Interview: Professor Candida Moss
Interview with Dr. Candida Moss
conducted by Melissa Disnman, Notre Dame Ph.D, 2013
[please note: The Rise of Christianity is not offered in Spring 2014]
Q: Can you briefly describe the course you will be teaching for Semester Online in Fall 2013?
CM: It’s a course on the Rise of Christianity in the Roman world. It’s asking the questions why did Christianity succeed? And how did the beliefs and practices of what we call orthodoxy triumph over the other forms of Christianity in the ancient world? It’s a blend of history, theology, psychology, and sociology and it looks at everything from ancient Christian magic, to liturgy, martyrdom, ideas about the afterlife, and ancient philosophy.
Q: Is there something about the material / subject you are teaching that you think is particularly suitable for an online course?
CM: Not really, but most faculty would love to have people build digital features to help explain their material better.
Q: Did you / Are you preparing for this online course differently than you would for a traditional course? If so, how?
CM: Yes, I did. Working with the team forced me to ask myself not just what are the goals for the course or an individual class, but what am I trying to achieve with this five-minute segment of the class.
Q: What do you see as the biggest benefit to Semester Online for both ND students and faculty?
CM: For students, flexibility. They can take a class like this regardless of whether or not they are studying abroad or on campus. They don’t have to choose between studying abroad or fulfilling a requirement for a major. That’s a huge asset. For faculty, there are features that Semester Online develops that I couldn’t produce on my own.
Q: For instance?
CM: I couldn’t produce animated maps showing the movement of Christians in the ancient world.
Q: Conversely, what difficulties do you anticipate in distance teaching and how are you preparing to meet them?
CM: I’m anticipating a loss of intimacy and student-to-teacher interaction in real time. That said, Semester Online classes are small and students are more accustomed to interacting with one another online on instant messenger platforms. There’s an instant messenger function in Semester Online so I will be accessible a lot of the time to online students. I’m concerned but cautiously hopeful.
Q: What feature of teaching online most excites you? Is there a particular medium you are excited to use?
CM: We only get to “use” one medium with the students. Everything else is pre-taped and already done. But I am excited about the interactive features in the Semester Online synchronous classroom. They make it easier to see if individual students are having problems with the material or conversation. A lot of time in class we rely on students to either put up their hands and say that they are struggling or on our own abilities to read the facial expressions and body language of students. The feedback mechanisms of Semester Online means that students can press buttons to indicate problems, appreciation, queries, etc. to the faculty in real time without other students knowing.
Q: What do you hope ND students take away from your online course? Anything different from an in-class course?
CM: I want students to develop the same skills and acquire the same knowledge of the subject matter as they would in class.
Q: What advice would you give to ND faculty thinking about participating in Semester Online?
It’s a lot of work. There are hundreds of hours of preparation that go into organize the asynchronous components and filming is itself very draining. At the end of all that you still have to teach the class. It might seem as if you “pretape” your class and cruise through the semester but only about 25% of the class is pretaped lecture, 25% is pre-taped structured interaction (which requires regular faculty interactions throughout the semester) and 50% is synchronous class time.