Vol. 5. No. 1 INT April 2001
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Interview with an Online Instructor (Part 4)

Jim Duber
duber dot com

JD: How do you compare this with developing just a traditional face-to-face course?

MS: It's actually a lot more work. In a face-to-face course where a lot of the work is done in maybe choosing a text or putting together a reader,...that's really a matter of putting in a bookstore order or maybe making some photocopies for a reader to be put together. Here it requires marking up web pages, posting them, uploading things, reformatting, and of course integrating it all into a sort of table of contents structure in a logical way. And then, linking all the quiz information, the bulletin board--so that it all works smoothly as one big package. But, the nice thing about it is...obviously, for distance learning, you've got to have something like this and not just a series of readings on a web page, and then...maybe an e-mail/chat. I think it gives a much richer environment for students to work in, and offers lots of different ways of learning for students, whether they prefer to discuss things more or simply to read and answer questions. It adapts to different learning styles.

JD: OK, so that addresses the development of the course and all the issues that you face there. What about when you are teaching the course?

MS: The teaching of the course goes rather smoothly, and in fact that's where I think distance courses can be kind of less intensive in a way than face-to-face courses...because you have time to...think about the email questions you get, to mull over the discussion boards, to...look up answers if you need to, and to really give some well-formed and...well-researched answers when it's needed; where...in class, you don't often have that ability and sometimes you have to turn students away and say, "Well, I'll tell you next class time after I look it up." Or, you just kind of stall for time anyway. So,...the distance model I think allows for teachers to be at their sharpest in lots of ways. But it is a time-management issue. There's a lot of e-mail. I counted at one point in the course I had received, in addition to what's going on in the bulletin board and on the course discussion list, 320 individual e-mails from the course participants. So, it takes some time-management skills and some strategies for working out how to deal with that volume of additional e-mail in your in-box.

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