I recently designed a syllabus for a course at NYU on writing for digital media. Unlike most of my writing courses, which focus on journalism, this was meant to have broader appeal: marketing, advertising, blogging, and public relations were included in the weekly readings and assignments.
And the university had a unique request: try to incorporat
e some online components into the course.
During a meeting to discuss the course I’d designed, another professor and I got into a lengthy talk about the merits of online education. While she was probably 10 years older than me, we had both been educated in an age well before computers joined toothbrushes and drip-coffee makers as standard equipment for modern life. We agreed that there are surely ways for digital technology and the Internet to aid education, but our skepticism still runs deep.
After all, for us, education was something that happened in real time, in real space, with some students, a teacher or two, and paper in various forms spread out on a wooden surface between us.
Today’s New York Times had an article about colleges — many of them elite — incorporating such online components in their curricula, particularly in humanities courses. The professors in the piece come across as enthusiastic as their students, if not more so. They describe how classics 500 years old take on new life in these virtual worlds, allowing students to access them and engage critically with them in ways we couldn’ t have imagined jus t 15 years ago.
Reflecting on my own course, and my reluctance in adding anything that would minimize my face-time with the students, I started to wonder if I’m even more old-fashioned that I’d thought. So I ask the Contrary community, if you’ve ever had an online educational experience, please share your thoughts, whether positive, negative, or otherwise. I, as one educator trying desperately to stay current, would love to hear them.