I found Ko and Rossen’s first chapter to be fairly interesting. I liked their point about the lack of physical markers online; both my reading of the research on online learning and experience teaching online suggest that this is accurate, and that there are both upsides and downsides to it. We may not be able to rely on physical cues which can help us understand each other more easily (particularly in text-based courses rather than those with a strong visual element), but on the other hand, we may not judge Gerda before we meet her.
A couple of points interested me. It seemed to me that Ko and Rossen presented teaching online as freedom from stuff (like freedom from having to go to campus and having to show up at a given time) rather than as freedom for stuff (like using tools students use in everyday life or like doing something pedagogically interesting that you couldn’t do offline). I wondered if others found this to be the case (could just be me!), and if so, why the authors framed it in the way that they did.
They also contrasted teaching online with traditional teaching. I recently read something that put moocs (massively open online courses) on the new and different end of a continuum and “traditional online and face-to-face courses” on the other. So I wonder whether our view of online learning as non-traditional might be changing. Could it be?
There were some points in the chapter that I was not entirely convinced about. The suggestion that it’s “people oriented people” who make the best online instructors, for example, is one of them. I’m not entirely sure what “people oriented people” means, so that could be part of my difficulty with the point, but I can imagine that instructors who rely upon highly intellective rather than highly interpersonal skills could be quite effective online. Perhaps the people-oriented people amongst us can shed some light on this point!
I also am unsure about the assertion that “there’s no need to start from scratch when teaching online.” While that may technically be true, I think it glosses over the fact that simply transferring a face-to-face course as it stands to an online environment may in fact be a terrible idea. In my own teaching, I find that I really need to rethink courses from a fundamental, philosophical level before going online with them. In my experience, online courses are fundamentally different from offline ones. Maybe others have been more succesful with a direct transfer of offline to online, but I’ve not been able to manage such a direct conversion well.
Last contrarian point, I’m not sure I buy the suggestion that “teaching online heightens our awareness of what we’re doing in the classroom.” Again, I think it’s a different thing. And I think that one disadvantage many of us face is that we haven’t taken an online course and thus actually don’t have any awareness of what this different thing is or how it works, particularly from a student perspective (one reason the PotCert is such a useful concept!). Perhaps teaching online does give us a point of comparison, however, and maybe that’s what the authors mean.
I look forward to hearing from others!