Building Better eClasses

students at computer lab

available under a Creative Commons license: http://www.flickr.com/photos/31092106@N02/3750223348/

I’m always searching for ways to make an online class more effective for students. With Prairie View’s change from WebCT to a Moodle platform, this semester I’ve mainly been trying to ensure that everything works, a process that sometimes required quickly deleting an entire assignment and them recreating it with a better set-up and hoping that no one noticed.

I miss the old format, where a few key elements could be highlighted easily on the main page with familiar icons. The discussion for the week, the paper due soon–these things would greet students as soon as they clicked into the class. I could put the same assignment in multiple locations in the course, so students would have a better chance of stumbling across it. Moodle doesn’t work as well for that. Sure, the Assignments link shows everything, but it’s easy to forget to check that. I put the main assignment in the week where it’s assigned rather than where it’s due, but I’m not sure that’s the best idea. Maybe a whole area just for the major assignments, at the top underneath the syllabus, would work better?

I want to have more videos rather than podcasts, too, especially using software like Camtasia. Wouldn’t a lot of these Web 2.0 tools make more sense if you could watch a computer screen where someone is using them, while she’s explaining the process? Everything changes so quickly that such videos would need constant updating. The Mahara ePortfolio system that was in place in early November, before the portfolio process started in earnest, totally CHANGED in mid-November! Another class of mine, which has been using Mahara since August, was totally disoriented and the students couldn’t find the last 12 weeks’ worth of work.

Such is the Web 2.0 life, sometimes.

Not all professors or universities are so eager to enter the online course realm. At Cal State Bakersfield, some are worried that quality is lower in web-only classes. I don’t know about everyone, but I suspect that my online courses are more demanding, since they require the same major projects but a lot more in terms of weekly written work!

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