Monday, April 27, 2020

Thinking about putting your course online?

When I first started teaching in college (at Stanford) I just stood up and started talking. The students were there because the course was required, not because they wanted to know what I had to say. They just cared about doing whatever they had to do to get a good grade. By the time I got to Yale I had acquired more sense about teaching. The first day I would ask students why they were there. This question was met with blank stares. When I pushed them I got answers about how the course fit into their schedule and that they heard I was an easy grader. By the time I got to Northwestern I had acquired more sense and more power. I did what I wanted to do: started arguments, made students defend their ideas, told them what I thought didn't matter, what mattered was what they thought. As I began to think about online learning during that time, I became convinced that the teacher didn't really matter in these courses except as a course designer. I laid out the groundwork and forced the kids to think hard. I started designing online courses. The student has to achieve an agreed upon goal. You make sure they can achieve that goal by providing good resources. Online courses must have deliverables that students want to create, not teachers they have to listen to.

College was not designed to teach students to do things. The idea was (and is) that students should be taught to know things. But you can't know things because someone told you those things. You can believe things because someone told you them and but knowing requires doing, experiencing, and learning from mistakes. Learning is an emotional experience guided by a desire to do. Online learning must let you do things you want to do. It is not about listening to a teacher.

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