To MOOC or not to MOOC? (More or Less Bunk)

by Jonathan Rees

Let me start this post by talking about something I know a little bit about, namely teaching history. Andrew Hartman, an historian I know only through social media but still respect greatly, has a post up at USIH that reflects a way of thinking that I would guess is common in my discipline. It’s called “Can We Learn History in Groups?” Here’s part of it:

I don’t particularly like putting students in groups. I think it breeds conformity, which then acts as a barrier to thinking. I realize this probably reflects my biases, as an American perhaps, or more likely as someone who simply learns best in solitude—reading, writing, and thinking.

To his credit, besides recognizing his own biases, Hartman notes that he nonetheless does sometimes teach history in groups sometimes and he asks for feedback on this question.

Here’s my feedback: I sympathize. However, I think a better question would be, “When is it appropriate to teach history in groups and when is it not?” I teach history in groups frequently. I also lecture frequently (lecturing be the subject of the John Fea post through which I encountered this discussion). Different pedagogies for different learning objectives. It just makes sense.

About Ryan C. Fowler

Ryan is a curricular fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington D.C. He also teaches at Franklin and Marshall College and Lancaster Theological Seminary.
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