Topsy Turvy Teaching

New data from a long-term study by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College suggest that some of the students most often targeted in online learning’s access mission are less likely than their peers to benefit from — and may in fact be hurt by — digital as opposed to face-to-face instruction.

Who Benefits From Online Ed?” Doug Lederman

One of the first things I learned about college is that the academic pecking order is upside down. It’s especially dramatic in an English department, where the students who need the most work and help– the college freshman– tend to get the lowest paid teachers, that is, adjuncts and graduate students. The students who need the least help– junior and senior English majors– get the best paid, most experienced tenured professors.

Traditionally, English professors (each a literary specialist) taught freshman, if they did at all, only as a part of a kind of hazing ritual. Once you earned tenure you got the small classes with the (self-selected, experienced) best students. This has changed as Rhetoric and Composition nears a kind of numerical equality with Literary Studies. The more Rhetoric and Composition matures, however, the further it seems to go from those freshman.

Online education has tended to duplicate these patterns in curious ways, by focusing on those very students who seem least likely to do well in an online setting. Here, as elsewhere in academia, those students who most need the sorts of help you can only get in the traditional classroom– and in small classes– seem to be the main target audience for online education. And online education has even fewer full-time tenured professors.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn’t want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so.

I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com.

I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that ‘at’ symbol] writinginthewild.com

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