For the first time in a long time my Freshman-level course on Hispanic Civilization has become hard to teach. And I mean that in a good way.
In a regular face-to-face course, you ask students, “Does anybody have any questions?” and immediately several hand flow up into the air.
“Yes?” you ask one of the students.
“Can I go to the bathroom?” the student immediately responds.
Cringing because of how anti-climactic the question is, you let the student go and turn to another student whose hand is raised, “Your question?”
“Will this be on the test?” the student retorts brightly. The rest of the students with raised hands nod vigorously, letting you know that this was their question, too.
I remember the exact moment when I got my last good question on this Freshman course. That happened in November 2009. And I think it was mostly a fluke.
However, now that I’m teaching this course online, I get hard, interesting, meaningful questions from at least two or three students every single day. (Since this is a summer course, it is taught 5 days a week.) I actually have to think and sometimes even look things up before answering them! This is a dream come true, people. I never have to think before answering the questions in my 100 and 200-level courses. Before the students get to the 300-level, they never come up with anything but the most trivial, easy to answer questions.
The online course, though, gives the students enough time (as well as an incentive) to ask good, thought-out, intelligent questions.
Now I want to come up with a way to foster the same kind of thing in my regular teaching.