Over the weekend I had a conversation with a friend about online learning. It turns out he has taken several online courses over the past few years. He had an interesting statement that I think many in online education need to pay attention to:
“I have gotten to where I don’t need to read the syllabus anymore in online learning. All the courses are the same”
I asked him if he was referring to the cycle of “read this, answer a discussion question, respond to other students, take a quiz, rinse, repeat.” He said that was exactly the case.
I see this a lot in online education, but to be fair it started in face-to-face courses. So many classes you only had to find out what the dates of tests were and the rest was easy to figure out. Some call it laziness, but it probably actually had a huge helping of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” throw in the mix.
Are discussion boards becoming the new scan-tron tests? I realize that there is some active learning in having students answer discussion questions, but so many times the questions become so stale that what little “active” was in there gets washed away in staleness.
If you have an introductory online learning class (in other words – it is the first online course that students will take) – then I say give them something tried and true to help them get used to it. To a degree. For the rest of us – we need to infuse our online courses with personality and a little originality. Try to think outside the box. Try some new tools. or at least try to get your students to create assignments using tools they don’t normally use.
But above all, give them a reason to read the syllabus. Oh – and then at least try to not put them to sleep while they are reading it. Remember the K.I.S.S. method.
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.