Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On the failure of online teaching...

South Texas College in McAllen, Texas has just begun offering a series of online courses in "Mexican-American Studies". While the program's director, Victor Gomez understands that, "online courses are important [...] because they allow students who work, or non-traditional students, to schedule their educations around the necessity of making a living" (See NewsTaco), I wonder how an online course is of any benefit for students of "Mexican-American Studies" who seek avenues for critical thinking regarding culture, race and border issues. The fact that computer courses rely on a high degree of memorization and multiple choice testing is detrimental to the development of any study. Doing away with the teacher in these cases, takes away the individual attention paid to new ideas and only perpetuates antiquated modes of thought that may be "updated" only whence the University is willing to invest in actualizing their databases. Just because your are in front of the computer, it does not mean you are cutting-edge.

I remember that one of the many reasons why I became interested in Chican@ studies was because I did not agree with many of the things being taught to me in the classroom. My interest in the subject grew because those teachers paid attention to what I had to say, and although we disagreed at times, this made it possible for me to understand that my opinion mattered. 

Moreover, I question whether this type of course offering really contributes to developing more interest in "Mexican-American Studies", since a student who pursues this type of degree will have to face the consequence in the future that her/his job has been taken over by a computer program. It has already been proven by the University of California, which has already begun similar course offerings in the language departments across their campuses, that these types of online courses contribute to a high degree of unemployment amongst the graduate students who would normally be teaching these courses to undergraduates. So why are online courses so popular these days? Because they save the University money since they don't have to offer any salary or health care to a machine, because they can get away with just performing some random maintenance here and there without much care for what a person has to say or think.

Like we've seen in Arizona with the ban on Chican@ cultural studies and the end of the American Studies program at UC Davis, "Mexican-American" studies programs are in the decline. What we need are more teachers, not more replacements.

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