• Kari Daly

Online and Upward

I’m weirdly glad that I’m taking classes this semester.

I know, I know, this is a professional site and I’m supposed to hide the fact that I’m a grad student and pretend I already have my PhD in hand and a job. But it’s been a weird year and I want to drop the charade for a moment.

I’m ABD. Technically, I don’t have to take any more classes. Ever. Even so, I decided to embark upon on a certificate in college instruction this semester alongside my dissertation work. A colleague of mine used to take at least three classes every semester, even though we only had to be enrolled in two. He explained that, since he was never going to get a chance again, he wanted to take as many courses as he could handle. I admired his courage, but at that point I already felt that a 24-hour day was about five hours too short and I still don’t know how he managed it. After getting a couple chapters down in my diss and managing eight hours of sleep every night I developed a bit of a swagger, however. I was feeling a little confident and decided I could manage to take three credits toward the certificate. Depending on where I find myself someday -- either at the kind of college which thinks two days a year is adequate for professional development or at a research university which is demands that I publish, publish, publish -- I may never get another chance to really delve into teaching pedagogy again.

I’m still not entirely sure that I didn’t bite off more than I can chew, but taking a course again has been a good experience nevertheless. Because I am also taking an online course this semester (my first, believe it or not), I am keenly aware of what my students are going through in their online learning as well. Even though I’m only experiencing a tiny bit of what they are, I already feel overwhelmed by the discussion board posts, journal entries, and weekly announcements and it helps guide my interactions with them. I try to keep my own announcements short and I sometimes record them so that students can half listen to them while working on something else (like I do). I get it.

There’s something else my students and I share as well this semester. My incredibly supportive department designed an online shell for first-year writing instructors this semester. I can’t begin to describe how fantastic it is to be handed a syllabus and online modules during these stressful times. But it also means that I’m learning the course as the students are (well, maybe half a week ahead). I have to scramble to read everything, listening to videos they are assigned while I take the quizzes and tweak the assignments based on how things are going. I’m familiar with some of the material and the shape of the assignments, but it’s a little like falling off a cliff each week and hoping I can grab something on the way down to catch myself. So, in a weird way, a little bit of overconfidence and a lot of COVID has brought me as close as I can be to my students’ experience right now.

Like them, my hand is cramping up with all the mouse clicking. Like them, my desk is littered with pieces of work from disparate parts of my educational experience. Like them, I can’t wait until the end of the semester. For the first and maybe last time ever, true solidarity.

Online and upward.

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