Growing up in the 1980’s, I was constantly reminded that one day “it’s all gonna be computers and robots.” What did they mean by “it?” Did “it” mean entertainment, jobs, transportation, teaching? Surely not teaching.
As a child, I embraced all things computers and robots. I dreamed of being derezzed and transported into a virtual world, racing light cycles on the grid. Oh yeah, there was even this thing called videoconferencing. Every deep space vessel came fully equipped with such communication instruments.
Remember “Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan?” When Khan pops up after 15 years and surprises Kirk…..with a videoconference call? Classic!
Turns out, Khan and Kirk were forecasting the evolution of classrooms. So those around the early-80’s me were right, it has become all computers and robots and the “it” is teaching. Online. Virtual environments. Videoconferencing (Ok…maybe not the robots, yet).
I actually entertained the idea of creating a virtual A&P course about 5 years ago. I could see it kinda, maybe being successful for the ultra-dedicated. The eager and ambitious. This “plan” was largely relegated to thought bubbles floating above my head. Nothing ever came to fruition as the general consensus was “meh”. To be honest, I never really took a consensus. I think I asked a colleague his opinion in the parking lot. Case closed.
And then last spring…well, you know. Over the span of a few days in March, I was ambushed by emails and phone calls from veteran publishers, software wizards, and scrappy overnight start-ups. All were dazzling me with sales pitches on how to online this and virtual that. I actually listened to a couple of them.
Remember those fluffy thought bubbles from 5 years ago? They violently burst into fragments on my office floor. Half-baked ideas that needed serving ASAP because: Emergency Spring Semester Transition.
And there I was. Transported from my cozy, flesh-and-blood classroom into a virtual vacuum. Yep. I was derezzed. But, hey! Just like Kirk, I was videoconferencing…with my dog barking, daughter stair-stomping, wi-fi dropping, neighbor’s roof replacing.
And just like that the spring semester abruptly ended in a complete haze.
What the #@$! just happened?
Redemption came in the name of the summer semester. A full-on dress rehearsal for the inevitable Fall Overhaul. I went whole-hog online right from my dining room (the only room in my house with actual lighting).
Starting in June and into the foreseeable future, my syllabus would embrace first ballot hall-of-fame cringe terms such as:
- Webinar (ugh, this one especially)
- Asynchronous (never even heard this term before)
At the time of writing this, I’ve earned my stripes teaching synchronous and asynchronous online A&P and am slated to teach 240 online students for the Spring 21. Over the next few installments, I’m going to share my experiences and offer some unfiltered advice. From quirky virtual gatherings with students, their pets, and questionable wall art to smoldering dumpster fires of abandoned learning systems, this is my adventure in the A&P cyber zone.
Jordan Clark is the course coordinator and head instructor for anatomy and physiology and applied microbiology at Sam Houston State University. He earned a BS in psychology at Florida State University and a Ph.D in neurobiology at University of Kentucky, where he conducted research in spinal cord and brain injury. He served four years in the US Army. Currently, his primary research interest is developing engaging and active teaching strategies for large capacity courses. Free time? Consuming synth wave pop culture, daydreaming of being a master woodworker, and always seeking great geeky adventures with his awesome wife and and two kids.