Professor gives away course…for free
Nathan Palmer, creator and author of SociologySource.com, has recently launched the Soc101 Class Pack,
“I believe that a great sociology class can change a student’s life and sometimes even a community. If you believe this, giving everything away for free only makes sense.”
The recent launching of the Soc101 Class Pack brings together all of Nathan’s posts during the last year in a comprehensive manner. According to him, the Soc101 Class Pack came about because he felt that the blog was slightly scattered, with a topic here or a topic there, while teachers are really looking for something a bit more cohesive. He has spent a great deal of time trying to make the Soc101 Class Pack as customizable and adaptable as possible, so that it can be easily integrated into anyone’s class regardless of class size or teaching style. However, it is built primarily around lectures, group discussions, and interactive exercises. In fact, its focus on active engagement and participation on the part of both faculty and students is one of the things that appeal to me most. Last semester, I experimented with several of these activities in my classroom and saw outstanding results. Students identified several of these activities as having had the most impact on their understanding of key sociological concepts and theories. My students even described the activities as —wait for it— fun and interesting. And, according to Nathan, interest and enthusiasm about SociologySource.com is growing; in the first week of the Soc101 Class Pack’s release, he has received 1,297 unique visitors to the site and over 3,500 page views.
Reading SociologySource.com I was instantly intrigued by Nathan’s ability to address contemporary issues from a sociological perspective. Moreover, I was impressed by how honest and direct his writing is and, quite frankly, by his courage in maintaining such a public, accessible blog. When I asked Nathan about his reasons for starting SociologySource, he said that he felt he “had something to give,” noting how fortunate he believes he has been in his life and expressing gratitude at being able to do something that he loves (teaching) for a living.
“I have the greatest job in the world. I wake up in the middle of the night with ideas for making classes better. Everyday I get to teach at Georgia Southern I feel amazingly fortunate. Teaching for me has always been about improving student’s lives and the community….If you feel like I feel join me on SociologySource.com and lets change the world one student at a time.”
Even if you are not working within academia, this post merits your attention. One of the things I like most about SociologySource.com is its relevance to non-sociologists and even non-academics. The issues Nathan writes about—homophobia and school bullying, masculinity and gender roles, sexuality, poverty, crime, modern day Native American injustices, white privilege—are contemporary social problems faced by all of us. While these issues are addressed in the context of teaching practices and tools, the posts provide a wealth of learning opportunities and resources for those simply eager to learn more about social issues.
For those working within Sociology, the availability of online resources like this blog dedicated to teaching sociology is increasing. How do sites like SociologySource.com and resources like the Soc101 Class Pack impact faculty development? Does this represent a new opportunity for a “faculty learning community” as Cox (2004) writes about? Cox’s (2004) “Introduction to Faculty Learning Communities” begins with a quote from P.J. Palmer (1998):
The growth of any craft depends on shared practice and honest dialogue among the people who do it. We grow by trial and error, to be sure—but our willingness to try, and fail, as individuals is severely limited when we are not supported by a community that encourages such risks. (p. 144)
Will the broader sociological community support the rise of online teaching sociology resources? As technology continues to impact sociology, providing new opportunities for sharing work and ideas while presenting pedagogical challenges of its own, “radical giving” like Nathan’s blog and the Soc101 Class Pack keeps me learning, teaching, and inspires me to give, too. How about you?
Read “Introduction to faculty learning communities” in New Directions for Teaching and Learning