Like so many articles, this latest piece in Inside Higher Ed sloppily equates online learning with MOOCs and, yes, someone who has apparently never taught online is prepared to pass judgment on it, a completely dismissive judgment of course. I'm sharing the article here, though, because I like this phrase "close learning" - and my contention would be that my online courses have FAR MORE "close learning" than many face-to-face classes, even ones that are the same size as my online courses. Below is the comment I left at Inside HIgher Ed:
This essay is based on an illogical equation. Close learning is NOT limited to face-to-face classrooms, and it is indeed possible to have close learning take place in an online course. I have over ten years of experience of teaching online, and my main motivation in teaching these online courses is that they provide me with more opportunities to interact with the students than was ever possible in the limited time/space of the classroom. I agree with the complaints about massive classes and about automated classes, but small online classes actually provide MORE opportunity for interaction than a classroom-based class which is limited to just 150 minutes per week - how much time, after all, does that 150 minutes allow for each person to speak and participate even if the professors can manage to restrain themselves from dominating the conversation (and that is a big IF for many professors)...? Especially for teaching writing (my subject), the online environment is far more conducive to real learning because in the online class we are communicating with each other in writing, constantly reinforcing the goals of the class through all the work that we do, as opposed to the inevitably oral/aural focus of the classroom-based seminar. At my school (University of Oklahoma), a decision was made over 10 years ago to limit enrollment in our online classes to 25-30 students per section. I've taught in that online program since the beginning and have found my contact with students to be far closer and my successes as a teacher far greater than in any classroom-based course that I taught. So while I applaud the criticisms of the massive enrollments of MOOCs and the automated strategies that MOOCs inevitably employ as a result of that massiveness, I would urge the author to consider the fact that there is plenty of closeness that can be achieved in online courses, especially those courses which are designed to promote that interaction.
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