So, it has finally happened. I am faced with the task of teaching a literary course online. I knew one day it would come to this, but I never imagined it would come so soon.
Now, I know there are plenty of instructors who do this everyday. I know composition course are regularly taught online or in hybrid classrooms. I know many of the for-profit institutions offer online degrees. I think its wonderful for those seeking access to education. My course on Voodoo and Visual Culture had low enrollment this term and thus, it was canceled. The alternative I have been given, however, is to teach the course online in the spring. I was a bit hesitant to accept, but after a meeting with the instructional technology team I am excited more than ever to try this out!
With all the technology that is available to colleges and universities, it isn’t surprising that online courses are being offered more and more. I can narrate my power point slides, hold live chat sessions with voice integration, still make use of course reserves at the university library, and employ a plagiarism fail safe for all the written assignments. Best of all, I can do all of the above without showing up to a half empty classroom twice a week (that is a definite plus!). I am excited about jumping into this new arena and figuring out if this is really something that works for me. I mean, there are certainly some pedagogical challenges that present themselves when considering my approach to teaching a literature course.
For instance, how will I shift from a discussion-based teaching style to one that is more lecture oriented to accommodate and make use of the available technology? Will something get lost in translation as I lecture to my laptop microphone about the oral and folk elements of the introduction to Mama Day? How can I be sure to cover topics that I may not find interesting or important about a text, but which my students are dying to investigate? How can I have an interactive discussion about a single passage from Praisesong for the Widow in an online forum? I’m not sure how I will navigate these obstacles, but I do have plenty of time to develop a strategy.
The truth of the matter is that students of all shapes, sizes, learning styles, and colors are demanding online learning to accommodate their lifestyles. Many students are working one or more part time jobs to make ends meet. Online courses simply work better for them. If I am going to stay current in the profession, then that means trying out and integrating new learning tools into my teaching repertoire. There aren’t many institutions that have not gotten on board the online teaching wagon. I’m not at all sure how this will work, but I am up for the challenge and ready to expand my teaching arsenal. The future is present.