Grazing - a personal blog from Steve Ehrmann

Steve Ehrmann is an author, speaker, and consultant.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

One Reason Why Faculty Resist

I've been enjoying helping Natalie Milman by writing contributing several "Ends and Means" columns for the magazine Distance Learning this year.  Today I'm submitting my most recent contribution (and my last one for a while) called "One Reason Why Faculty Resist."  It begins:

"Have you ever heard the phrase “resistance to technology” used to imply that some faculty are irrational dinosaurs? I have, and I don’t like it. In my experience, most such resistance is quite reasonable.  The following story about online discussion in real time suggests what worries these instructors."

My story's point is that, when the terrain of teaching and learning changes, faculty are quite likely to encounter unexpected problems in their courses.  I don't just mean technical problems.  I mean problems with teaching and learning that are frustrating, embarrassing and sometimes potentially threatening. And, when they encounter such problems, they may well blame themselves. And they may feel that student reaction may put them at risk.

We know all this. But most institutions do little or nothing to prepare faculty for those problems.

So one reason for faculty "resistance" is that they sense that the effort to get them to teach online is a bit of a con game: "Come on in, the water's fine!"  Young technology staff,  leading training workshops, probably aren't aware of the problems. And, when workshops are led by faculty enthusiasts, they often  paint a rosy picture because they discount once-painful problems and don't want to scare their colleagues away.

My column concludes with some suggestions for how to organize self-sustaining, scalable, inter-institutional faculty conversations about teaching a particular course (e.g., "Econometrics 202; ). Their online and face-to-face discussions should be comparatively brief, brisk, relaxed, and helpful enough (trading tips, insights and moral support about what happened last week) that faculty would look forward to next week. That's the theory. Perhaps we can start a few such groups from GW.

If you'd like to learn more, the column should be published in a few months. Or contact me and I'll send you the draft.

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