From Standing in Line to Going Online

It is a bit after 7 am Monday and our granddaughter just arrived to “go to school”, from my home-office. She logs on; and there is the teacher. She thinks nothing of her phone, stylus pen, computer, or the technology needed for her to “go to school”– she is here to study.

Watching such huge transformation, my thoughts go back 20+ years when I was Indiana University’s guru for distance education charged to “develop pedagogical models and delivery methods for distance education.”

I traveled IU’s eight campuses presenting the advantages of technology-mediated education. Some faculty were willing; many had questions (read: objections). One faculty member (close to retirement) confessed, privately, he never learned to use overhead projectors, and didn’t want to learn this new stuff.

Their questions ranged from the extra work, no classroom, no eye contact, labs, glitches, etc.

A dedicated committee representing all eight campuses, co-chaired by two devoted deans, and IU President Myles Brand committing $1M toward distance education, launched the project. We issued a 36-page strategic plan, CHARTING A COURSE TOWARD AN INDIANA VIRTUAL UNIVERSITY.

Our main message: key ingredients of effective learning are a master, an engaged student, and time-on-task. Technology-mediated education provides both reach and richness.

So, what is different today compared to 20 years ago? A lot!

  • Today there is no need to convince anyone that teaching with technology is necessary – the global epidemic has done that for us.
  • The speed of technology adoption in teaching is unprecedented.
  • There is no distance education central office – everybody does it.
  • There is no strategic plan.
  • Teaching with technology is now in the mainstream of teaching and learning.
  • Faculty live with hybrid, synchronous, asynchronous, HyFlex, learning management systems, online discussions, online laboratory sessions, etc.
  • The reach is limitless.

I heard Greta playing her French horn. When asked, she says students play their instrument and no student hears the others unless we un-mute; the teacher is able to listen to all.  When asked about chemistry labs, she said the teacher tapes the experiments, we watch and write a report.

I asked Greta what she liked about on-line classes. “I like computers because I grew up with them.”

What did she not like? “No friends – but we get together on weekends”.

Distance education is in her DNA.

Technology-mediated education has transformed education forever. Students can balance duties with studies: family, work, pace of study, and relaxation. The reliability and ubiquitousness, the lower costs compared to brick-and-mortar learning, all have increased technology-mediated learning about five-fold since COVID-19 hit.

Students should keep these hints in mind:  

  • Connect with other students as much as possible either online or, if possible, face-to-face.
  • Take frequent breaks.
  • Start early, stay positive, ask for help, and don’t fall behind.
  • Stick to studies even if the doorbell rings; stay away from the refrigerator.
  • Observe online etiquette.
  • Remember, it is natural to feel anxious.

For faculty:

  • Interact with, and support students even more than in face-to-face settings.
  • When possible, keep sessions short and live.
  • Study current events such as coronavirus.
  • Without close and frequent supervision, students will fall behind.
  • Have tests monitored by a supervisor, parent, or make tests optional.   

We all live with transformations. Whether it is the change in seasons, the metamorphosis of a cocoon into a butterfly, or the transformation from in-person to on-line classes; all are transformations. In fact, life could not exist without transformations. Life is transformations, and transformations bring life. The opposite is a rock which does not change – and it does not live.

Acknowledgement: Written at the suggestion of E. Eric Boschmann, University of Denver.


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About the author

Erv Boschmann

Erv is in his chemistry office virtually every day (using banker’s hours) doing a newsletter for the department, encouraging faculty, and he has been able to publish five chemistry articles within the last years. “Though I knew it was coming, retirement was a big transition. But now I am happily busy.”

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