Online Course Design Pitfall #3: Insist on being the “sage on the stage.” According to Elizabeth St. Germain’s article, “Five Common Pitfalls of Online Course Design,” she discusses how teachers, instructors and professors often teach using the pedagogy that they possess special knowledge and that their students and/or subordinates need to listen to their every word in order to understand this special knowledge. With age and experience on the teacher’s side, it is easy to fall into this habit as a method of enlightening our wards. With the advent of the internet, however, the voice of the sage has been filtered out almost entirely. How do we convey our knowledge in the midst of so much “noise”? It appears that we need to turn to the “noise” and train our students to critically question the wide berth of information from so many online sources, including academic publications that are now easily accessible with a few key words.
Collecting data via online research, analyzing and deciphering the content and preparing the information in a meaningful way that can be used in the classroom can make this a much more useful practice. Rather than students relying on their “sage” to inform them, we have the ability to transform the classroom from unidirectional communication into multilateral communications between instructor to student and student to student. Approaching this from a hybrid design perspective, using the initial collection and deciphering of data online prior to use in the classroom as, for example, small group discussions, moves the omnipotent sage into the role of facilitator, one who directs the flow of the classroom rather than dominating the stage.
For my hybrid course design, I want to enable students to pursue information prior to our class meetings and share what they have found and how they interpret it with their peers and myself. The challenge for me is to know when to “step out of their way” and how to guide the discussions so that they become a learning experience for the students. This is easier said than done, as I have been trained as a passive learner and feel very comfortable with prepared lectures. It may be more taxing to be responsible for your own learning (from the student angle) and scary to potentially not be in complete control of the classroom (from the teacher’s perspective).
It will take some practice on my part, for sure, to become more comfortable as a facilitator, rather than packing the meeting times with information that I want the students to learn and understand. Yet, this seems a necessary change, not only for hybrid courses, but for most all educational designs.