Oh No, More Questions!

Coming from a developing country, where technology cannot be always relied on*, online pedagogy and all its affordances sound a bit utopian to me, although I know this is being practiced very successfully in the developed countries and its benefits cannot be denied. (We also have a virtual university in Pakistan but I have never met or heard of a person who has completed his/her education from that university. We also have an Open University, based on Distance Learning, one of the biggest and successful open universities in the world, but it still follows the old school methods, away from New Media literacy.)

Having come to know more about online pedagogy from the week’s readings, all I can think of is questions! And a whole bunch of them.

  • Is online writing lab (OWL) replacing the need for a flesh and blood instructor?
  • What about listening and speaking skills in English classes that incorporate all the four skills in a regular classroom? Can the use of Skype and other similar resources accommodate the need?
  • Is online pedagogy reshaping student teacher relationship?
  • Will the teacher be replaced by technology, just as the book is already being replaced?
  • Although Hewett does talk about the choice of asynchronous and synchronous modality, isn’t the teacher being deprived of a personal space and being considered a 7/24/365 employee?
  • Won’t the lack of face-to-face interaction increase ‘homophobia’ that we are already battling with?
  • How will the cultural values and morality be passed on to the students, especially in the cultures where this is the job of a teacher to do in a classroom?
  • Where will the students find their role models, as they are supposed to in some cultures at least, in form of their teachers?

And one overarching question with which I will conclude is that will the fine line between place and space soon be blurred, and instead of these big buildings called Universities we will have virtual spaces mediated through technology?

* We have acute power supply issues in Pakistan, like many other developing countries.

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3 thoughts on “Oh No, More Questions!

  1. I found myself asking your question “Is online pedagogy reshaping student teacher relationship?” during my reading of Hewett’s chapter, too. She cites Sapp and Simon to say that “’few [teachers] have the sophisticated communication skills necessary to connect with students interpersonally, to build trust and rapport in unfamiliar virtual environments” (200). Hewett brings this quote in in the context of immediately perceptible cues for comprehension (head nods, raised hands, etc.), but I think this same communicative gap affects the personal relationship between the teacher and student as well. When I think of the typical classroom, there are genres for communication that I don’t think have an appropriate parallel online. For instance: those few minutes before class when everyone’s getting settled. This is primetime for relationship-building between teacher and student. The situation of the physical classroom contains openness for this genre to work. However, where does this kind of communication happen in a fully online class? I choose to open or close my laptop, to access or get off the internet. While many digital access points are becoming always open or just plain ambient (e.g., smartphone notifications), I’m either “in” or “out” of the online class. I’m not really settling in. Personal communication in online classes seem like they would always be either contrived or creepy—contrived being something like the “post something about yourself” at the beginning of the course, creepy being something like an IM convo that’s not related to class. However, I’ve only taken a couple online courses, so my experience is limited.

    In short answer to your question: YES, online pedagogy definitely reshapes the student-teacher relationship. That we can put down in the long list of things that we have made computers make us change. The next questions are these: how? Which elements of change are good and which are bad? How do we emphasize the former and downplay the latter?

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  2. Tagging on to Tyler’s comments, indeed, I think online pedagogy necessarily reshapes pedagogical approaches and relationships. And, mostly, to that I say, “great!” I certainly don’t think our face-to-face classrooms have found an ideal. I’m happy to change — if it’s in the right direction.

    Similarly, to the point about how students interact with the teacher, and especially how the classroom is a place for values-making, creating a supportive learning community, and a forum for discussing difficult topics, I certainly think that’s possible to tackle online. In fact, I think our face-to-face classrooms have a long way to go in these areas as well.

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m still a fan of the ideal, face-to-face learning. But I’m quite open to how online forums support learning (of a different sort, perhaps). What we don’t seem to be doing well, at all, is preparing young scholars for success in a world in which online learning will be normal, if not normative.

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  3. “Can the use of Skype and other similar resources accommodate the need?”
    This is an interesting question, Neelam, and one with which online theorists are currently grappling. What I have seen happen in many online programs within the past couple of years is a move to incorporate synchronous communication tools, like Skype but more robust, into the online classroom. Some of these tools include Blackboard Collaborate, Wimba, Adobe Connect, and Microsoft Link. To your point, online educators and curriculum developers are recognizing a need to bridge the gap between asynchronous (and isolating) learning and the human element synchronous interaction provides.

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