June 25, 2020

Education in the Time of COVID-19

The novel coronavirus, and the pandemic caused by it, make it necessary to change some of the ways we work as students and professors. I choose not to let this pandemic stop me from providing my students access to a good education. Because we may be living with this virus for a long time, I think there is no sense shoehorning our old ways of doing things into a new situation. I choose to move forward with a different plan.

I am trying something like an active, student-centered pedagogy with evaluation by portfolio. This is not a new idea or even a new set of ideas. I’m choosing to revisit some old methods of education going back to ancient Greece and adding a few modern twists.

Active, student-centered learning has been widely discussed in academia as a method for making traditional lectures work better, i.e. encourage students to actively engage with the material during a lecture, not just sit and listen. I am uninterested in making traditional lectures work better because that is exactly one of the models that is no longer sustainable, in my opinion. My goal instead is to make the active, student-centered model work with my variation of the ancient tutorial/peripatetic method of teaching in which the students work closely with the professor one-on-one or in small groups. And then there’s the whole outdoor thing because, you know, who wants to be trapped in a room with any number of humans these days?

This move, as I think about it and refine it over the summer, is about giving students problems to solve and letting them participate in the design of the assignments. The problems I want them to solve: learning how to critically examine and create the various stories we tell in the mass media — primarily through journalism and documentary filmmaking.

My classes this spring at Missouri State University:

MED130 Fundamentals of Media Convergence: The enrollment for this class has changed from 30 to 20 in order to create social distancing. It will also be a “blended” class — that means taught partly in person and partly online.

JRN478 Mobile Journalism: This class is moving online for next semester — possibly longer.

MED512 Documentary Practicum: This is a field course. Much of the instruction will take place outside a traditional classroom on location with film crews from Carbon Trace Productions. Student have access to a media edit lab during class hours.

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