Newstok Publishes Essay in Praise of ‘Close Learning’

Dr. Scott L. Newstok, associate professor of English, has written a plea for what he calls “close learning” in contrast to the novelty of massive open online courses (MOOCs). Read the essay in Inside Higher Ed.

“‘Close learning’ is at the heart of the small courses that we cherish at a liberal arts college like Rhodes,” Newstok notes. “‘Close learning’ evokes the laborious, time-consuming, and costly but irreplaceable proximity between teacher and student. ‘Close learning’ exposes the stark deficiencies of mass distance learning such as MOOCs, and its haste to reduce dynamism, responsiveness, presence.”

According to Newstok, “close learning” is entirely compatible with technological innovation. Newstok describes how students in his Rhodes Shakespeare courses “navigate the vast resources of the Internet; evaluate recorded performances; wrestle with facsimiles of original publications; listen to pertinent podcasts; survey decades of scholarship in digitized form; circulate their drafts electronically; explore the cultural topography of early modern London; and contemplate the historical richness of the English language. . . . faculty can correspond regularly with students via e-mail, and keep in close contact via all kinds of new media. But this is all in service of close learning, and the payoff comes in the classroom.”

At Rhodes, Newstok coordinates the Pearce Shakespeare Endowment, whose Oct. 10-11 symposium will explore “The Past and Future of the Book.” Newstok also is the current president of Rhodes’ Phi Beta Kappa chapter, whose national Society will be hosting an Oct. 17-19 conference in Memphis on “The Case for the Liberal Arts.”