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The Essence of Good Teaching: Face to Face or Online John R. Regalbuto Dept. of Chemical Engineering University of Illinois at Chicago e-Teaching Symposium UIC March 16, 2006 Early growth as a teacher… Student evaluations: What are the major strengths and weaknesses of the instructor?

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the essence of good teaching face to face or online

The Essence of Good Teaching: Face to Face or Online

John R. Regalbuto

Dept. of Chemical Engineering

University of Illinois at Chicago

e-Teaching Symposium


March 16, 2006

early growth as a teacher
Early growth as a teacher…

Student evaluations:

What are the major strengths and weaknesses of the instructor?

early growth as a teacher4
Early growth as a teacher…



Shows interest in material & students

Vague when answering some questions

early growth as a teacher5
Early growth as a teacher…



This instructor was one of the best I’ve

ever had. Give him a raise.


  • Happy recipient of a few teaching awards
  • Participated in 1998-99 faculty seminar on online pedagogy
  • Throw tantrums
the inducement
The Inducement
  • President Jim Stukel:

“Towards full realization of our enduring core values, the University of Illinois will lead nationally in creating, assessing, transferring, and integrating advanced technologies, in our research, teaching, outreach and operations.”

“…Indeed, the Internet, and the technology which supports it, may well constitute the third modern revolution in higher education.”

(Letter to the Faculty, October 1997)

the tantrum
The Tantrum
  • JR:

“My concern is this: the essence of teaching is the relationship established between a professor and his or her students. Great teachers may well be able to establish great rapport over a distance… But…great teachers have not been approached as a body to help plan the implementation of distance learning.

…I believe a sanctioned study by…(a) committee of great teachers will provide assurance for the faculty as a whole and will yield valuable insight and meaningful direction for the implementation of distance learning.”

(J. Regalbuto, Letter to President Stukel, January 1998)

the response
The Response
  • Sylvia Manning, then Vice President of Academic Affairs:

“John, guess what I’d like you to do.”

  • Summarize the Online Pedagogy Report
  • Update:
    • K. Swan, “Learning Effectiveness Online: What the Research Tells Us,” in J. Bourne and J.C. Moore (eds) Elements of Quality Online Education, Practice and Direction, Sloan Center, Needham, MA, 2003
  • Ramifications:
    • Blended learning
    • UI Online
    • UI “Global Campus” initiative
seminar format
Seminar Format
  • Comprised of dedicated teachers
  • Mix of “skeptics” and “converted”
  • No nuts and bolts; technology given the benefit of the doubt
  • Pedagogy only
  • biweekly meetings
    • retreats
    • videoconferences
    • seminars
coauthors seminar members
Coauthors/Seminar Members
  • Nick Burbules, Educational Policy, UIUC
  • Bob Wengert, Philosophy, UIUC
  • Michael Loui, Engineering College, UIUC
  • Linda Smith, Library and Information Science, UIUC
  • Cleo D’Arcy, Crop Science, UIUC
  • Ron Smith, Veterinary Medicine, UIUC
  • Sandy Theis, Nursing, UIC
  • Babette Newberger, Public Health, UIC
  • Donald Wink, Chemistry, UIC
  • Charles Woodbury, Pharmacy, UIC
  • David Hansen, Education, UIC
  • Allan Cook, Education, UIS
  • Rachel Anderson, Psychology, UIS
  • Jeff Stuit, VPAA and UI-Online
good teaching
Good Teaching
  • “Good teaching is good teaching.”
  • Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education (Chickering and Gamson):
      • Good practice encourages student-faculty contact.
      • Good practice encourages cooperation among students.
      • Good practice encourages active learning.
      • Good practice gives prompt feedback.
      • Good practice emphasizes time on task.
      • Good practice communicates high expectations.
      • Good practice respects diverse talents and ways of learning.
  • Chickering and Ehrman: Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever
good teaching14
Good Teaching
  • Different teaching modes (lecture, seminar or discussion, clinical) make an essence difficult to distill
  • Essence must be independent of mode
  • Essence: Teachers must be concerned that their students learn.

