Response to: Online Course Design Pitfall #3: Insist on being the “sage on the stage.”

I am responding to pitfall #3 – which asks that we move away from the model of being a ‘sage on the stage’. I teach photography and new media communications.

Before I read Elizabeth St. Germain’s column, I had already started to see myself as a curator of information with respect to organising and presenting the course material. The term ‘curator’ has already been co-opted by a number of fields from the art-context as a word to describe someone who assembles and presents already existing materials.

There are several techniques I already implement to involve students in active learning and to diminish my role as ‘Sage’

Google Image Search for Sage

Google Image Search for Sage

(Sage seems such a masculine trait – correct me if I am wrong).

First, I use discussion boards to ask students to respond to readings – using open-ended questions. I try and phrase my discussion board questions in such a way to elicit the type of response I would like. For example, in formulating the question I may cite part of the text, to demonstrate how text can be cited – thus encouraging more thoughtful responses that respond specifically to the text.

Second, every third reading or so, I ask the students to research one of the artists/photographers covered in the text in greater depth and share their findings with the class. In this way, the students have more control over their research, they can share information about an artist/photographer that they find inspiring and they can add to the rather limited information contained in the text. Typically, a chapter in a text will introduce ca. 20 artists/photographers but not in great depth – merely asking students to share information about a favourite photographer can lead to some rather dire examples so I prefer to use limited parameters as outlined above.

Third, in the classroom situation, I ask students to present information on a narrow topic to the class – using examples that they have found to illustrate the theme. In this way, I can ensure that the examples presented to class are always up-to-date and are relevant to the students’ interest. For example, I can teach about the use of color in film, TV, and photography but I have limited experience within video games. In this way, my bank of examples, has been kept up-to-date. I have yet to figure out how this ‘in-class presentation’ by students can be translated to the online world. So, finding a way for students to creatively present and share their own self-created information to the class online would be useful. This technique, however, can still be used in the hybrid system.

CONCERNS: Much of the curated information I use has excellent production values. I can tap into materials prepared by museums and galleries worldwide. However, when I ‘curate’ technical information the best web-videos are created by companies such as Adorama or Adobe – clearly these videos are designed to drive people to purchase items from that company. I do feel uncomfortable about promoting a vendor in this way (although we use Adobe software all the time – as an industry standard).

Like many, I am requiring responses to existing posts on discussion boards as part of the grade – however, I rarely see anything that meaningful in these responses at present – despite having a rubric statement that asks for responses that elicit additional discussion. Help on this matter would be appreciated.

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