Ellis Godard is only a click away. This professor uses a variety of platforms to connect with his students — eight e-mail accounts, three phone numbers, and 16 online resources, all of which feed into his Android phone.
His goal is to minimize the distance students might feel when they are away from the classroom environment.
“In the past, students had to come only when I was available, the time before or after a class when they were taking another class or on a different day when they were working or unavailable or living somewhere far away. And now they can contact me 24/7 through whatever means they want,” he said.
It helps that for Godard, sleep is overrated. The CSUN assistant professor of Sociology gets about six hours, on a good night.
“I can’t imagine trying to write during the day because I know that students will IM and e-mail and call,” he said, adding that his most productive hours tend to be from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., when most students are not trying to get in touch with him.
Godard has always been an early adopter, eager to experiment with different types of technology and platforms. That interest started in the early 1980s when when he got his first computer.
“It was an Apple II Plus, and my first laptop was in 1987. It was a Dataview Spark, which no longer exists,” he said.
Another trend he spotted was the demise of paper. “About halfway between those two computers, the movie Ghostbusters came out and pseudo-professor Egon Spengler said, ‘Print is dead.’
“I don’t know why that line stuck with me for almost 30 years now but it has. That was in junior high school and ever since then I have moved away from print and toward electronic resources.”
While print might be dying, Godard knows technology can’t replace personal interactions at the university. In fact, he still schedules in-person office hours despite his unlimited virtual availability.
“I have concerns about an entirely online education because there is something valuable at least historically, sociologically and psychologically in the on-campus experience,” he said. “Interacting with the bureaucracy, trying to park, getting to office hours, going to the library … I know there is something I got out of that experience that I think is worth preserving.”