Book by Kent Farnsworth and Teresa Brawner Bevis
Review by Timothy J. Jones
Senior Academic Counselor
University of Oklahoma
Having taught both in the classroom and online, Farnsworth and Bevis, authors of A Fieldbook for Community College Online Instructors, contend that “the goal of online instruction should not be to duplicate the campus experience…but to dramatically improve on it” (p. 12). Instructors, whether new to the cyber-classroom or not, will find a thorough overview of online teaching methodology and many real-world examples. Advisors who read the book will be able to speak with students on a much more informed basis about the workings of online classes.
With the awareness that online instructors may have had very comprehensive—or perhaps very minimal—training, Farnsworth and Bevis first situate distance education in a historical context, beginning with Bostonian Caleb Phillipps’ 18th-century correspondence course in shorthand, and ending with today’s online classes. Online instructors will return regularly to the information provided in the book about course planning, intellectual property, confronting plagiarism, and fostering community.
Even in the online setting, it is possible to take the “distance” out of distance learning. Farnsworth and Bevis encourage those who teach online to email students before class starts, give individual responses to discussion board postings, and return student writings with comments from the instructor, all in keeping with the authors’ thought-provoking cyber-version of “in loco parentis,” referring “to the idea that it is sometimes appropriate for educators to act in a parental capacity on their students’ behalf, helping guide them toward academic success through a combination of teaching, personal attention, and genuine caring” (p. 79). These student-teacher interactions provide key opportunities within the online setting to encourage persistence and retention.
Aware that those who teach online—whether at community colleges or universities—have a very diverse student population, the authors draw on recent theory that defines “learning” as “something that we construct through interactions with the information that exists in a field, with others who have worthwhile perspectives about that information, and with the environment in which the learning is occurring” (p. 46). This is the nature of learning in the cyber-classroom, where the instructor sets up activities that invite students to interact with information in the course texts, on the Web, and with one another, using a community of interpretation to involve students in a dynamic construction of knowledge.
For advisors who also teach (especially those who teach or who are thinking about teaching online classes), this book is a must-have, not only for the words of wisdom about teaching and learning but also for the sample materials (including precourse letter and syllabus), bibliography, and glossary. Advisors whose units have an advising syllabus online may want to explore tools mentioned in Fieldbook to help the teaching function of advising, such as using a course platform to post announcements, email students, or have weekly chat sessions with students. This is a key sourcebook about the nature of education in the new millennium.
A Fieldbook for Community College Online Instructors. (2006). Book by Kent Farnsworth and Teresa Brawner Bevis. Review by Timothy J. Jones. Washington, D. C.: Community College Press, 150 pp. $38.00, (paperback), ISBN # 987-0-87117-376-8