And you thought being a student was hard...

Before my time as a Communication professor at Ivy Tech, I spent many years doing corporate and organizational training. When I decided to become an instructor, I thought it couldn't be much different from what I did for companies. Boy, I couldn't be more wrong! Although I'd never tell my students, I learn more from them than they will ever learn from me!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Media and Communication

For the first time at the Valpo campus, we are offering Comm 201 - Media and Culture. Not to be immodest, but we got it because I ranted and raved to the right people. (That's also how we got Comm 202 - Small Group Communication, but that's another blog!) It's a small class, only 10 students, but we are having a great time!

I don't know if it's because it is a small class or that it's a 200 level course, but these students are so much more engaged in discussion than any of my other classes. There is no holding back in this class! Twice already this semester I have had to postpone the majority of the lecture because we got into a really great discussion on one of the points of the chapter. I know there are some instructors out there, who shall remain nameless, who would twitch at the thought of getting off schedule, but to me, the process of learning is so much more important than the topics being learned. I know we'll cover the big points of the material eventually. I can always cut out a less important chapter if I need to. What they are passionate about they are more likely to retain. So what if we spend an extra day on TV and skip the chapter on radio? Who really listens to radio any more anyway?

One of the great things about this class is the fact that I can show them TV shows, movies, play music, etc., and it's all really relevant. It's all media! I'm not saying I look forward to not lecturing, although it's nice to have a break every once in a while, but to share some of my favorite things with other passionate people is so much fun. I love debating the First Amendment using examples from Chris Rock, Carlos Mencia, and Lewis Black. Laughter has proven to raise endorphins, and if we're all feeling good, we're all more likely to talk and learn.

Not a bad combination!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Online vs. Face-to-Face

I've had many a debate with my fellow instructors about online courses. Most of them do not like them and gladly let me take them. Some have even said that the time for online classes and online degrees has past. While I'm not sure an online degree is best for everyone, depending on academic and career goals, I do think there are plenty of people who benefit from online degrees, and even more who benefit from online classes to supplement their f2f classes. It allows for more flexibility, better time management, and in the case of non-traditional students, an opportunity to take classes they might not be able to otherwise.

One of the biggest complaints from my colleagues is the lack of identity. If you can't "see" them, how do you get to know them? On this point, I have to disagree whole-heartedly. There are many students in my f2f classes that are only a name in the gradebook. I think I do a good job of having fun and engaging discussions in my classes, drawing a lot of quiet people out, but some have truly high communication apprehension, and I don't push it - that can make it worse. In the online classes, however, students seem to feel more comfortable talking to me, more willing to disagree with me or the book, more will to ask about a grade instead of just complaining to their fellow classmates.

New communication research backs me up on this. We develop more intimate relationships faster online than in f2f interactions. I know more about my online students in the first few weeks of a course than I do most of my f2f by midterm!

The downside is that, when online, many communication rules fall by the wayside, and some students feel comfortable being disrespectful or beligerent in an email or even discussion board post than they would in a f2f class. I've had more problems with this in online classes than in all of my f2f classes. Students in online classes also seem more willing and able to fight every little point, whine about deadlines and assingments via email, and other annoying behaviors that I don't see as often in f2f classes. So, while we all get to know each other more in online classes, it comes at a price - more electronic whining!

So, which is my preference to teach? Well, from a personal stand-point, the flexibility of online courses is condusive to my lifestyle, as I have to kids under 5 in my house. I also get frustrated with the statewide courses that, while alleviating the pressure of creating a course from scratch, completely bind my hands from teaching the class in the way it suits me and my teaching methodology. However, if I was forced to choose only one to teach, I think it would be the online classes.

But that could change tomorrow!

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Love of Online

Although I started teaching online over the summer, I am really getting into the swing of it this semester. I am really enjoying it! So what is it about online teaching that is different from face-to-face teaching?

Besides the obvious, both students and the instructor have to work A LOT harder at communicating. There's no f2f lecture to be able to ask questions as they pop up, or to remind students of due dates, or what I call the "door" questions - when you get mobbed by students right when you walk in or right before you leave after class. Although I use Blackboard constantly for my f2f classes, it's different from online.

I make an effort to send out weekly, here's what we finished here's what's happening this week, announcements. I also let them know, via announcement, when any major assignment, a paper or a speech, has been graded and posted. I also spend a lot more time sending and receiving email. My hubby has decided that my laptop should just be surgically implanted into me somewhere, but I just feel it's too important to keep in contact with them as often as they want to talk. Then, there's the discussion boards. I don't reply to every post or every reply to a post, but I do make comments about good work, clarifying a point if they seem to be off, or even adding my own funny story to help humanize me.

Students sometimes forget we instructors are people, too.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Joys of Teaching

I have the honor of being a full-time professor at a local community college. There are many parts of my job that I enjoy. I love creating the course, figuring out assignments that will have the best impact. I love getting in front of the room and lecturing, ignite discussion, make them laugh a little. Some of my students have told me that my lecture are more "infotainment" than anything else.

But there are days when I think a nice, normal, 9-5 job might be better. The constant whining, worse than you would even hear in a 2-year-old room at a day care, the apathy, the beligerent ignorance that many of these students come into my classroom with, and the inability to think for themselves all combines to make me not like most of my students.

*Gasp* Did a teacher just admit to not liking her students? Yup. Truthfully, it's nothing personal. I teach communication, and we talk about identity and different social roles, and some of the students that I don't like as students, I like just fine as people. Several of them even end up popping on to my facebook page. Crappy students, interesting people. Some of my best students drive me NUTS outside of the classroom, but at least I know they will have their work done, and it will be correct!

So, when I say I don't like some of my students, I truly mean students, not people. And I know a good part of them don't like me, the Professor. I'm okay with that.

Why do this job, then? For the ones who come up to you and tell you that their life has changed because of something you said, or the ones that say the assignments they have done showed them how important communicatioin is in their life, or the ones who, after finally completing a speech without almost passing out, comes running to you to hug you for helping them get over their stage fright. Those moments make it all worth while.

Even if they are few and far between.