“Sage on stage” vs. “guide on the side”

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

Key issue: Even in a traditional face-to-face setting, as long as students have access to their laptops or phones, they can Google answers to questions asked in class or even verify what their instructor said. In an online course or the online session of a hybrid course, we can then always assume that students are Googling the topics and obtaining an enormous volume of related materials, opinions, and even looking at similar courses offered by other universities. Being the “sage on the stage” is no longer the role of an instructor – let’s face it.

How to avoid this pitfall? Please don’t expect to get an answer from me as I am not an “expert.” You can Google it. That’s what I did and found “guide on the side” as a potential solution to replace “sage on stage.” For the hybrid course I am designing, I will actually encourage students to Google related issues and bring them to class for discussions. The focus will be on problem solving and critical thinking. Through minicases and group projects, students will have opportunities to learn from each other and work together to solve real-world issues.  Being the “guide on the side” is the role of an instructor – let’s try it.

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4 Responses to “Sage on stage” vs. “guide on the side”

  1. Nick AuYeung says:

    In my class, I think I inadvertently have been doing the “guide on the side”. I put students in teams and give them some sort of micro-design project to carry out over the course of an hour or so. They have access to the internet. We then bring the class together and see what people come up with, and I am always interested in what they come up with vs. what I had thought about prior to the exercise. More often than not the class comes up with an approach I hadn’t thought about.

    Many times though, I notice that the googling still leaves them a bit shallow in their critique of a solution, so I have found that raising questions about that particular solution is a good way to get them thinking.

  2. Janet says:

    Thanks, I really like the notion of the “guide on the side” as a way to avoid this pitfall. Not to be misunderstood, because I really don’t want to re-inscribe the “sage on the stage” or authoritative talking head, but I do think it’s important to recognise how an increasing lack of trust and denigration of intellectualism in our culture — plus students’ often inability to recognise between different knowledges and their purposes and intent — provides the context for our teaching, how our knowledge is perceived, and the credibility we receive (especially when teachers are members of marginalized communities).

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