We’re over a week into the Sloan Semester at BMCC, and although enrollment wasn’t what I hoped for (we’re only running five of the ten courses we offered, and only have about 24 students, out of the 250 we had room for), I still think something very positive is happening for these students. The ones who are participating are getting the academic content of their courses, certainly, but more than that they’re getting the experience of studying at BMCC…without leaving wherever they are after dealing with the relocations of Katrina. Sort of a “virtual study abroad” experience. They’re getting to see the different world and culture of a large urban community college (or at least the slice of that culture which comes through the mediation of an online course–the online culture). For many of them, that’s entirely new.
Beyond that, for me at least, it’s a very rewarding experience to see a completely different type of student. It’s a “virtual teaching abroad” experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love our BMCC students–they have plenty of strengths of their own, not the least of which are enormous diversity, rich life experiences, and a level of motivation, interest, and desire to actively participate which no other students in no other institution can match (I would claim with some partisanship). But the students I’m seeing in my Sloan class have a level of preparation and academic experience that I don’t see very often at BMCC. I’ve never thought that I pitched my classes or my teaching to a low level…but I’m definitely seeing that pitching to a high level (in terms of vocabulary, experience with complicated ideas and reading, and writing skills) can have its own appeals.