Why Face-to Face Instruction is Superior


Christopher Schaberg teaches English and environment at Loyola University New Orleans.  He is not a fan of online teaching.  He explains why in this piece at Inside Higher Ed:

Once an online class is done, it’s done. But my classes are never complete. My students stay in touch with me, come back and visit me, occasionally even find me at my summer place in the woods and take a walk with me. I read their essay drafts and give them advice and suggestions on résumés and job prospects long after they graduate. I run into them at the grocery store. I see them on the street at night walking their dogs, and they tell me about how life changing that one novel was. We catch up, share stories and bid each other goodbye with warmth and fondness until the next time we meet again — whenever that may be. While this can certainly also result from pedagogical relationships developed online, I would wager that the occurrence and persistence of such connections is much higher when they have originated in the face-to-face classroom.

I should acknowledge here that my tenured position gives me the relative safety from which to take this strong stance toward online education. I teach at a small university where seminar-style courses are still allowed (and even used as a marketing tool). But even in this context, the juggernaut of online education looms. I am leery of my job being outmoded with each new push toward expanded course offerings online.

Sometimes I hear people on my campus say that online learning is “the future” or that it’s “here to stay.” But I doubt it. I’ve asked my students over the years, and none of them would prefer their course work be online. In their hypermediated lives, the classroom and the time therein is a sanctuary. And for children these days being raised with iPads and smartphones in the increasingly permeating, insinuating regime of the internet, being off-line is the real desirable good. (If you’ve ever witnessed a small child begging a parent to put the phone down, you know just what I am talking about.) Finally, it’s not even the future any more. The glow of online excitement is fading, at best.

Read the entire piece here.  I agree with just about all of it.  But take what I have to say with a grain of salt–I also believe that the lecture is still useful.  I am afraid my days in the academy may be numbered!  🙂

One thought on “Why Face-to Face Instruction is Superior

  1. There are pros and cons to any learning system as they involve teaching styles as well. An instructor who cannot teach online should not teach online. Yet, an instructor who understands how to teach online and is effective in doing so can and will teach online just as effectively as an instructor in the physical classroom.

    As the article suggests, the key to effective teaching is in communications. It does not matter if an instructor is in a physical classroom or a digital one. They must be effective communicators in order to transfer knowledge to students. Today’s students are digital communicators and instructors need to understand that regardless of what classroom they are in.

    This article involves social elements as well. The author suggests that there is little to no socialization occurring in online education and I disagree with that. There is a tremendous amount of socialization occurring in the digital world. It is different than the physical face-to-face world, but it is just as relevant. We have the ability to exchange information and ideas on a level we have never had before in human history. This blog is proof of that.

    Also, note that the author pointed out he teaches in small-sized classrooms. I personally think that is wonderful and that the huge cattle call lecture halls are a crime in higher education. It is my opinion that an effective online educator will be able to transfer knowledge to their students far beyond what is possible in those large lecture halls. I always find it appalling when someone criticizes online education, but fails to criticize the large classes utilizing the large lecture hall.

    Online education works. It is not for everyone. Anyone who says it will replace face-to-face education is wrong. It will not. It will augment and support face-to-face education, it will supplement physical education, but it will not replace the classroom. As you say, John, the lecture is still useful. It is just one tool in the toolbox for an instructor. It would be nice if instructors understood that.


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