In response to Elayne Clift's commentary on online teaching: US: I'll never teach online again, the University of Sydney's Mary-Helen Ward says things are not as bad as might appear:


I'm sorry your experience was so negative. But some of this could have been avoided. For example, people who teach online are no more obliged to interact with their students 24 hours a day, seven days a week then people who teach face-to-face.

It is your choice to answer emails, enter the online site, or accept messages from your students outside the times you've designated as being 'available'. You're still in control.

Similarly, the "lack of immediacy of communication" can be freeing - rather than having to respond in minutes, you can give a considered reply, thus taking control of the framing of your response. Also, do you want immediacy or do you want to be left in peace sometimes?

As for the lack of personal contact, this is a two-edged sword. I was stuck in some bloody awful tutorials in my student years, with people I found intensely irritating (sometimes including the tutor), and that did not facilitate my learning in the discipline, although it may have improved some of my social skills in dealing with difficult people.

I would have far preferred to have been able to learn online, with the time it takes to think things through and construct my own ideas and responses alone, rather than be pressure-cooked in a tutorial with a bunch of morons and a sarcastic or inadequate tutor.

I'm sure you are neither sarcastic nor inadequate but you cannot be all things to all students. In online learning, the knowledge can become the focus of the pedagogical relationship rather than the personalities in the room.

And that is why I prefer blended learning, as both a student and a teacher.

Mary-Helen Ward
eLearning Project Manager (Sciences and Technology)
University of Sydney