Thursday, November 13, 2008

Virtual teaching

or: If a tree falls in a forest but there is no-one to hear it, will it still make a sound falling?

I am not convinced by my experience in virtual teaching so far. For one thing, it is a really dreary monologue for the teacher, who has no means of judging how the audience is responding. If it is as dull for the students, they are probably half-asleep, or else most of them have left and gone home. All potential for interaction is lost by the fact that the students are sitting in a classroom and each group has only one computer for communicating back to me and to the other groups, with no microphone, so the only means of asking questions is by typing them. Finnish students are not famous for being communicative anyway, quite on the contrary, but in comparison with this virtual course the discussion on the other one I have been teaching is lively. Despite all the technology involved, I feel this is going backwards in time, to the good old days when a professor would enter the classroom, give his lecture and leave, without any interruption from the students intent on absorbing his words of wisdom.

However, in the light of recent discussion revolving around Finnish university policies , I fear I am really witnessing the future. The government is also planning to cut down thousands of governmental jobs in the name of a productivity program - as if e.g. social security or educational sector is a company operating by the laws of quartal capitalism*. That is so absurd it would make you laugh if it was not real. So, I can see how alluring the idea must be for the decision-makers: By employing one teacher only you can teach (in a very broad sense of the word, but who cares as long as the statistics look nice?) students anywhere in the country with negligible material costs. Lo and behold, we have invented the next best thing after the duck laying gold eggs.

*And see where that principle has led us... It never fails to confound me how these companies can make more and more money by constantly closing factories and kicking out workers. In the past having to close down factories would have been a sign of impending disaster for the company but now it just causes their share price to soar. I confess my utter and absolute bafflement.

1 comment:

shubh said...

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