Tom Sullivan


Tom Sullivan

I started teaching online in 1997 – with SNL. I only realized how long ago that is when I was thinking about what I would say in this blog. Long time. Back in the old days, the waning years of the last century, we didn’t even have Blackboard! We had to hand code the web sites ourselves. It was rough, I can tell you. But it was also exciting and fun because we were helping to actualize the tremendous potential of this stunning new tech. Now of course the web is ho-hum and every class has a Blackboard site and so on.

The Early Days

Here’s a picture of me in those days.  Hahaha.

I was teaching full-time then at a community college.  I was a participant in the BBS system of the pre-web internet and I was eager to teach a class online.  I had even taken online classes myself.  But my college wan’t quite ready for all that. SNL was — and so I found a willing partner.  My association with SNL and DePaul has been a source of great professional satisfaction to me ever since.

And I love teaching online.  In my experience the relations I have with students are as good or better in the online classroom as they are f2f.  The flow of the conversation is not limited to three fixed hours per week, but can go on day and night all term.  And no one can “hide” online.  There’s no one sitting in the back row, face lowered to the desktop, putting in time and gently refusing to participate.  Online we all post and that’s a powerful public activity.  Unlike the ephemeral conversations in a classroom, the posts online create a permanent record of our progress through the material.  The challenge for me is to create a learning community, where everyone feels welcome, respected, and excited about the subject.

Ahh… the subject.  Writing.  For many this complex activity is alternately a joy and a frustration, a source of pride and a source of shame, an exciting challenge and a routine and boring task.  So the challenges of teaching writing are not just intellectual.  The feelings people bring to the process become important too.  And when the writing involves “creativity,” then look out!

And that’s what I teach.  Creative writing.  But more on that in my next post!


3 Responses to “Tom Sullivan”

  1. Ben Mills Says:

    Tim, this is great! I am going to subscribe to make sure that I stay in the loop.

  2. Beth Rubin Says:

    I love the picture of “The Early Days”! Your joy in the medium is really evident.
    In 1997 I barely used the Internet, and didn’t know what online courses were…

  3. Shirin Kadwani Says:

    Tom, I am glad you love teaching online and that you find the online interaction to be good or better than face to face. I am sure students like it too because of the flexibility it offers to them. In the online environment, students have the time to put their thoughts together before posting in the class discussion board. This enables a rich dialogue and enhances the learning experience.

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