Thursday, November 4, 2010

Online Classes, Humilty, and Me

Other than bragging a bit about my mid-term grade last week, I've been mostly quiet in this space when it comes to the two classes I am taking online this fall. The one class is fine, quite lovely most of the time. I've developed a posting/board checking schedule that keeps me sane, and do my best to get the book-work for that class done early in the week, so the pressure is off.

The other class, however, is a huge disappointment. The textbook is filled with opinion presented as fact and a serious lack of source material. The online articles were obviously either cut-and-pasted from other sources and/or never proofread. And, most disappointing, the teacher is notably absent, nearly all of the time. We are required to post only twice each week, once on a board explaining a "practical application" of the week's readings and once asking or responding to a question on the material. He refuses to comment on any post or respond to any question in the current week, and often allows two or more weeks to go by before responding to questions. As it stands right now, at the end of week 7, there are unanswered posts from week 5 and more than 8 specific, unanswered questions from week 6. He has not posted any comments in more than 10 days.

I contacted the teacher privately to express my concerns, and was told, quite plainly, that my concerns were not his, the "proper venue" was the end-of-semester evaluation, and if I didn't like it, please drop the course.

I'm not sure that I've responded to all of this in the most appropriate way. I think, for the most part, I've been true to who I am, and I am trying my best to be charitable and Christian in my actions online. But, mostly, I feel angry and cheated. I paid for a class, and received instead, a poorly organized and poorly run discussion group. Honestly, I could have just joined a discussion group at my parish, had a better time, and learned more. And kept the tuition costs in our savings account.

Being who I am, I can't just go quietly into the cyber-equivalent of a dark night. I post frequently and honestly. I challenge the materials we are reading. I quote church documents and recap church history. I am, unequivocally, the most outspoken and forthright of the students in this class, at least as evidenced by my posts.

And an unfortunate side-effect of this is that I am growing even more prideful. Pride is already one of my major sin areas, but this class is exacerbating my prideful tendencies. I think that, in some ways, the online environment enables me in this. In a classroom setting, I would not always have the answers. It's easier to have the answers when you have ready access to a Google search bar, and the time to find the sources you need to support your position. In a classroom, I might think that it is appropriate for the laity to receive the Eucharist in both species, for example. Online, I am able to do a few hours of research and write a persuasive argument in favor of the practice.

I think what I am trying to say is this: online, I look smarter, better educated, and more put-together than I really am. And, even more disturbingly, I think I am starting to believe that.

I took this class to learn, not because I thought I knew it all already. And yet, as the class has gone along, my attitude is changing from "what can I learn from this material" to "is there anything I didn't already know."

I'm not really sure what the solution is. I can't stop posting, and I'm not willing to drop a class two weeks from the finish line. I've got some recourse as far as the academic institution goes, in the form of a lengthy and well-documented course evaluation, which I am writing as we go along. But, the bigger concern I have is for my soul. How do I keep my active participation (which is the only means for me to learn in this class) and not continue to grow ever more prideful? Is there a way for me to incorporate some humility into this experience?


  1. All I can think of is to simply pray God will give you the right attitude and then believe he will. That's what I would do.

  2. Simply being aware of your need for humilty is certainly the first step.

    And always remember, your are not only allowed to stand up for your beliefs, but required to. You've done it fairly and with forethought.

    It is also not only OK, but important to acknowledge and be thankful for your gifts---one of yours IS writing, and another is a strong sense of "justice".

    Soooo, as Belle said---Pray, Pray, Pray. And continue to acknowledge, and be sorry for your failings----AND BE THANKFUL FOR YOUR STRENGTHS. !!

  3. Thank you, Belle and Jane!

    You both are right. I met with my Spiritual Director last night, and we got into this topic for a bit. His advice was similar: prayer, awareness of how I am representing myself, and awareness of the justice involved in this situation. I paid for a class, and if the only instruction is self-led via my participation in the boards, then my participation is important.

    Thanks for the support!