Monthly Archives: July 2020

An Online Field Course: Seeking Already-Invented Wheels

Many students feel they should be paying reduced tuition this fall if they aren’t getting the normal face-to-face university experience. I fully appreciate their perspective, and I do believe they are missing out by not being here in person. That said, many students don’t realize the tremendous time, money, and other resources we are expending to produce the best online learning experience that we can.

Creating an online field course is clearly a quixotic endeavor. If I had 6 months or a year to work on this full-time, I could create a really spectacular online field course (though still not as good as the real thing of course). Instead, I realistically have 6 weeks where I can work half-time on this. I’m in triage mode, as I imagine most educators are.

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An Online Field Course: Establishing an Asynchronous ‘Presence’

Because my upcoming course will be almost exclusively asynchronous (due to a 15-hour time difference), I’ve been exploring how to establish my presence in the course. After the COVID-19 pivot in my spring courses, I posted weekly announcements in which I gave course info but also wrote frankly about the challenges we were facing. That seemed okay, but it was really just maintaining my existing relationship with students that had been established in the face-to-face portion of the semester. Continue reading

An Online Field Course: Synchronicity

You’ve probably already seen 27,000 posts about teaching synchronously vs. asynchronously, so I’ll contribute post 27,001!

Though I already make heavy use of our online learning management system (currently Canvas at UBC), prior to the COVID-pivot, I’d never taught an online course, and I hadn’t even considered the terms synchronous and asynchronous in a teaching context. In this post, I’m not going to discuss the details or advantages of each approach, as others have already done that quite well (see this solid, concise breakdown from the University of Waterloo). Rather, I’m going to reflect on my own experience.

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Can you move a field course online and teach it to students 8,000 km away?

I teach a field course that I absolutely love. Last fall, I was approached about trying to replicate part of this course in an online format. I thought that was a horrible idea. I said that moving a field course online negates absolutely all of the strengths of field instruction.

Eight months later, here we are. Given [waves hand around] all this, I have to answer the question: Can you move a field course online and teach it to students 8,000 km away?

I think the short answer is still no, but I’m going to give it my best shot anyway.

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