[Note: The following was first posted in the ETCJ listserv on 25 March 2013. It was prompted by a discussion in the WCET listserv on “a new online theater course” earlier that morning. -Editor]
It can actually be surprisingly easy to create effective online courses in the “trouble” areas. More than a decade ago the school I directed had an online physical education class. People would pooh-pooh it as ridiculous, and then after I described the content, they would usually say, “Wow! Can I take it?”
A lot of the course was academic, teaching concepts related to fitness. Students started the class with a fitness test. They set goals for improving their fitness, and they set a personal path toward those goals. It was possible that no two students would be doing the same activities. They had periodic tests along the way to check their progress, and they then adjusted their goals and their plans appropriately. There was a final test to see how they had met their goals, and they had to write a reaction and a self-evaluation. What they ultimately learned was how to apply principles of physical fitness to their lives for the rest of their lives.
Having heard that, go into the average live physical education class and compare. For a while, when I taught at a high school, I was given a supervision assignment near the gym. I often watched through the open doors as the students filtered into the gym for about 10 minutes after the opening bell, after they had taken the time to dress in their gym clothes. The student assistants took attendance. Then the gym teacher came in. He talked to them for a while, after which they walked through the door and out to the softball field.
On one occasion, the entire gym class was split into two teams of about 20 each, with everyone on the team taking the field. After 20 minutes of play, during which a small percentage got one at-bat, the teacher declared the activity over and took them back into the gym. With about 15 minutes left in the class, the students headed for the locker room where they changed back into their regular clothes and headed out into the hallways to hang out until the bell rang to end the class.
That was the regular physical education class. There were also classes devoted to specific sports. For example, the volleyball coach taught a class that students could take over and over called “Volleyball.” All the players on the volleyball team took it every term — what a great way to have year round practice. The same was true for every sport that a physical education teacher coached. If the sport was not coached by a physical education teacher, no course was offered in that sport.
So, which do you think is a more valid approach to physical education?