Open SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador 2018 – Farmingdale: Lawrence Brittain
Lawrence J. Brittain is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English/Humanities at Farmingdale State College.
My introduction to online learning began way back in the earliest 1990s at a small private college when my then newly appointed chair, Dr. John F. Collins, and I began searching for really effective and flexible computer-assisted learning software for basic reading and writing skills students. We found almost none that truly suited the students’ needs. Jack also taught in the English Department at Brooklyn College and taught both Latin and Greek in the CUNY Graduate Center’s Latin/Greek Institute’s intensive summer programs. Despite his classical training and orientation, Jack was always in the vanguard of computer-assisted scholarship and learning, and was probably the first person I knew in any capacity who was actually employing the internet for every conceivable academic and personal study and leisure by 1992. When that college began a program to afford grammar school teaching assistants an avenue to a bachelors in education by accessing courses through an online educational delivery system, Jack jumped at the opportunity and recruited me to teach the program’s Introduction to Theater and Children’s Literature courses.
From that seed, a program of online courses grew. Another exceptional educator who had early on seen the potential for online learning, Dr. Richard Kelley, became chair around 2000, and under his guidance I taught at least two online courses a semester, including summer semesters, for the next 16 years. I’ve taught courses on mythology, film and theater history, literature, and so forth online, and I’ve used an online course site for just about every course I’ve taught in those years. As a supplementary tool for in-class instruction, online learning allows for so many opportunities for student engagement, student-instructor interactions not possible in the limitations of the classroom, and a wealth of resources that enrich learning in every direction the internet makes possible. Further, online and hybrid courses simply allow for this enriched avenue of education to really expand while allowing students the opportunity to take more fully responsible control of their own learning in a way not easily possible in a conventional classroom setting. As an educator, I am also able to engage, direct, enhance, and facilitate students’ learning in ways that are challenging, often rewarding, and frequently enlightening beyond what I find as a “classroom” instructor.