Online Course Design – some thoughts to consider

May 27, 2008

Is it right for graduate students to be marking each others’ work?

I was registered for an online class during the Spring 08 semester and the major project for the semester included being grouped with classmates from all over (making it difficult to facilitate collaborations), creating a module to teach the class (with software that nobody was knowledgeable about), creating assignments for our peers and then marking any assignments we created for ~15 other classmates.  This was to go on, one group per week, for 4 of the 7 weeks that this class was scheduled.  My next question is: why even have a prof?  What is he being paid for?  Week one and two had one assignment, several discussion questions, some odds and ends to contribute, and chats in 3 different “chat rooms” where one student was asked to moderate (myself in my assigned chat room), but given now direction or topic, so turned into a wasted hour of rambling.  Week 3 was when we received our groups and topics and were to create a module worth 40% of our mark.

Needless to say, I have dropped the class (the first one I ever seriously considered dropping and now have dropped).  I felt terribly guilty in doing this, since I had been assigned a group to create the module with, however, the level of stress and frustration that I was experiencing coupled with a serious lack of sleep was beginning to affect my health and my family life to a degree that I was very uncomfortable and unhappy with.

I have taken other online classes and had starkly different experiences.  Alec Couros taught ECI 831 Winter 08 semester and it was outstanding – the best class I have EVER taken – collaborative, clearly outlined expectations, exposure to several new technologies, full support from instructor and peers, reasonable assignments (my blog was one of them, which I intend to keep up- obviously!)… I could go on and on.  My point is that I have had other experiences to compare this to and even other online classes I have taken did not result in such frustration and stress as this semester’s class has.

Your thoughts on this format for a grad class?

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6 Responses to “Online Course Design – some thoughts to consider”

  1. Alec Couros Says:

    Sorry to hear about your bad experience, Connie. I really am, as I know you are not one to quit a class and you are a terrific motivated student. I won’t comment on the approach here, but would be happy to talk about it sometime via Skype or telephone, etc.

    Let’s discuss sometime, and I wish you better experiences in the near future.

  2. Laurie Says:

    Brings the thought appropriate use of technology to light doesn’t it.
    As a teacher, I am using technology (wikis and blogs with my students). However, I still must be there to teach, to help, to facilitate.

  3. Shaun Loeppky Says:

    Sounds like and instructional design nightmare. From your comments, I do not blame you for dropping the class. With Alec and all the risks he did take, he and Rob still made sure that adequate information and preparation was provided to the students and supports given throughout the course, expectations/objectives were clearly stated, and modifications made when tools did or did not work. Yet they were not the “leaders” of the course, they wee the facilitators, and we were told outright that most of our learning would be on our own. I think what has happened is that you went from a course where you had istructors in EC&I 831 that have extensive experience in instructional design, to one where someone through something together with little direction and thought for the end-user…you.
    Good luck with your next online course..don’t give up, I dont think your experience is common with online stuff..I hope!

  4. Dave Says:

    I think I may have taken that class!

    That was my worry with people all over. Getting all together, planning, etc.

    Another online grad. class I took had the discussion board and a minor, major assignment probably followed a more traditional approach but was CLEARLY defined.

    Overall I’d say the above and 831 were good formats. 831 I delved into more and I am continuing with learning in it since class ended. So I guess its format was better for continued learning overall.

  5. Mathman33 Says:

    I did take that class and I am glad that 831 restored my faith in online learning!


  6. Wow , that class sounded like a nightmare. Please email me and tell me what class it is so I can avoid it. Where is the interaction, feedback and direction? I think you made the right decision. I looked at the spring and summer schedule and didn’t see any class that I was interested and decided to take a break until the fall.


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