Dr. McFadden Teaches Online Environmental History Course

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Dr. McFadden Teaches Online Environmental History Course
Dr. Joseph McFadden, University of St. Thomas president emeritus and professor of history, recreated his course, History of Environmental Thought in the U.S., making it accessible to students online last semester.

Although small class sizes and one-on-one student-teacher relationships have always been important to the UST experience, Dr. McFadden said he thinks the online format works well. The class met two times– once at the beginning of the semester and once at the end. Some of the students who took the course were international students from the Institut Catholique d’Etudes Superieures (Institute of Catholic Superior Studies) in France.

For McFadden, the course online structure did not mean a loss of student-teacher communication.
“I talk to my students all the time, on every piece of work they do,” said McFadden. “That is the St. Thomas way. The course had the same level of academic rigor that would be expected of any St. Thomas class. I email these students frequently asking their opinions and requiring them to demonstrate their knowledge.”

Jim Simmon, an MLA student at UST, took the online course and said he liked the class.

“I work outside of Houston and not having to show up for class was helpful to me,” said Simmon. “The way Dr. McFadden structured the class allowed me to work ahead and was accommodating to my schedule. He was prompt in reading, responding and grading our online posts and papers and it definitely worked for me.”

Online classes benefit not only the students, but the professors as well.

“It meets my needs, too,” said McFadden. “I can teach from anywhere in the world.”

McFadden has experienced success with online courses in the past through the International Council of Universities of St Thomas Aquinas (ICUSTA), which unites Catholic universities that adhere to the ideals and teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas. The organization, formerly led by McFadden as executive director, offers online courses between universities.

McFadden said that although online classes aren’t appropriate for all classes or all students, he thinks UST should explore expanding online class opportunities. In addition to the ICUSTA classes and the environmental history course, UST also offers an online Master of Education program.

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