Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Teaching Mindfully: "Chasing after the Wind" Online and Off

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Teaching Mindfully: "Chasing after the Wind" Online and Off

Article excerpt

"Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher; all is vanity." [1] These are the words of Qoholet, the Teacher, to whom the book of Ecclesiastes in the Hebrew Bible is attributed. "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun." [2]

These words may be of comfort as we grapple with the challenges of online instruction. Are the theoretical and practical methods of assessing course quality, student qualification criteria, student learning outcomes, and faculty teaching qualifications for online courses significantly different from those of traditional courses? While some students and faculty will have to acquire a modest amount of technical knowledge to participate in an online course, very little about online instruction is truly new. Such courses may even enhance dialogue between teachers and students and from student to student, recalling the ancient Socratic method of teaching. As with traditional courses, student comments could be elicited through an evaluation form at the end of the semester, which could even be submitted electronically. A dean or department chair could "sit in" on an online chat session or "drop in" to view the class bulletin board just as for a traditional teaching evaluation. Students would have to complete the same prerequisites and other requirements as students taking on-campus versions of the same or equivalent classes. Faculty who teach on campus could be trained and offered incentives to teach their courses, especially core requirements, online occasionally, ensuring consistent quality and content between the online and on campus versions of courses.

Faculty hired to teach online courses (often adjuncts) are sometimes valued for their computer skills as much or more than their knowledge of their field. Such an emphasis disadvantages the teacher, the students, and the institution. "Besides being wise," Qoholet observed, a good teacher weighs and studies and arranges knowledge. The Teacher seeks "to find pleasing words" and write "words of truth plainly." [3] These are skills that are just as important for online instruction as in the traditional classroom. Indeed, they may be more important when teaching online, where the written word becomes the sole means of communication. Body language, gestures, and other spontaneous visual aids can't be incorporated to emphasize certain points. …

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