Many faculty fear that online teaching is incompatible with the liberal arts educational model, a model that focuses on small class sizes and the availability of faculty to interact with students outside of the classroom—a model which, when done well, has been demonstrated to produce outcomes of critical and creative thinking and analytical reasoning.
These same faculty members view the movement to online education as a one-way street leading away from the kind of face-to-face teaching that lies at the heart of colleges and universities, especially those with a liberal arts tradition.
But, often we fear what we don’t know.
While a significant barrier must be appreciated, it is important to catalyze movement beyond the hype about technology-enhanced education. Online course development can complement face-to-face education and can catalyze higher quality classroom teaching that enhances the value of residential colleges and universities.
Lessons learned in developing the best online and technology-enhanced courses should and do inform teaching practices in traditional classroom settings.
Designing and teaching an excellent online course is not easy, just as designing and teaching a face-to-face course is not easy. Both force the instructor to think about how they teach and how students learn; to articulate learning goals for students; and to design assignments to assess the achievement of those learning goals.
Online courses emphasize and address these questions upfront. Just as lecture-only courses are not typically the best way to engage students, research has shown that, in most cases, large sections with invisible faculty, courses that consist only of reading, taped lectures, and online discussions and assessments, do little to stimulate student learning.