McShane on Face-to-Face vs Online Learning

I read another article by Kim McShane reporting case studies of five “early adopters” of technology who combined face-to-face with online teaching methods. McShane is particularly interested in how the use of ICT affects academics’ identity and on their subjective experiences with teaching with new technologies.

McShane reports these themes emerging from the case studies:

  1. Enhanced relationships with students: The professors “came to know their students better-as individuals, as colleagues or in a mentoring relationship–through CMC-mediated learning” (p. 8).  My experience teaching online echoes this, too.
  2. Planning and teaching become very conscious tasks, necessitating some very careful thought and decision-making (p. 9).
  3. Expansion, extension, augmentation (time and space): “The introduction of ICT has expanded the time demands, teaching workloads and ‘reach’ or influence of the five academics in this study” (p. 10). This is not the first study to find this, and I would agree based on my experience teaching online. McShane writes that there is “an interpersonal-spatial dimension to this theme of expansion…. Hilary[one of the academics] finds that online discussions and e-mail enable her to communicate better with her students across a metaphorical gap she feels exists between herself and them” (p. 10).
  4.  Increased scrutiny and reflexivity as compared to the spontaneity and freedom afforded in face-to-face lectures.
  5.  The centrality of lecturing: All five professors still saw lecturing as primary to their instruction:
  •  “For Zhang, real teaching is live and face-to-face” (p. 13).
  •  “For Ron and Seb, lecturing is performance…. Seb values the immediacy and physical proximity (speech, body language, engagement of senses) of face-to-face teaching” (p. 13).
  • Paul says he uses lectures to “talk with” rather than “talk at” his students (p. 13)


McShane, K. (2004). Integrating face-to-face and online teaching: academicsʼ role concept and teaching choices. Teaching in Higher Education, 9(1): 3-16. doi:10.1080/1356251032000155795.||D404A21C5BB053405B1A640AFFD44AE3.



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