Which implies:

    • 1) presentation of materials is well thought out
    • 2) attention is paid to whether students are learning.
bad learning but brilliant well intended lecturing
Bad Learning (but brilliant, well intended lecturing)
  • The Feynman Lectures on Physics:

- freshmen and sophomores dropped out; grad students and faculty sat in;

“…there was one serious difficulty: in the way the course was given, there wasn’t any feedback from the students to the lecturer to indicate how well the lectures were getting over.”

jr s commentary non report
JR’s commentary (non-report)
  • Two aspects of good teaching:
    • Delivery: must promote active learning
    • Immediacy: feedback which informs
      • Instructor of students learning
      • Students of instructor’s attentiveness
jr s commentary non report17
JR’s commentary (non-report)
  • Didactic (content easy, feedback hard):
    • Don’t reel off a lecture (passive)
      • Burks Oakley: “If you want to see distance education, go to the back row of a 500 student, stale lecture”
    • Ask questions, make students do calculations, get real-time feedback
  • Seminar/Socratic (feedback easy, content hard):
    • Feedback is inherent
    • Don’t get lazy; ensure content moves forward
good teaching attentiveness
Good Teaching: Attentiveness
  • David Hansen: unobtrusive motivation

Being taken seriously by a teacher in a natural, unforced way can promote a student’s own seriousness of mind and purpose. Michael Oakeshott suggests that a quality like seriousness of mind “is never explicitly learned and it is known only in practice; but it may be learned in everything that is learned, in the carpentry shop as well as in the Latin or chemistry lesson.” Such a quality cannot be taught directly, either. Here is Oakeshott again: “[A quality like seriousness of mind] cannot be taught overtly, by precept, because it comprises what is required to animate precept; but it may be taught in everything that is taught. It is implanted unobtrusively in the manner in which information is conveyed, in a tone of voice, in the gesture which accompanies instruction, in asides and oblique utterances, and by example."

good teaching20
Good Teaching
  • Chickering and Gamson:

Frequent student-faculty contact in and out of class is the most important factor in student motivation and involvement. Faculty concern helps students get through rough times and keep on working. Knowing a few faculty members well enhances students’ intellectual commitment and encourages them to think about their own values and future plans.

good teaching21
Good Teaching
  • The professor’s attentiveness motivates the student to engage in the material
    • there will always be brilliant, self-motivated students
    • more “mature” students may be less in need of motivation
    • motivation is also imparted by classmates and circumstances
  • This must translate to online teaching
online teaching
Online Teaching
  • Andrew Feenberg:

…this unqualified rejection of online education contradicts our experience at the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute. There the virtual classroom was a place of intense intellectual and human interaction. Literally hundreds of highly intelligent comments were contributed to our computer conferences each month by both students and teachers. The quality of these online discussions surpasses anything I have been able to stimulate in my face-to-face classroom.

online teaching23
Online Teaching
  • Linda Harasim (Simon Fraser U.):

Teachers, trainers, and professors with years of experience in classrooms report that computer networking encourages the high-quality interaction and sharing that is at the heart of education. …(The) characteristics of online classes… generally result in students’ contributing material that is much better than something they would say off the top of their heads in a face-to-face class.


online teaching24
Online Teaching

Andrew Feenberg:

Considered as an environment, the world of online interaction has properties that determine its appropriate use. Just as a concert hall is a space appropriate for different activities than a living room, so the electronically mediated spaces of computer networks are also suited to specific activities. It would of course be possible to conduct a class in a restaurant, or dine on a basketball court, but the results would likely be disappointing. Similar abuse of the online environment will also yield disappointing outcomes. But this is precisely what happens when we try to reproduce a face-to-face classroom online or on CD ROM.

