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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Justifying My Teaching Methods

I had an administrator object to my taking a regular class and turning it into a more dynamic hybrid course out of necessity, so I was forced to respond with this message:

(My Division Chair) searched high and low (that's the story she gave me) for an adjunct to teach the night class, and I'm all she could fine. I haven't taught a traditional class in 7 years. I'm not even sure how anyone can teach an ENG102 class without any technology. It's research. You need a library and you need the internet. How do you teach students to do research sitting in a room with nothing in it but a Smartboard hooked up to nothing. That's a nice smartboard, by the way. Anyhoo, I'm not complaining. I'm just saying. There are 10 students enrolled. 6 of the 10 were actively participating in online activities 2-3 days before the first class meeting tonight. The other 4 were excited about the opportunity after I explained the course to them.

Hybrid just means there's online content and responsibilities involved. I teach all my classes the same way even if they're not "labeled" hybrid, as this one is not. In order to be able to spend one on one time with students, you have to give them activities in class to free up in class time where the instructor is not the focus of the class. Online activities free up in class time so that students get more individual attention. But if the classroom environment doesn't support the activities, you move them outside the classroom.

Let me explain how it works, and I'm sure you'll see there is some benefit in offering a class this way. In this class there are 10 research assignments that require students to use the internet and/or the library (an uncensored internet and a college/public library). Research is independent in that each student has their own topic. Tuesday's class students meet in the classroom where they receive general instruction on the week's research assignment. Hopefully we'll at least have an internet connection and I can hook my own laptop up to that shiny new overhead projector hanging from the ceiling. On Thursday students will work online or at their local library (with several class library visits planned-not sure where yet). When working independently students can ask questions via IM, email or phone to me about their individual project (anytime, not just Thursday night). They can also schedule appointments during this time.

There are also online materials available for students 24/7. For every assignment there are written instructions, a student example and a screencast online demonstrating how to do the assignment. Reinforcement for what I teach on Tuesday. We also have weekly podcasts to reinforce material covered in class and live office hours via Ustream.tv (woot!). In addition, here's the best part. With students working independently on Thursdays, it frees up time to work one on one with students who need individual attention. I can schedule conferences with students during a time that is convenient for us both because it's already scheduled class time (Thursday). Good luck getting night students to come to a conference outside of classtime. It really works well.

That was my email response to why I turned a perfectly "good" course into a much better one. I haven't heard back from the administrator.