Book Review: Going the Distance: A Handbook for Faculty Who Teach Online (Second Edition) 


Reviewed by Doreen Lewis, PhD

This is a review of Going the Distance: A Handbook for Faculty Who Teach Online (Second Edition) by Happy Gingras, Patricia Adams and Evelyn Beck, Copyright 2019, Part-Time Press, Inc. ISBN-13: 978-0-940017-51-1 (paperback). I was a student of online courses in a doctoral program years ago. I also have online teaching experience as an adjunct professor. Based on my background, this book resonated with me both as a reader and book reviewer.

Many readers skip the Introduction section of a book and start reading Chapter 1. Read the introduction of this book. Authors Gingras, Adams and Beck cite the history and trends in learning modalities, and the book’s introduction provides shocking data and statistics about the expansion of, and changes in, education delivery – both the good and bad. Perhaps most important is the enormous growth of online studies, and a growing preference for it. For 14 years in a row, enrollment in online courses has increased (now at 6.3 million).  The enrollment in classroom-only courses, in contrast, is declining by 1 million annually.

Things changed. Flashback about 10 years ago as I relate to this: Most of my graduate education towards earning my PhD took place through the online platform, which was novel at that time. I vividly remember how people in my sphere were aghast. An online education was judged as an inferior delivery system of educational content by a large population of educators (and employers, too). Quite frankly, in my experience, a degree from an online college was snubbed by elitists. I even stopped mentioning the fact that I studied online to avoid criticism.

Fast forward to 2019 and even Ivy League universities offer blended or fully online courses. What was once considered radical and nonconforming has become a mainstream method of content delivery. That’s why the book, Going the Distance: A Handbook for Faculty Who Teach Online, 2nd Edition, would benefit anyone who teaches college; there is no escaping the shift in education towards technological-aided teaching and coursework. It is essential to shed old ways and hone teaching skills to stay abreast of student learning styles. This handbook is an essential tool for those goals.

The book is laid out in a logical sequence of chapters, some of which can be glossed over by readers who are tech-savvy and do not need a review of technical terminology or equipment needs. However, for those new to online teaching, the Handbook presents a very real picture of the time it takes to create new courses or set up online content. The authors distinguish how a greater amount of time is spent on a computer versus face-to-face time with students; they offer tips for being efficient in managing this.

Chapter 2 has a section on plagiarism and security. Gingras, Adams, and Beck write that the number of college students who admit to cheating nears 61 percent. If you are an instructor engaged in the online environment, you already found this out through your own experience, but the tips and advice within the book will be helpful. For new faculty, this section of the book is a must-read as an initiation into the downside of online learning. The temptation for students to take shortcuts and find answers to test questions by “googling” or using another’s work without citing is strong.  The authors provide suggestions to combat this plaguing problem.

Several chapters of the handbook are “how-to” methods for constructing syllabi and communication policies and procedures for your online course.  For many instructor-readers, the college where you work will already provide their campus-specific tools and templates. I am sure, however, there are gems of good information within these chapters that an instructor can add to her teaching “toolbox.”

Chapter 4.4 is worth the price of the book, alone. It provides a list of web resources every teacher could want. For example, there are sources for college and university syllabi published on the Internet, learning materials, and lesson plans.

The book also includes ideas for improved communications, integration of electronic media (audio-visual and video, for example) in the classroom, as well as chats and message boards, games and online labs.

One of the challenges I always found as an instructor was the best practices for assessing student progress and grading. This handbook has a dedicated section of ideas to support formative learning assessments to help gauge how well students are learning the material. This is presented in Chapter 7.  I identified with the suggestion for having students submit copies of their lecture/class notes. This was something I did, too, and it kept students on their toes instead of zoning out or engaging in non-learning distracting other activities while sitting in a classroom.  

There is one final section of the book I would like to point out that is found in the Resources Section near the end of the book. It is entitled, “Copyright Fair Use Guidelines for College Faculty.” It behooves us as instructors to practice what we preach and exercise responsible use of materials that are copyrighted.

In general review of Going the Distance: A Handbook for Faculty Who Teach Online (Second Edition), it is a fast read and a book from which you will pull several tips from to begin using immediately. Highly recommended!

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