Can we do more teaching together?

One of the observations we have often made within Homer is that we are each in our own ways managing to smuggle into curriculum bits of our research-driven teaching into either history or the present sigificance of the cinema-going experience.

A number of observations have emerged from this. Firstly, as teaching film studies from an audience, exhibition or distribution perspective is still “teaching against the grain” in the discipline, then the papers that we suggest our students read often come from other members of this group or fellow travellers. This suggests that it makes sense, in terms of intellectual common interest, for us to look at ways of working more effectively and directly together.

Secondly, the content of this kind of teaching is naturally concerned with the intersection between the local experience of exhibiting and watching movies, and the international networks of distribution which connects all of our local places to centres of film production. I find that students are curious and ready to explore their local situation, but less able to see how this resembles or is different to similar experiences of exhibition and consumption occurring elsewhere. Again, it makes pedagogical sense to enable students to locate their projects in a larger global context, partly in order to be able to find out–as we have done–what economic or cultural practices are genuinely peculiar to the place where they are.

Until now, it’s been difficult to do this. Nationally and globally, universities tend to hoard both students and teaching resources to themselves, for obvious economic reasons. Most of us work at institutions that are currently interested in “internationalising” the student experience, but in practice this often means that they are interested in trading student enrolments through study abroad and exchange programs. However, there’s an increasing awareness that the emergence of eLearning platforms has created opportunities for cross-institutional (and even international) collaboration in teaching effort, and that this opens up the possibility of internationalising the curriculum and the learning experience, rather than simply exporting the student.

As many of you know, Bobby Allen and I have been exploring ways of doing this for the international graduate student community, and the success of our two graduate virtual seminars has been very much due to the willingness of Homer members to have a go at virtual team teaching. We’ve also explored the more institutionally (and interpersonally) challenging environment of transnational undergraduate teaching.

We’d like to make co-teaching an agenda item for the Homer meeting in December, and in advance of this we’d welcome any comments here on the ideas and potential that international eLearning represents for us — as well as the likely institutional and personal restraints.

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