eLatin eGreek eLearn

More wired than a Roman Internet café

In response to Andrew’s challenge, here is something I have been working on.

This term, for the first time, Franklin Pierce University is running “Ancient and Medieval Worlds” in the 100% online environment. As Franklin Pierce continues to expand their 100% online course offering, this was the one class that made people pause. Would the students “get” the Iliad without some handholding in a physical classroom? Is the subject too dense for the average non-specialist student? The answer is a big resounding “NO!”

One of the reasons that it has been working out so well is the great flexibility of the eCollege format in which we structure our online classes. The system is very “what you see is what you get” allowing students to deal more with the subject matter rather than navigating through the course. Because the system is also very graphics friendly, maps and illustrations can be easily embedded into online lectures to allow students to contextualize the information.

Probably the most important feature is the pedagogy Franklin Pierce uses in the online environment. Meaningful instructor contact and interaction allow me, as instructor to impart my love for the subject and help students with difficult conceptual issues.

I am not sure if language acquisition is something that will be effective in an online environment. I am convinced that, under the right circumstances, history and culture can be meaningfully discussed in this format.

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Comment by Laura Gibbs on February 11, 2008 at 9:11am
Hi Bill, being able to fully integrate text and images is something that has been a big plus for me in working online - instead of doing traditional papers, my students create their own little websites which makes it possible for them to fully integrate text and images in the work that they do for the class, too! I've also really enjoyed the powerful motivating factor of having them read each other's work - in many ways, they are much more motivated to impress their peers than they are to impress me. After all, I'm just the teacher and impressing me is about the grade (which they know is both important and at the same time meaningless) - but when they are trying to impress each other, it is about their identity and self-worth in a more profound way. They work harder as a result, and make more of an effort to look their best for their peers. All the writing they do in the class is shared with other students (they are assigned three other people at random each week and the power of "random" is also fun, too - they like the way they cannot predict who they will be interacting with that way).

Language online: Languages online benefit from a different aspect of digital education - the ability of the computer to give unlimited and immediate feedback. When I taught Biblical Greek online there were quizzes GALORE, and the students spent an enormous amount of doing quizzes, and being able to find out right away if they needed more practice (nothing stigmatizing about it), or if they were ready for the next level. That kind of intensive feedback is so important for language-learning, and the computer is very good at it. Then the teacher can focus on higher-level activities with students (composition, reading comprehension, etc.), after they have really and truly mastered vocabulary and forms and syntax.


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