Over the last four years, I’ve researched, and taught numerous times, in an online setting. There’s a lot of hype about this in education circles. There’s also a lot of dismay among teachers who have to adapt to the changing environment. The change can often be chaotic.

On this page, I want to collect some of the material I’ve developed myself, as well as chart something of a middle course between the two poles just mentioned. Online tools can be used with great success, in on campus classes, and when teaching wholly online, if approached carefully.

Taking Philosophy online

Change can be uncomfortable. Some University teachers are prone to assume that online study cannot reach as high a quality as face to face learning. This is especially common, I find (albeit anecdotally) among those in philosophy. Philosophy as a whole, to generalise for a moment, is often a conservative discipline with respect to pedagogy. And out of fear, we project bad outcomes onto the challenge of new communication technologies.

The moodle page for one of my on campus units

But the experience and research findings show that isn’t the case. I find that my online students, on average, do a lot better for two simple reasons:

a) they write more, through necessity (online forums), and for a larger total period of time, and

b) they are, through self-selection, a more highly motivated group on average.

Compare this to the average class-section of mixed motivation, turning up for their scheduled hour or two a week. In fact, the online component can spice up the activity and engagement of those on-campus students, too.

What does matter, then, is that those teaching online have been trained to do so. There’s something about online teaching that forces a break down of teaching and learning activity so that it is not as obvious as a classroom.

I’m going to start working on some blog posts to explore these issues.

Links and materials

To get started, here is a welcome video from one of my recent units.

I’ve also been involved in co-ordinating and teaching numerous units in the philosophy program for Open Universities Australia

Online teaching and the pipeline problem