DL Dispatch - December 2010


Amy Marga and students enjoy benefits of online learning

After two semesters of teaching online Distributed Learning courses, Amy Marga, assistant professor of systematic theology, has learned she can't just lecture her students.

"My talking must be straight and to the point--even in the classroom," said Marga. "There is a model of lecturing out there that simply isn't effective, and perhaps never has been, where the professor lectures for long periods of time. Shorter, more pointed presentations and video talks get the job done better in many cases."

Marga has started to figure out what works for her online students--a well-laid-out syllabus, an organized course and forums to bring about student and teacher interaction.

Even with the joys of online teaching, Marga still misses experiencing those "a-ha" moments with students in the classroom.

"Each individual student tracks their growth, but there is rarely a forum when a group is together and we witness an individual having a moment when things click," she said. "Teaching online makes it more challenging to have spontaneous, unplanned 'teachable moments.'"

Marga has made every effort to get to know her students despite not having those classroom connections. E-mail, feedback via phone calls and the occasional participation in online discussion boards allow Marga to foster relationships with her DL students.

And through these efforts, Marga has learned the benefits of the online community, even for students outside the Master of Divinity DL program.

"There is a level of honesty that comes out in online postings that often does not come out in the classroom setting," said Marga. "Students have to have some of the more difficult conversations about agreeing to disagree and respecting one another's viewpoints in a way that does not often happen in the classroom."