I am excited tonight to be starting two new summer courses for my M.Ed. Excited, because I have seen the courses and they appear to be a huge improvement over the last course I took this past spring.
I just finished a course on International Leadership, which could have been and should have been inspiring and amazing. Instead, it was outdated and embarrassing. I am a very independent and motivated learner, but this course challenged my motivation like nothing else.
So, like any failure (failure in the sense that I did not learn – I did pass!), I ask what can we learn from this? What, specifically, was wrong with the course?
1. The textbook was outdated. Honestly, when I am paying an obscene amount of money for both the book and the online course, I deserve something updated at the very least. Old textbooks might work for calculus, but educational theory evolves and changes. Then, the instructor suggested the references in the text as a starting point for our research – citations that were often more than a decade old!
2. We had to blog. I love to use a blog to share reflections and extend learning, but the instructor seemed to have no idea how blogs can be used to collaborate and enhance the learning experience. Every blog assignment was “post your summary to your blog”. Honestly? You really want 30 summaries of the same chapter?
3. Discussions: One post and gone. Students had to post one thing to the discussion. Wow, how does that ever become a discussion when everyone posts their one piece and never comes back to read or comment?
4. Dropouts. Students stopped doing the course and did only the items that were being marked. Collaboration fell flat. I don’t blame them. Without collaboration and useful feedback there was no point in sharing.
5. Feedback. The prof panicked because nobody was participating (well, maybe 3 or 4 were) so he lavishly praised any student who did anything. It became so ridiculous that the most mundane comment on a forum was being praised as a brilliant comment which erodes the credibility of the professor.
6. Selling another course. Much of the time the professor was trying to sell students on taking his next course offering. Inappropriate.
Let’s just say I ‘get’ what some high school students are going through when they lose interest in going to a particular class.
The university needs to insist on updated materials and they need to ensure their instructors are brought up to speed on both online collaboration strategies and Web 2.0 tools. Online learning can be a rich experience when the facilitator is skilled and engaged in their work and their students.
Now I know how NOT to deliver an online course in education.