To New Beginnings (Jason Fiske, Guest Blogger)

Hello everyone, my name is Jason Fiske and I am the Program Director for Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s online Graduate Program in International Taxation and Financial Services. I have taught a couple of dozen courses online and am now constantly searching for scalable solutions for implementation of optimal online pedagogy. I will discuss our philosophy on this a bit more in future blog posts, but I would like to thank Will Monroe for inviting me to guest blog here. We are very much at a Dawn of a New Era in Education (shameless plug of my personal blog that discusses my thoughts on online teaching methods), and I am ecstatic to be a part of developing the marketplace of ideas for online teaching methods. I have learned so much from this blog, and hope I can contribute in any small way.

I wanted to start by briefly sharing my philosophy on how our program’s students learn. We firmly believe that effective educators (online or otherwise) at any level must alter one of the following once every 5-10 minutes or so:

1) Type of information (switch topics)
2) Person or system delivering information (panel, student participation, or something else creative-see below)
3) Location of delivery of information (this can be as simple as the educator moving around the classroom – but also has great impact on online education)

This is what we see many professors and instructors not grasping very quickly: it is no longer effective to stand in front of a room (or online) and talk for an hour. That is, unless you want to lose the attention of the learner after 5 minutes.

For example, I was teaching residentially in person and thought I would experiment. I usually feel that the very sight of me coming to talk about tax is enough to put an insomniac to sleep in an instant, so I knew I had to mix it up a bit. I set up a debate…with myself. I pre-recorded YouTube answers for select questions on the topic and had a student come up and be the moderator. I then sat in the debate chair with a screen facing off next to me. The moderator would read the question and I would answer, and the devil’s advocate (I was dressed as a devil in the video) would reply to my answer right after I finished from the screen next to me. The help of an IT-oriented person in the back helped immensely! As far as I could tell, no one fell asleep that day and it also accomplished all three of my goals stated above.

Teaching online is ripe with opportunities for optimal pedagogy, much of the time with greater opportunities for students to learn than in residential learning. The three points can be beautifully choreographed to make a special learning environment. In my subsequent blogs I will discuss how our program at Thomas Jefferson School of Law goes about attempting to accomplish this.






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