One of the dangers of online teaching and indeed of all teaching is to become stale. By this I mean that once you find a comfortable niche and comfortable practices they can become set in stone. I recall a professor I had as an undergraduate who taught a final year seminar in Historiography. Twelve of us sat around a table in a seminar room with the prof, who was nearing the end of his career. I sat by his left elbow and could see his note papers. Incidentally, I also could see his hands shaking. I have wondered ever since if he was still nervous after all these years or maybe had some debilitating disease – or was he hung over? Anyway, to return to the point, the papers were lined notebook papers of the sort we used to put into three ringed binders or tung-lock/Duo-tang folders. Except in his case, they were so old, they were yellowing with edges curled up. This was in the late 1980s but his review of historians stopped in the early 1970s. He, or at least his life as an historian and as a teacher, had become stale.
With online teaching, this is an even greater danger. Technology and indeed publications now arrive at a fast and furious pace. There are a number of multimedia apps and techniques that grow in numbers, and AI (Artificial Intelligence) is just around the corner for teaching both online and in classrooms, I suspect. I maintain a Facebook page for my teaching area, make Prezis to add content to my course, which is done by the university on Courselink. Apparently Courselink is engaged in a major upgrade now, to be ready for next Fall. I make videos of me blathering on for the students using my MacBook Air’s Photo Booth. Photo Booth used to only take still pictures, but now has a video capability. I upload those to YouTube, then post the YouTube link to the main page of the course. I use links within text, but have decided to reduce these. Why? Well I have recently read a number of articles which seemed to have links every other sentence. This is link overkill – if I had spent time clicking on every link in these articles, I would have never finished the actual article, or at the very least, the point would have been lost in the confusion of links.
So, a new semester. I made a video introduction today on the first day of ‘classes’. This I promised I would do as in the past I have not posted until later – I think it important to begin at the beginning. The essential foundation of good online teaching is to be active and to be seen to be active so students do not spin anonymously in cyber space with the instructor as an after thought.
I do hope to continue as I have begun!