Yes, as Natasha says, on-line communications allow the "handling" of larger
numbers without it all becoming totally impersonal , and it is possible
when the class is highly organized in advance. (This is tough, though, for
part-time people who get work load assignments at the very last minute.)
With the group of 90 next year for one of my undergraduate courses -- no
T.A.s --I will go further with the present pattern, which has been working
very well with (admittedly) a smaller group of 45. The approach has
included a course package of readings, double small group work linked to
assignments, also supported on-line,e-mail contact with me including Logs;
whole class on-line discussion, etc. The building of much of this
knowledge and skill without the teacher's direct intervention is positive,
as we have known for many years, and our workshop writing classes tried to
do much of that long before the computer support was there to help.
There is a larger cause and effect question, though, isn't there -- as
teachers keep coping successfully with larger and larger groups and still
having on-line contact one-to-one with students,the system enters an era
where huge class numbers become pedagogically acceptable but
psychologically gruelling. In a lecture and exam course the university
teacher just didn't have to take on the interactive work in the same way.
In a writing or writing-intensive course, at least according to the
students I have asked, there is still a special value in having the
teacher, not just the peer group, read YOUR work as an individual with
unique writing/thinking needs. So large on-line classes may work for the
actual course goals, in an academic sense, and certainly help out with the
institution's budget problems, but have we fully worked out the positive
and negative implications for students, and for instructors, especially
I wonder if there are typical patterns developing across Canada right now.
Or are we, as usual, all experiencing this in a different way?
At 03:07 PM 10/03/99 -0500, Natashs wrote:
>Given the number of our students (125 per instructor has been a
>regular load so far),
>we would be totally swamped without on-line communications. We are
>trying to use different ways that allow us to communicate with students
>electronically and encourage peer interaction. I support a web site
>for the course, we have quite well organized newsgroups for each
>section, and we do hold
>office hours on-line through e-mail/course newsgroups. I think that even
>though electronic communication with
>students requires a lot of time and effort from instructors, it is
>beneficial for everybody.