The Conversations with an Innovator monthly video series is the latest venture within the NYU School of Professional Studies' "Voices from the Classroom," an initiative from the Center for Academic Excellence and Support (CAES) which provides opportunities for the SPS community to learn more about their faculty colleagues and their developments and successes inside and out of the classroom . Each video features an instructor discussing why they teach and an innovative approach they have embraced in their teaching. This month's video features the Center for Applied Liberal Arts' very own Academic Director, Noncredit, and Clinical Assistant Professor, Jenny McPhee, who describes the shift and impact she feels online teaching has had for both students and professors.
McPhee discusses how the online forum format of her classroom has shifted the roles and functions of many parts of the classroom experience including the course itself, the instructor, and the student. Online learning, she says, has been beneficial in creating space for a more individualized learning experience. The format allows students to participate at their own pace, releasing them from what are often unhelpful and anxiety-inducing pressures; these pressures are similar to those McPhee described as feeling herself growing up as a soft-spoken student who did not participate as much in class but still had much to say.
McPhee also describes the shift to online learning as an act of "shifting the cognitive load." By putting more responsibility on the students to engage with the course according their own needs, the instructor is allowed to function as less of just a teacher and more of a guide and fellow student. McPhee says she knows she's "had a really successful class if [she's] learned as much as they have."
All in all, despite being initially "terrified" to begin teaching online, McPhee is no doubt a convert and believes that "it's the future for sure."
A writer and translator, Jenny is the author of The Center of Things, No Ordinary Matter, and A Man of No Moon, and co-authored Girls: Ordinary Girls and Their Extraordinary Pursuits. Her translations from Italian include books by the authors Primo Levi, Natalia Ginzburg, Giacomo Leopardi, Curzio Malaparte, Paolo Maurensig, and Pope John Paul II. She is a co-founder and on the board of the Bronx Academy of Letters, a public high school and middle school. She teaches in the MS in Translation at NYU SPS CALA.