable differences between student work or comments between the online and face-to-face classes. It did matter that she was present but not whether she was physically present.

Hurst did find that there were personal pros and cons to teaching online. She missed the personal, face-to-face interactions with her students. Also, teaching online meant being tied to technology, namely sitting in front of a computer. But she also found some advantages. Teaching online meant that instead of meeting and interacting with students only during the assigned class time, she was interacting with them many times per week through online discussions and e-mail. Also, teaching online meant not being on campus at night and having to drive home after class.

So when considering teaching online, remember that online and face-to-face can be equally effective as far as students reaching the course objectives. There will be qualitative differences in the experience for both students and instructors and often these differences may actually enhance the experience for both.

Hurst, B. 2015. Making the move to online teaching: One reluctant professor’s informal self-study. TechTrends, 59(6), 35-40.