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...and the bright side of on line college.

updated tue 21 aug 12


ksavino@BUCKEYE-EXPRESS.COM on mon 20 aug 12

Deb, I'm happy to teach a hands on studio art ceramics course that will nev=
er be taught on line. On the other hand, I have taught Art Appreciation to =
non majors both in class and on line, and while they are very different, th=
ey are equally effective.

For instance: in class, I can show slides (these classes used to be called =
"art in the dark") of Salvador Dali's work, and talk about him in all his w=
eird glory. On line, i provide the same images, but I can also link to a do=
cumentary where they can hear HIM talk about all his weird glory.

So often, textbook images of art are a tiny, one-sided peek at something la=
rge and complicated. 2D images of 3d art, sculpture, architecture, kinetic =
work like Theo Jansen's Strandbeests
2R0TWE are best experienced in motion, in documentary, in video, in walk-th=
ough technology that I can't do well in a classroom setting. (Just a thoug=
ht -- I learned more watching the Ken Burns series on the Civil War than I =
did in several student years of textbook scanning and teacher droning.)

Students who may be too shy to come up with an on-the-spot, hand-waving poi=
nt in a classroom discussion can take their time to respond to the particip=
ation-required on line conversation, rethinking and revising, responding to=
other posts, much like clayart -- only faster, and with images and links. =
I assigned them weird projects -- they build catenary arches out of cubes o=
f cheese, took photos to imitate the style of the photographers we covered,=
made Goldsworthy style nature art -- and they took pictures with their cel=
l phones and uploaded them to show the class.

In some cases, classroom instruction pales in comparison to the multimedia =
experience available on line -- especially relevant to this batch of colleg=
e kids who cut their teeth on iphones and know their way around technology.

When I took composition class, I used to have to RETYPE my papers on a type=
writer to make corrections. (remember white-out?) Today's essays arrive in =
an inbox, are revised multiple times, and a quick check with anti-cheating =
software catches plagiarism I never would have been able to prove with type=

It's true that there are scammy on line colleges -- but a lot of students w=
ho take on line classes are already attending a bricks and mortar college, =
or will do so to get their hands-on class experience. Some are enrolled ful=
l time on one place and taking on line classes elsewhere to power through a=
nd finish early. You can work day shift and go to college at night to impro=
ve your hirability or get a promotion. Moms with littles can earn credits w=
ithout paying child care. Elders who don't care about a degree can take mu=
sic appreciation or marine biology or creative writing for lifelong learnin=
g. Prisoners can get started with career training before they are released =
The disabled, the geographically isolated, students with anxiety disorders,=
military people stationed overseas -- all sign up and move forward a step =
at a time.

There's no question that some classes (and some teachers' personalities an=
d skill set) won't translate well to on line learning. Still... when I went=
to college in the early 80s, I lived with three other girls in a room at a=
co-ed dorm. There were nonstop parties. Every weekend there was barf in th=
e hallways and the cleaning crew didn't come until monday. The girl in the =
top bunk brought men home and, um, entertained them while I was trying to s=
leep below. By the end of the freshman year all three of my roomies had got=
ten pregnant, with varying outcomes, none of them good. So I'm not convince=
d that bricks and mortar, off-to-college education is without its downside,=

Not to mention that attending bricks-and-mortar college ain't cheap. My el=
dest -- my brainy ginger kid who commuted to his first day of college clas=
ses today -- could have lived on campus, stayed in the dorms and eaten in =
the cafeteria for a mere $7,000 per year on TOP of his tuition/fees/$500 se=
mester in textbooks. He works hard for his money and he's happy to commute =
instead. He will love the classroom environment and the social experience =
of college, meet girls, go to football games and build memories. But for th=
ose of us who are not 18 years old, it's nice to have another option -- eve=
n if it's an on line class.

Kelly in Ohio... up early this morning for Molly's first day of high school=
, Connor's first day as a junior, Tyler's first day of college and my first=
day back at Owens College teaching Ceramics. Can't wait for the first-day-=
of-school reports at dinner!