In their essay, “Teaching Time Investment: Does Online Really Take More Time than Face-to-Face? “ (http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/rt/printerFriendly/1190/2212, accessed June 27, 2014), Rebecca Van de Vord and Korolyn Pogue discuss the difficulty of trying to determine whether online teaching is more or less time intensive than conventional classroom teaching. They admit that variables for such an analysis do not lend themselves to a simple accounting—how does one compare the time involved in composing an email versus a conversation after class? I would also suggest that the comparison resist a simple accounting because time as experienced is not simply a matter of duration—i.e. quantity. Time has a quality dimension to it. For example, time spent on interesting projects is different from time spent in boredom. Be that as it may, the assumption underneath the essay is this: both online teaching and classroom teaching aim for essentially the same goals—and therefore a determination of how much time is involved is a problem of efficiency or productivity. Period.
I have noticed that many of the other essays also fall into this sort of apologetic tack. Online teaching and learning is (or is not) as good as (or better than) classroom teaching and learning. Or online teaching is better at some aspects of learning/teaching, but not as good at others. All of these essays seem to assume that teaching/learning is an identifiable good that is somehow distinct from the “delivery” system.
But what if the “goods” of online learning and classroom learning are not the same, even though they may have a “family resemblance”?
I propose an analogy. We often use the category “the arts” to talk about such diverse creative projects as painting a picture and composing a symphony. We can even imagine some loose aesthetic principles that might apply to these two very different sorts of activities. And both, well done, promote the flourishing of humanity. And yet, it would not make much sense to ask: “Is composing a symphony more time consuming that painting a picture?” Nor would it make sense to ask, “Is impressionist music a better (or more productive or less productive) way of accomplishing impressionist art than an impressionist painting?”
In short, what if we simply give up comparing online and classroom teaching and start trying to identity the goods of online teaching on their own, in terms of the goods internal to computer-assisted communication?