An expert on online teaching, Rebecca Barrett-Fox of the Hesston College, Kansas, USA, was the speaker in the second of a series of lectures organized by the Faculty of Arts and Letters. Barrett-Fox, a visiting coordinator of online teaching of Hesston College delivered a lecture on “Teaching the Humanities Online,” on December 5, 2020, via Zoom.
Describing the Humanities as the “cornerstone of all disciplines,” Faculty of Arts and Letters Dean Prof. Marilu R. Madrunio, Ph.D., in her Opening Remarks, highlighted the importance of the Humanities in the learning experience of students. Thus, when it became certain that face-to-face instruction or in-person class was going to be replaced by online teaching due to the pandemic, Asst. Dean Alejandro Bernardo, Ph.D., searched Fox, a recognized online professor, and invited her to share her expertise in teaching the Humanities online.
Fox, who obtained her doctorate in American Studies, with honors, from the University of Kansas, has been teaching the Humanities online for almost ten years. She, therefore, knows the teachers’ fears, skepticism, challenges, and needs.
Understanding the predicament of her online audience, composed of 105 faculty members and academic officials, Fox started her lecture by sharing with her audience that “The magic in teaching lies with us, teachers!” since it is the teachers themselves that develop the lesson, and that they will not be replaced by technology. When the teachers need help in the midst of the technology-assisted instruction, their (academic) departments should be their source of support.
Fox used interrogative sentences to drive home her point: (1) What values do you want to bring to your teaching? (2) What brings you joy and satisfaction in teaching? (3) How can you make your teaching sustainable? She anchored her discussion on these questions.
According to Fox, “When students live out their values outside school, and when students show change, these things bring joy to any teacher.”
With instruction conducted online, Fox observed the openness of students, or the lack of it, to share their thoughts or answers. She gently reminded the UST faculty members that students seem to be more confident to participate online because they can refine their thoughts before they recite or post their answers. There are also instances when students prefer to send their messages or reactions privately, rather than publicly, and knowing that the sessions are recorded, this may result in less active exchange of ideas.
“Make your classes human,” Fox pointed out. Asst. Dean Bernardo ended the session by reiterating some of the highlights of Fox’s lecture turning them into reminders: “Manage your expectations, keep her insights helpful, build relationships, build connections, and make your (online) classes as human as possible.”