Serving as both a campus pastor and an adjunct instructor, I know that web-based teaching can feel disconnected from the students I'm called to serve. I'm also not satisfied with that reality. Thankfully, neither are my students or colleagues. Together, we're learning how to better design our web-based content to move from online teaching to digital formation. The distinction I’m making here is this: formation implies teaching that is received and incorporated into the development of a student’s knowledge, skill, vocation, or identity. All formation includes teaching, but not all teaching results in formation.
My desire to teach at the college level came from a yearning, even a mission, to connect with students in these critical years of identity development and vocational exploration, empowering them with the tools of reason, wisdom, and knowledge, that they might find not just lucrative careers, but rewarding lives. In other words, I desire to teach in a way that promotes formation. Online education doesn't change that intent, but it surely changes the form.
These last few weeks of web-based learning have both reaffirmed some lessons and brought new insights. I share just a few here to continue the conversation around how we can best serve our students as educators in an era COVID-related online education.
In all of this, it’s important to remember that alternative delivery methods aren’t lesser delivery methods. We may, however, have less skill at these methods, which requires more of us as educators to learn and employ new ways of forming our students. That, then, is the key to doing this all well. Simply taking all of our in-person content and deploying it in the easiest fashion (for us) on the web can be called online teaching, but it doesn’t necessarily promote digital formation. In periods of crisis - and indeed, in all eras of education - we ought to design courses in ways that promote true formation. The best online teaching utilizes web-based tools to create points of contact that foster digital formation. The above suggestions can enhance our practices in ways that it promotes digital formation through our delivery of online teaching.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.