CSULB Online Education: I was asked to answer a few questions about my 12-week, 100% online teaching experience for CSULB’s College of Continuing & Professional Education (CCPE) this summer. I thought I’d answer as a blog post…
CSULB Online Education: 7 Questions
1. What’s your background with online courses and technology for higher ed in general?
Before this summer I had no experience with online. Almost. I took one Coursera course from Wharton. But I’d never designed for or taught online before. I’ve been eager to be a part of CSULB Online Education for some time now. As momentum for online has grown in our culture as a whole, and here at CSULB specifically, I’ve really been curious about the experience. When I heard about the CCPE initiative, I lept!
2. How did you find out about this opportunity? Were you excited to learn about it?
I think I heard about this CSULB Online Education project from the Provost’s weekly email. The Provost’s weekly message is farily new and I really appreciate it. It’s a simple, wonderful way to keep our large campus community a little bit more connected. Yes, I was very excited!
3. What course did you develop and teach?
Art110, Introduction to the Visual Arts. I first taught this course at CSULB in Fall 2005. This summer is the 29th time I’ve taught the course. Adding the 22 summer students, I’ve now worked with 3,537 CSULB students in Art110.
4. How did the experience compare with other online efforts you’ve undertaken?
There’s no comparison! Haha. It was my first, so there really is no comparison. I do think it was a good experience for myself and my 22 summer students.
5. How many students enrolled? Can you describe their reaction to the course?
- I think they really liked the asynchronous flexibility. It fits both our busy lives and the way they experience knowledge today. And actually, it’s an interesting way to reinforce productive online activity for our students. When television was introduced people had utopian dreams of educating everyone. In spite of some great work, that issue is settled. Television is forever more an entertainment and commodity selling medium. But The Internet is still a contested space. There’s a lot of pressure to tame the net and make it purely a consumption pipeline like television, radio, and all media before it. But there are also crazy ideas like
Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.
With old media, someone could have watched television and really learned something. Equally someone could be reading a book and just wasting time. But our assumption, right an awful lot of the time, was that watching television was mostly “entertainment” and reading was mostly “knowledge.” Online there’s nothing like that distinction. If you see someone in front of a screen, you have no idea what kind of experience they’re having or how valuable it might be. So by using the tools of our time for education, we at least expose students to the possibility of learning and creativity online. I’m sure they’ll still watch plenty of cat videos. Still, we should get them used to The Net as a place to seek knowledge. If you use Facebook more minutes a day than Google, I think that’s a problem. If we can get them to use Google or Yahoo or Bing search more than they use Facebook, I think that’s powerful. If we can get them to visit Google Scholar occasionally, even better.
6. How would you describe the value of the Summer Online program?
As far as implementing the course goes, it was great to work with Ed and Debbie at CCPE. They helped in so many ways. Conceptually. Technically. Project management. It all added up to a big push to get a truly quality experience ready for the students.
For the students I think the value is both functional and experiential. The students love the flexibility of asynchronous learning. At least a few of my students traveled America and the globe this summer, and yet were able to complete a college course at the same time. One student vacationed in Taipei during the middle of the term. We were able to modify that week’s activity for him so he could produce a documentary project on his travels. Another CSULB student was at home in South China this summer, yet she was able to move closer to completing her CSULB degree while there. And these travels produce a wonderful diversity for all of us. Instead of visiting our own Los Angeles County Museum of Art, she was able to visit a local museum and explore the art, culture, and history of Canton.
I think the students love online for these very functional reasons. But I also think it’s a compelling experience in its own right. My face-to-face class at CSULB averages about 150 students. One semester it was 256. The student assistants and I have worked hard to try to engage all the students. To push the top students without leaving others behind. Even so, I do think the large class can be alienating for students. When you stand on the stage of UT-108 and look out on an ocean of students, you feel like it’s a big “them” out there. But it’s really not a “them,” it’s a lot of individuals who mostly don’t know each other. Two-thirds of my students describe themselves as introverts. I think the “big ocean of students” doesn’t always give them the richness you think you see from the stage, I think instead it can often be intimidating.
By contrast, online each student watches short videos you’ve produced and is able to have “eye contact” with you. We used a mobile app called “Tout” this summer. It makes 15-second videos. The students were able to use it to see and respond to each other. I think online has a real potential for student engagement.
We always talk about different types of student learners. Visual. Auditory. And I think face-to-face, online, hybrid, also should be in that vocabulary now. I think some students respond well to the asynchronous nature. I think others long for the regularity of TuTh 11-12:15. It’s great that we’re in a position to offer both. Knowledge is becoming more personal. And it should be!
7. Do you have related plans or hopes for the future?
I’d love to do something like this again next summer. What I’m planning for the fall F2F class is to take the materials we developed for summer and adapt them into a sort of hybrid or flipped course. Over the years I’ve tried lecture and activity in lots of combinations. I think we all see that the era of “the sage on the stage” is passing. But when I’ve tried going down to near zero lecture, the students just miss so much content. More activity is great, but with less historical and theoretical grounding their projects become more pedestrian. So I’m really excited about the “Flipped Classroom” where we can have short lecturettes on video and use class time for activities. It just makes so much sense.
In such a busy, fast paced world, the idea of managing to coordinate 150 people to all be in the same place at the same time so that one person can deliver an hour-long monologue to them is crazy! If we have the precious gift of being together with others I think it’s our obligation to have every participant be as active as possible in that time.
Thanks so much to CSULB CCPE for this fantastic opportunity. I hope we’ve served our summer students well, and I know it’s been a wonderful education for me on my pedagogical odyssey.