Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Good College (And Law School) Teaching Does Not Require Sharing Air With Students

San Francisco Chronicle op-ed:  Good College Teaching Does Not Require Sharing Air With Students, by Michael Hunter Schwartz (Interim Provost, Pacific):

Zoom 49Online college teaching, like in-person college teaching, is effective or ineffective, inspiring or soul-sucking, rigorous or lax, based entirely on what the professor does to engage, connect with, and challenge the students. ...

The COVID-19 crisis has forced us to reconsider some of our assumptions about the world. Maybe it’s time we also reconsider our understanding of good teaching. I write from the perspective of having taught law for more than a quarter century and having both taken an online college class (about 20 years ago) and taught one (last spring). ...

Poor in-person teaching happens every day at every university. ... Poor online teaching also happens every day. ...

But great teaching and deep learning also happen online. ... What matters are active learning experiences that cause students to practice recalling and applying what they heard. The most effective teachers, whether they are teaching in person or online, plan their class sessions so that students devote the bulk of their time to using what they are learning.

The bottom line is that neither in-person nor online teaching is inherently good or bad. Teachers matter. The online class I took 20 years ago was the most transformative class I have taken, and I use what I learned in that class every day. It doesn’t matter that I never met with the professor in person.

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I’m not sure. Students are asked to pay tens of thousands of dollars for educations that don’t always produce jobs. And now we say, it doesn’t even matter if you have a campus and a life? I think the professors are buying this more than the students.

Posted by: Mike Livingston | May 12, 2020 2:22:11 AM

I agree with Provost Schwartz but with a corollary: combine the best online and in-person learning to offer more opportunities for students to engage in their educational development.

This combination allows a greater swath of society to study law more efficiently and to be less disruptive to the families of students who have spouses, children, or older parents. And having less daily commutes to campus also benefits students involved in family businesses back home or unreasonably long commutes if attending class every day on campus.

Posted by: Mark P. Yablon | May 17, 2020 12:48:44 AM

Mike Livingston above is exactly right. It's funny, I have been listening to Boomers tell college stories my entire life, and I can recall maybe one that was about an actual class (and even that had to do with the hockey team busting the curve and saving the storyteller's grade). Class is but a small part of college. Most people meet their best friends and many, including my parents, meet their spouse at college. Families save and sacrifice to give their children this same total living experience, not to take some virtual lectures from the basement of the house. It strikes me as a little self-absorbed that numerous academics seem to think that the real reason people pay $80,000 per year is just to hear their voice.

Posted by: JM | May 18, 2020 6:48:15 AM