Thursday, January 17, 2019
January 17, 2019: Spring Previews: The (Short) Short Story Online
[A new semester is upon us, and with it comes a new Spring Preview series. Leading up to a special weekend post on book updates, plans, and hopes!]
On the newest twist in my evolving work teaching online.
I’ve written a lot over the last couple years about the unique challenges and possibilities of teaching all-online classes, and they all remain true and central to that inescapable but fraught part of 21st century education. In previewing my next (fourth) online class, a second section of The Short Story, I won’t repeat those thoughts here, and will just say that I continue to think about them and as ever will keep you all posted as I do!
However, this fourth online class is different from my prior three in a key way: it will be part of our new Online Accelerated Program, and so will run for only seven weeks between March and May (about half of the overall spring semester). That shift will certainly be easier with the Short Story class than it would be for example with the other course I’ve taught online so far, American Literature II: a survey class like that latter one depends on units and time periods and a chronological structure, whereas the Short Story class (as I teach it at least) is a collection of paired readings that introduce different literary elements, and so it’s been relatively easy to shorten that syllabus and still keep the core structure and goals in place. But nonetheless, cutting a class from 14-15 weeks to 7 is a significant change, and has affected not only the readings, but also the papers and other individual work like weekly Blackboard posts and honestly how I approach every aspect of the course.
Online teaching is a matter of constant adjustments from in-person teaching, both big and small, and that’s what we sign up for when we do it and I’m not complaining. I also understand the appeal of and demand for accelerated online programs, since the whole goal of online education is to facilitate student completion of degrees in ways that work best for their schedules, situations, and lives. But at the same time, I would also argue that online teaching is already a set of compromises, shifts away from what we all recognize as the best practices in teaching (at least in a discipline like English) to accommodate those realities and demands. I’m willing to consider each such compromise on its own terms, and to see what I can do to respond to them in these particular classes (if I were ever asked to teach only online, I would leave the profession); I’ll do the same with this accelerated course and semester. But I wonder if it will be a bridge too far, and promise to report back on how the shortened class goes in my semester reflection series in May (!).
Last preview tomorrow,
PS. Spring previews of your own to share? I’d love to hear them!