A little More on Online Courses

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.

Online PhDs

If there is a concept that always makes me laugh very hard it’s that of an online PhD. However, there are quite a few people who don’t see the idea as deeply humorous. Boise State is one of them. The university has now introduced an online-only PhD. The school’s official discuss the program in very pompous terms in a futile attempt to prevent people from laughing out loud at the idea:

Dr. Ross Perkins, associate professor in Educational Technology, warns that although people may be critical of online education, it has every bit the quality of traditional education. “People shouldn’t be discriminated for where they chose to live,” said Perkins.  Online programs offer people in rural areas the opportunity to study programs that may not be available to them.

The program will also boost the university’s research profile.  Having more students graduate from doctorate programs could allow for an increase in grants funding.

What’s truly funny here is that Dr. Perkins is trying to shut down any criticism of the program by presenting it as some kind of a heroic attempt to combat discrimination. The original definition of the word “to discriminate” is the following:

1. Recognize a distinction; differentiate.
2. Perceive or constitute the difference in or between
As much as Boise State administrators would like for people to fail to recognize a distinction between a real doctoral program where students have a chance to get educated through discussions with their peers and mentors and a sad parody of a PhD where you are stuck home alone staring at some PowerPoints, this isn’t likely to happen. Far from raising the university’s research profile, this online program will make it a joke among educators everywhere.
Thank you, Margaret Soltan, for posting a link to this story.