September 2020

Myths about Face-To-Face and Online Education

As thousands of teachers all around the world are making their final preparations for our online courses, I would like to share a few thoughts on the biggest myth related to online and face-to-face education – the level of student engagement. Actually, I decided to do that after responding to an interviewer’s question on Spice Radio 1200 AM in the Lower Mainland. One of the questions that I am often asked is related to the lack of engagement in online courses. We often assume that in face-to-face courses the students are very engaged and in online courses the students are not going to be engaged. I think it is a myth. If we reflect on our experiences and be honest about them, we will need to acknowledge that very often we felt completely disengaged while being in a face-to-face class. It especially pertains to large lecture classes or small classes, where the teacher keeps lecturing or uses rigid PowerPoint slides while making little effort to engage the students.

I think the level of student engagement depends first and foremost on the pedagogy employed. I know teachers, who can teach in a very engaging manner online courses and unfortunately I also know instructors whose face-to-face lessons are as boring and not engaging as one can imagine. Some teachers use the medium of online education to its fullest skillfully blending synchronous and asynchronous learning environments, while others cannot engage a small group of students in a face-to-face lesson. So in my view, what matters is the pedagogy and how the instructor can use the advantages of the learning environment they have at their disposal.

I think sometimes we have to try and see the big picture and be proactive and resourceful in figuring things out instead of convincing ourselves that it cannot be done. We should not think that the educational challenges we are facing now are insurmountable, because we have the knowledge, the experience, and the technology to figure them out.  For example, while seeing the majestic Mt. Baker from far-away Vancouver one can feel that nobody can reach its top. And yet, we know of many mountain climbers who do it. These are amazing people who have high aspirations, train hard, work hard, respect the mountain, find fellow mountaineers who can do it with them, and eventually achieve their dreams by standing on the top of Mt. Baker.

I think the same applies to education: we should dream high and persevere to achieve our dreams – we can have very engaging online classes and we share our expertise and resources with each other. This is going to be a learning experience for many of us, but how will it feel when we finish the year and see how much our students have learned – this will be as exciting as standing on the top of Mount Baker.

I hope that this will be a positive year of learning and I would like to wish the teachers and students a very fruitful and successful year of learning.

Mt. Baker

Mt. Baker


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