We asked students around grounds to share their experience with the benefits of face-to-face education in an age of online learning. During the next few weeks, we will share a number of personal narratives provided by students.
This week, Eric McDaniel (English major) shares his story:
Saying, “I disagree with you” with warmth is easier to do in person than with a keyboard.
In an age of online learning, what are the benefits of interacting in person with your professor and your peers inside and outside of class?
As much as the internet offers us, it still leaves a lot to be desired in the realm of academic/intellectual conversation. When I offer an opinion in class, people can immediately respond and hear the responses of their classmates without fear of dead batteries, disk crashes, or connectivity problems. But more than that, you can see the body language of the rest of the room. Discomfort and awkward silence, people shifting in their seats, eye contact, true engagement — all of these things become much more readily apparent. And they are just as important — if not more important — to capture and comprehend in a conversation. Comments, emails, message threads, even group video chat cannot replicate that.
Can you give us an example of a face-to-face interaction in an instructional setting that made a difference for your learning?
Each day in my Spring 2013 seminar with 27 students, the passion and sincerity of the small group discussions was striking. We were able to broach topics like morality, religion, race, class, and so on without any major discomfort, because of the openness, trust, and fluidity facilitated by face-to-face interaction. Saying “I disagree with you” with warmth is much easier to do in person than over a screen, and the class facilitated such discussions over and over and over again, to great personal impact.
What suggestions do you have for professors who want to leverage the benefits of a face-to-face environment?
I would say it is hard to have healthy, deep, truly sincere interactions without a deep trust of those with whom you are in dialogue. Sharing is easier when you know your views will be respected, even when they are in the minority or controversial. Therefore, I would recommend a) letting students build relationships with those they are expected to dialogue with, and b) create a truly safe space in which to discuss material.
Interested in more student interviews from this series?
<– Read the previous post.
Click this link for more information on the TRC’s theme, “Face-to-Face Education in the Digital Age”.