In “A Teacher’s Take on Online Education,” Jeff Kolnick writes about the endlessly discussed topic of Whether or Not Online Classes Are Okay. Here’s a summary:
- “improve written communication skills, especially when faculty are vigilant”
- “widen opportunities for shy students to get involved in class discussion”
- “cuts geographic barriers”
- “super high attrition rates”
- “faculty have a hard time getting to know students”
- “ill suited to entry level classes and remedial level work”
I agree with…pretty much all of this. I am not this teacher:
Being a deconstructionist at heart, I also think that course design can shift all three pros into cons: ask for virtually no writing and just give multiple-choice tests, don’t require discussions, and build assignments in such a way that those who aren’t in a certain physical location struggle to keep up. This is the kind of online education that professors, parents, and legislators might fear, since it doesn’t foster much critical thinking.
I also could see how all three cons could be ameliorated: give students multiple chances on assignments or very open due dates to cut down on drop-outs, create assignments that ask students to share their goals and stories (and have professors complete the same work / sharing) and offer Skype office hours for virtual f2f conferencing, and make everything for an introductory class very, very transparent and sequential. Videos help. Sample work helps.
I believe that self-paced remedial online courses can help motivated students move much more quickly through a class sequence. Imagine taking only 5 weeks to finish pre-algebra — many just need a little time to refresh their memories and prove mastery of the content. Even better, what if students could complete up to three developmental courses in a regular long semester? It would require commitment, but those learners could move into college-level coursework after one term rather than three.
Thoughtful course design = crucial for online education.
Nope, it’s not deep.