This blog series elicits guest contributions from UAB faculty recognized for teaching excellence. Centered around teaching practice, this monthly collection of insights, tips, and illustrations will build a knowledge base for faculty to access for information on specific teaching practices that have proven to be successful in the UAB context.
Hello and thank you for allowing me to share some thoughts on something that I am testing out this semester in terms of course delivery. I am trying a new approach to online teaching in my MBA 613 – QL / IS 413 – QL Information Security Management course. It’s new to me, anyway! I am attempting to blend synchronous and asynchronous delivery in the same section. Specifically, I am supporting three forms of participation: face-to-face, live online, and asynchronous. The reason behind this approach stems from this past spring and summer, when during the registration period, several students expressed frustration with only an online option for the course. For a variety of reasons, they were not in favor of online instruction and wanted a traditional face-to-face experience. For many of them, online course delivery felt very distant, non-participatory, and non-engaging. We’ve all heard this before, and in some cases, I’m sure this perspective is justified. Online course delivery is challenging and difficult to tailor to those that relish the synchronous, face-to-face interaction with peers and their instructors.
Mentoring graduate students to write scientifically can be extremely rewarding when one witnesses the thrill they experience from receiving that acceptance letter that an article they wrote, or helped to write, was accepted for publication. Plus, as academics, it puts a feather in our caps as well, not to mention that training the next generation of scientists is something we should be doing anyway. But often the fruit of such writing mentorship is not without some labor (or in some cases plain ol’ toil).
Graduate students come to us with a wide array of writing skills. Some are already excellent writers and just need a little guidance as to how to succinctly express their thoughts within the page limitations specified by a journal; unfortunately, some have been unprepared by their undergraduate studies and write in incomplete sentences, fail to consider the target audience, neglect spacing and punctuation, or simply quote their way through the entire article without truly understanding the material. This apparent inability to write well is compounded by many graduate students’ mistaken notion that their writing is excellent because they “earned” A’s in their undergraduate studies for their composition. So it is at this place where I’ve learned to start with novice graduate students as we begin a writing project together.
In my academic career, I’ve probably learned, at the least the important stuff, more from one-on-one mentorship than ever in the classroom, both as the student and the mentor. This first start for me years ago in New Orleans when I worked closely with my mentor at the time, Dr. Cameron Camp, as we would sit side by side and jointly write an article together, but with him taking the lead and showing me how to do it. It is that one-on-one interaction when all skills, insight, knowledge, experience, and creativity come together with another person in accomplishing a predetermined, specific goal that learning occurs through modeling and especially doing. It also provides an opportunity to really get to know where students are in their understanding of their own knowledge in a particular field.
I’ve worked one-on-one with many honor’s undergraduates, predocs, postdocs, and junior faculty usually on research projects, theses or dissertations, or independent studies. In general, the arrangement and the outcome are the same and focused on one ultimate final goal (along with several penultimate goals leading up to the final goal) – to publish an article from our time together. As I strongly convey to my students, “If it is worth doing, it is worth publishing.” Now this goal of publishing may seem too lofty for some students and perhaps to some faculty as well, but I find it to be an excellent tool to logically focus the learning activities into easy to understand bites. Also, and probably most importantly, publications are one of the most recognized and esteemed currencies in academia (i.e., “publish or perish”), and undergraduates from junior faculty recognize the value and thrill of being published. Thus, teaching and mentoring one-on-one with students with the outcome being a published peer-reviewed article serves as an incredibly effective motivator. So how does this work?