Two Cheers and a Pint of Worry

Teaching Philosophy 20 (3):277-300 (1997)
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Abstract

This paper details the author’s experience of developing and teaching an online course in social/political philosophy for the SUNY Learning Network. The author’s intention was to design an online philosophy course as similar to a traditional philosophy classroom experience as possible. Accordingly, students were required to buy and read the texts, to answer weekly reading comprehension questions, to participate in an online discussion, and to complete a final essay exam of two questions. After covering course design in great detail, including standards for student assessment and course requirements, the author offers a brief qualitative assessment of the course (the type of student who excelled, the time taken to teach the course, and students’ experience of the course). The author concludes with some “cautionary reflections” on online education, arguing that it is merely a surrogate for face-to-face class time. Whereas the latter is a context-rich environment that allows for the practice of critical inquiry in all its nuance, the former is context-poor and reduces all inquiry to the level of propositions. Given the importance of meaning in philosophical inquiry and given the importance of context for meaning, the author argues that unacceptable sacrifices may attend online education.

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