Online “No Man Is an Island”
I am reminded of this quote by John Donne as my Marketing 201 online class moves into the final week of the summer session. Having taught this online course for several years, I am always struck by the range of expectations that students bring to an online course. Despite their technology and social media savvy, this is frequently a new experience. At one extreme, some believe that this will be identical to a face-t0-face classroom experience, with the prof lecturing on (and essentially repeating) material that has been assigned, and students applying the concepts on homework and exams. At the other extreme, some students expect the equivalent of a correspondence course, during which they can complete all work alone on their own time schedule. As my students will attest, neither of these notions are accurate — at least using my teaching approach.
My approach tends toward “flipping” the class. Students are provided with recorded lectures, assigned readings and online homework to familiarize them with basic marketing concepts. This should all be completed on their own time outside of class. Our synchronous class time on Adobe Connect is meant to stimulate the application of concepts, critical thinking and discussion. This is predicated, of course, on the assumption that students learn and grasp the concepts before our class meeting, which may not always be the case. To prevent confusion, I do a short summery of the concepts that are the focus of the current week’s class. More importantly, the students working together on projects as well as interacting in class (agreeing and disagreeing with each other) is designed to bring about engaged learning. This adds a social element that is missing with the “correspondence course” approach. In my experience the online chat can be more lively than a traditional classroom setting, since it allows more than one student to talk at once. Even shy students can add their comments without feeling self-conscious.
Yes, we always have our share of glitches. At one point the system was upgraded in the midst of a pre-scheduled exam period. Several students had connection issues and I myself lost the internet in the middle of one class. Flexibility on the part of the students and the professor is a prerequisite for online study. We can always do a work-around solution. More importantly, students from across the country and outside the U.S. were able to take and course and present their work to each other. The original goal of these summer online courses — to enable our undergrads to complete their degrees more quickly without having to remain near campus — appears to be succeeding. Joining the party are students from other schools who may avail themselves to these courses. The result is that once again my summer Marketing 201 course has a mix of U.S. and international Loyola students and students from other universities. This educational community is far from insular.
I have asked them to comment on their online experience. I am curious to hear their honest reactions to what may or may not be a new educational experience.