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Classifying Online Classes March 6, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools, Students.
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face   This afternoon I will have a little face time with the Dean of the College. The meetings usually begin with a vague request or a question, sometimes provided in an e-mail message weeks in advance of the meeting. Now, this has been the case for every Principal and Dean I have ever worked with. I get to the office without knowing the full breadth of the request then they toss it to me.

In this case, I have a good idea that the Dean would like to know what we are doing with distance education in the college. Who is running online courses? Who is taking them? Who is paying for them? It is an odd thing about educational technology that since rooms do not need to be scheduled for them, it is a far easier thing to set up a class online than it would be to set up a face-to-face class in a university environment.

The corollary to that is that tracking the impact of these online offerings becomes a very difficult thing to accomplish without an adequate physical trail and regular feedback from students. It is difficult to determine who is learning and how well. This afternoon, I am going to recommend that we look at online courses by classifying them along two key continua.

Online Collaboration Continuum
This continuum indicates the degree to which online classes make use of collaboration tools such as electronic forums, discussion lists, chat rooms, surveys, blogs, and other such tools. The continuum runs from no online collaboration to multiple opportunities for online collaboration.

Online Information Factors Continuum
This continuum indicates the degree to which information relevant to the course is available online and includes syllabi and other course documents, readings, PowerPoints, videos, and simulations. This continuum runs from little or no information to many sources of information.

Of course, there are other factors for consideration of the online course such as:

a.       How are instructors offering the courses? (Face-to-face (FTF), Online, and Hybrid Course Offerings)

b.      What Course Management System are instructors using? (Desire2Learn (D2L), Personal Web Page, POLIS, Caucus)

c.       How are students reacting to the courses?

There is every chance that the Dean may have some other idea up his sleeve, but at least he got me thinking about the topic.

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