Several months back I met Andrew Reinhard, the founder and caretaker of this site, through a series of email messages. He told me about the eClassics site and I told him about myself, specifically about how I had started teaching Latin on the internet. He was interested in hearing about my experiences with the format, and since he thought that others might be interested as well, he suggested that I submit something about it to eClassics—something describing the logistics of teaching in the online setting and my opinions concerning it. I mulled it over for a little while and decided that he was right, that I did have something to say, and this blog is the result. In this first installment I’ll be focusing on my reasons for choosing to teach in the online environment and on why I chose the specific online environment that I currently use.
My reasons for choosing to offer Latin classes online were many, certainly, but in the end it really only boiled down to one—poverty. I badly needed to come up with another source of income, and where I live job opportunities are scarce, especially in teaching. I did look around for quite a while, but when nothing appeared, I decided that I’d better become more creative in my thinking. Searching for some help, I ended up discussing the issue of my unemployment with a friend of mine, and he suggested that I try teaching Latin online. At first I poo-pooed his idea. I think I assumed that the technology wasn’t yet advanced enough to allow for a live audio and video feed between teacher and students, something which I felt would be necessary if Latin were to be taught effectively online. He urged me to look into it, though, and when I did, I found that the technology was available, and if it wasn’t necessarily perfectly glitch-free, it at least seemed sufficiently serviceable for my purposes.
When I finally realized that the venture might be a reasonable possibility, I then started to notice that it might have other advantages as well. Obviously, I liked that it would allow me to teach Latin, a language that I enjoy greatly; but even better, in this particular situation I would have the freedom to teach the language as I chose, freedom to choose the pace of the course, to choose the text I preferred, and to implement my own theories on the best way to teach Latin. I also liked that I could feel good about the work that I was doing since I would be bringing to people an education in a language that I felt to be highly valuable. Many, without advantage of this format, might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn Latin since it is not as widely available (obviously) as it could be. I am a person who believes in universal Latin education, and I knew that I could feel good about helping to bring that a little closer.
As I said earlier, from the very beginning I had decided that to teach this course I would have to have access to an online classroom with a live audio and video feed. And when I investigated a bit, I found that there were two major ways of achieving this. The first was to use web conferencing software, a method that would require every enrolled student to buy and install the necessary program. The second was to teach the class using a web conferencing web site. In the end I chose the latter since I feared that installation of particular software could be a huge headache and also an unwanted expense for my students.
After looking into the many companies providing an online web conferencing platform, I finally decided on one called WiZiQ. I had asked the advice of many people who had more knowledge on he subject than I, making much use of chat rooms and email lists devoted to the subject. And according to those I corresponded with, WiZiQ was a company with one of the better reputations for reliability. Plus, its basic service was completely free, a huge selling point for me since I needed to get this venture off the ground with a minimum of investment. I found that their service was easy to use and worked for both PCs and Macs, and the only investment the format would require for students would be an audio headset with microphone, and possibly a web cam, if they chose to use one. Of course, I expected that a certain amount of technical trouble would be inevitable, but I also felt confident that in time I could learn to work around any problems that might arise. The only good way to figure it all out would be to jump in.
Next time: A description of the Latin online classroom.