Teaching Modalities

Deciding which modality I prefer is an interesting question with answers that change depending on the circumstances.

As a student, I definitely prefer the online modality. I like to get my assignments done and move on to the next thing. One aspect of this preference is simply that I learn best from reading about a subject, rather than listening to a lecture or participating in a discussion or activity. The other aspect is just life…I am a mom with four kids and a very busy career, on top of all the other activities in my life. I need to be able to complete my work when I can carve out a block of time in my schedule, rather than working around someone else’s schedule. But, even as a younger student, I often wished that I could skip going to class because so many times I left class feeling that I’d just lost an hour of my life for no good reason. Of course, there were many classes where I couldn’t wait to go to class because the professor was dynamic, and I felt like I really learned something from the class. (My ancient literature prof taught us how to read Greek in class–super cool!)

On the other side of the coin, I again have diverging answers. On the one hand, I would say that I prefer to teach online only. I like the flexibility that it offers–both to me and my students. I have been teaching long enough to remember the days when many of our students could not go to college because there weren’t any online classes. It is rewarding to be able to help those folks move in the direction of their dreams.

However, I also love the face to face interactions in a live classroom. I can tell if students are “getting it” or not. Because of my own preferences, I tend to focus on hands on practical application of concepts in class–students write their outlines, work on drafts, etc. I want them to feel that their time in class is well-spent.

For online students, I have found that having some kind of live or in-person component can be very helpful in increasing success–especially for students for whom the online modality is not their first choice. In these pandemic times, allowing students to have a live session helps them to stay focused and on track with their work. Scheduling conferences with students is a good option, as well.

The bottom line, I think, is that we need to be flexible in how we offer our courses to meet the needs of our students.