Self-deprecating subtitles — humor and performance in online teaching

I’ve always been interested in the performative element of teaching. Maybe it’s the time that I spent in speech and debate in high school, but getting up in front of a classroom of students to teach a lesson has always seemed to me a little like getting on stage to act.

Now that I’ve been teaching online (asynchronously) for a couple of years, though, that metaphor is changing. Since we don’t see our students face-to-face, we perform through the written word and through video. Just as cinema differs from theater, performance in an online course is different than performance in a face-to-face course. Some of those differences are even the same: If you flub a line on stage (or in the classroom), you can’t do much else besides power on through. Tomorrow’s a new performance, and you’ll have a chance to redeem yourself then. If you flub a line filming for a new lesson (or a summer blockbuster), though, you should probably redo it. After all, unless you’re George Lucas, the way you make it now is probably the way it’s going to be forever.

I don’t have Hollywood’s time and money, though, so what am I supposed to do when an otherwise perfect seventh take (ugh) of an introduction to an online lesson is being punctuated by a persistent train whistle? Or when I notice afterwards that I used variations of the word “exciting” way too many times?

I could redo it. Or I could at least be in on the joke:

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