Thoughts at the coffee table

There are a couple of books I’m enjoying reading simultaneously this fall, almost always with a cup of strong black coffee nearby (my preference at any time of day).

Since I wrapped up my dissertation research and began teaching online, I’ve been making it a point to keep up with the changing atmosphere of online higher education — especially as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to significantly impact the interactions between students and instructors in this forum. I’ve seen firsthand how decision making processes are influenced and prioritized based on an individual’s immediate environment. For example, if a student’s child falls ill or spouse loses their job, online learning sometimes takes a back seat (and rightly so). These things matter to me, both as a former student and a current instructor.

It’s important to me as an educator to connect with my students through their perceptions and experiences, which are certainly not limited to the online environment. Communication, collaboration, and community are dependent upon the quality of our participation at any level.

A colleague of mine suggested Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes (Darby & Lang, 2019), which focuses in part on student and instructor motivation. In short, a student’s ability to make connections between what they think they know at the get-go to what they aspire to learn by the completion of a course is essentially what drives their motivation. The other, Beyond Feelings: A Guide to Critical Thinking (Ruggiero, 2012), serves as the foundational text for a course I’m teaching and encourages the reader to challenge their own thought processes, beliefs, values, and biases. Both books are written in cohesively and practically, which I appreciate as an educator.



Darby, F., & Lang, J. M. (2019). Small teaching online: Applying learning science in online classes. Jossey Bass.

Ruggiero, V. R. (2012). Beyond feelings: A guide to critical thinking. McGraw-Hill.