…On the other hand, we have a well established method for communicating in a narrow bandwidth. It’s called writing… Writing is thus not a poor substitute for physical presence and speech, but another fundamental medium of expression with its own properties and powers… These considerations on writing hold the key to online education. The online environment is essentially a space for written interaction. This is its limitation and potential. Electronic networks should be appropriated with this in mind, and not turned into poor copies of the face-to-face classroom which they can never adequately reproduce.

online teaching25
Online Teaching
  • There should be a paradigm shift in delivery.
    • Reproducing lectures online is not optimal (passive learning).
    • At least two new paradigms:
      • CMC: text based exchange suitable for limited bandwidth (E8)
      • graphically interactive packets of learning
    • Constructivism-based (construction vs. instruction)
  • There must be professor-student interaction!
    • Class sizes typically about 20, otherwise
      • information overload (CMC)
      • feelings of isolation
online teaching interactive graphics
Online Teaching: Interactive Graphics
  • John Etchemendy (Philosophy, Stanford):
    • Tarski’s World ©
    • entirely new paradigm to learn logic
online teaching interactive graphics27
Online Teaching: Interactive Graphics
  • Susan Montgomery (Chem. Eng., Michigan):
    • interactive equipment encyclopedia
    • interactive thermodynamics
online teaching interactive graphics28
Online Teaching: Interactive Graphics

Adsorption model on Excel spreadsheet

  • Adjusting model parameter gives immediate results
  • Computer begets powerful learning tool

DGchem = -35,000 J/mol

-25,000 J/mol

-15,000 J/mol


-5,000 J/mol

At pH = 8, Co(OH)+

DGcoul = -19,500 J/mol

DGsolv = 11,400 J/mol

-7,600 J/mol

good teaching online setting
Good Teaching: Online Setting
  • Linda Smith: M.S. student motivation

…many courses include group assignments where there is a shared responsibility for completing the work. Does this mean that the faculty member plays a minor motivational role for most students? Not in my experience... Students still seek recognition of their work by the instructor – they want feedback on assignments, a certain number of live sessions in which they can interact “in real time” with the instructor, and expect the instructor to have a presence in the dialogs that unfold on the webboards. While students are generally interested in the content of the course, they can become overwhelmed with all the other responsibilities in their lives. It is important for them to be able to connect with an understanding instructor who can help them put things in perspective and sustain their commitment to continuing in the course and in the program when it is tempting to give up.

swan analysis of online effectiveness
Swan: analysis of online effectiveness

Figure 1: Interactivity and Learning Onlineadapted from Rourke, et. al's (2001) community of inquiry model






Swan: online compensation of immediacy




online essentials
Online essentials
  • Delivery which promotes active learning
  • Immediacy: feedback which informs
      • Instructor of students learning
      • Students of instructor’s attentiveness
  • Both appropriate to mode of delivery
online pedagogy essentials
Online Pedagogy Essentials:
  • Didactic:
    • Don’t tape lectures (passive)
    • Interactive snippets/virtual experiments
    • Work hard at immediacy/interaction
  • Seminar/Socratic:
    • CMC is often ideal
    • immediacy/interaction is inherent
    • work at content (images, case studies)
blended learning
Blended Learning:
  • Potentially the best of both worlds:
    • Computer for interactive learning tools
    • Classroom for interaction
  • Wikis in blackboard
ui online
UI Online:
  • UIC External Ed. Staff know pedagogy and instructional design!
  • Some programs might stand improvement:
    • MENG : taped lectures
    • Converting to interactive bits of engineering and mathematical equations would be expensive
ui global campus
UI Global Campus:
  • UOP, UMUC, PSWC are serving a legitimate niche of “nontraditional” learners
  • U. of I might choose to augment existing F2F teaching by leveraging high quality online teaching efforts of core (“master teacher”) faculty through adjuncts
    • Quality is a must: sound pedagogy, faculty governance, attractive compensation
  • Email:
  • Report: