I posted a status update on Fb about the uncoolness of this latest cancellation, and a friend commented that this is the sort of situation where having part of the work of a course - if not the entire course - online can be helpful. I know that's the back-up plan our university pushed with fears about a massive flu outbreak, and as you guys might suspect, I'm comfortable with online stuff so my resistance to that as a solution doesn't come from some anti-technology stance. But I really don't think that the Internet solves the problems that I've got with this class, or could.
Because here's the thing: the issue is not actually about the material of the course not being able to be covered. I mean, it's a literature course: if you can't read when you're snowed in, then when can you read? The issue is more about getting students to dig deeply into the material, and in a F2F class, the place where that gets modeled is in the classroom. While in the online class I teach I've tried to find ways (and I think have somewhat succeeded) to produce a similar sort of active engagement and deep digging, what I've found in that environment is that it takes me about two weeks of the semester just to address the technology learning curve with those students, as well as to get them used to being active in an online environment. And this is with students who signed up for an online course.
And this is why I feel like the whole "but teh Internets are the future! No more changing of course schedules due to snow or the flu or whatever!" thing isn't realistic, at least for the students that I teach. Because in a F2F class, I don't take the time up front to acculturate students to working in an online environment, and so to spring that on them when the world becomes a snow globe wouldn't really be a reasonable substitute for what I'd have them do in class. In addition, there are two major impediments to the whole "let's move it online!" thing with my students:
- Most of my students don't really know how to use much of Blackboard. Sure, they can find course documents or they can check their grades. But they don't know how to use the discussion board, they don't know how to participate effectively in an online discussion, they don't know how to use the "online classroom" function.
- Many of my students don't actually have internet access at home. I know, right? But seriously: they don't. And it's unreasonable to expect that they should when they are not enrolled in an online course.
Now, some might say that I'm just being contrary, that nobody thinks "moving it online" is going to be as effective as teaching the course as designed but that it's the way to make the best of a bad situation. Well, ok. I guess. Maybe. But in what way is that better than shifting the course schedule around? I don't really think it is. And actually, doing it right would be a ton more work than just shifting the course schedule around, both for students and for faculty, a ton of work that would produce really weak results. I'm not into things that are more work when the results aren't worth it.
But I'm willing to entertain the notion that I'm being closed-minded here. So have you "moved it online" as a back-up plan? If so, how has that worked for you?