Friday, July 20, 2012

Limitations of podcasts (& online courses)

Prof Mark Edmundson, a professor of English at the U of Virginia has a provocative piece in the NY Times about the limitations of online education.

Particularly valuable to me is his discussion of good teachers and lecturers intuiting a class. They deploy something tantamount to artistry. They are superb at sensing the mood of a room. They have a sort of pedagogical sixth sense. They feel it when the class is engaged and when it slips off. And they do something about it. Their every joke is a sounding. It’s a way of discerning who is out there on a given day.

I also enjoyed the point about the unique classroom experience that cannot be replicated and the anonymity of online education. 

Not long ago I watched a pre-filmed online course from Yale about the New Testament. It was a very good course. The instructor was hyper-intelligent, learned and splendidly articulate. But the course wasn’t great and could never have been. There were Yale students on hand for the filming, but the class seemed addressed to no one in particular. It had an anonymous quality. In fact there was nothing you could get from that course that you couldn’t get from a good book on the subject.
One aspect of this is considering the online participants. In the podcast I just posted, I tried to speak directly to and engage the viewers by looking directly at the camera and speaking without notes. The focus is not a filmed discussion elsewhere with a class but speaking to the viewer. 

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