Wednesday, September 17, 2008

One of the Things I'd Not Anticipated about Web-Based Teaching

It seems I'm much less giving as a teacher in this medium, and I think that it has a lot to do with the fact that I don't actually know my students. The few that I do believe I'm getting to know in some fashion are really invested in letting me know them, but that seems to be exception in the online environment and not the rule. And, to be honest, I think a lot of students take web-based courses because they think that they can just do whatever and as long as they ultimately turn crap in that they will be just fine.

Well, the problem is, that's not how it's going to go in this class I'm teaching. The guidelines are very clear: this is NOT a correspondence course, and you've got to accomplish certain tasks during each week of the course. Well, you've got to do that if you want to pass.

I've already dished out something like 10 zeros for assignments people didn't bother to complete and turn in. Some of these assignments have been worth as much as 10% of the final grade in the course. And you know, I feel weirdly detached from that, in a way that I don't think I've ever felt with the traditional classroom role that I play. Ultimately, I don't think I care as much about these students succeeding. And I'm wondering whether that's a failing in me, or whether it's a failing in the students who don't appear actually to want to succeed. (Not all of them, obviously, but many in this course.)


Anonymous said...

I would say the answer to your last question depends upon how you treat these students (the ones who don't care) in a traditional classroom.


Hilaire said...

Hmmm...your last sentence made me think potentially it's a failure in the format of any web-based course. Perhaps the investment that underlies good teaching is (for most people) predicated on face-to-face interaction. Or perhaps I'm just a luddite.

Dr. Crazy said...

VP - fair enough. The thing is, how I handle a student who doesn't do an assignment whatever the "delivery method." Don't turn in a paper in a F2F class? Zero. Don't turn in a blog post in a web class? Zero. So it's not like I'm a different person in one venue than in another. However, I do think that it's easier to put pressure on *potential* slackers in the F2F classroom, and easier to get them motivated - whether through encouragement or through fear. At the end of the day, a stern email sent to the class isn't the same thing and doesn't produce the same results as giving a class a quiet talking-to in the F2F classroom. There's just no getting through to these web students or commanding their attention BEFORE they screw up. It's disheartening.

Hilaire: I do think part of it is just the format fails in this regard. The whole point of the format is that it responds to students' desires for flexibility - i.e., they're not either willing or able to commit to 3 hours a week in the traditional classroom - and I think a lot of students think that the course itself will be less of a commitment because they don't have that classroom time commitment. I'm not against offering flexible opportunities for students, but I do think that this maybe isn't the primary thing we should be thinking about when we think about how to educate students.

Dr. Crazy said...

Oh, my comment's first sentence didn't make sense. I meant that how I handle slackers IS THE SAME whatever the delivery method: i.e., students in the traditional classroom don't actually see more leniency in the policies.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean that policies may be different but was referring to the degree of "handholding" (not sure that's the best word) in getting students to turn in their work.

I look at it this way - on campus I see students one night a week. Online I see them as often as I want to. It makes a huge difference. My online slackers generally do better than my traditional slackers.