The conference was a massive success, folks. The presentations were fantastic, there was a million questions, and I had a mighty good time. The presentations were not read, which is the best. We delivered them in a conversational manner without any props or technology. Which is ironic, given the subject.
First of all, I want to tell you about the presentation that I found the most impressive. It was delivered by a colleague who specializes in online learning. He had taught his first fully online course back in 1997. Today, not only does he teach online but his research consists of theorizing online education. When he spoke, it was obvious that the guy is a brilliant pedagogue. The way he speaks, calculates his time, modulates his voice, pauses, keeps the audience’s attention, makes it impossible not to listen, strategizes his delivery, never trails off, finishes every sentence as strongly as he began it, and forces everybody to forget that cell phones exist – all of this testifies to his enormous pedagogical experience. Fuck it, the guy is a better teacher than me, which is not something I find myself saying often.
So here is what he had to say:
1. It is possible to deliver a good online course, but only if we remember the following:
a. A good online course costs MORE to design and administer than a regular course.
b. Enrollment caps (i.e. the number of students in the course) should be LOWER in an online course than in a regular course.
c. The professor should be online, administering the course in an active way 7 days a week, at least 3-4 times during the day.
2. Having a PhD in a discipline does not qualify you to teach that discipline. Instead of content authority, we should rely on pedagogical authority.
3. Striving to create a psychologically and emotionally comfortable environment in the classroom is a MISTAKE. In order for learning to happen, there should be a degree of productive anxiety (God, I love this phrase) in both the students and the teachers. To put it bluntly, learning should be uncomfortable.
4. A professor should not be the person who awards grades. It’s a good idea not to reveal any grades until the end of the course. [This is something I’m already doing, in part, in my courses. Students resist but I don’t give way.] Instead of numbers (grades, percentages, etc.), we should provide verbal feedback (“Good, excellent, etc. because. . . since. . . however. . .).
He wasn’t allowed any more time to speak, which is a pity because I could have stayed there hearing what he has to say all day long.