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Posts Tagged ‘courses

If you wonder why online courses are perceived to be inferior to in-person ones, this article has some answers.

The author cheekily (but accurately) suggested four “entrenched inequities” that keep the value of online courses and instruction down:

  • The second-class status of pedagogy research
  • The third-class status of online courses
  • The fourth-class status of online-oriented institutions
  • The fifth-class status of the majority of online instructors

The devil is in the details and the author is a demonic writer. Every word sizzled and the full article is worth the read just for its frank critique of the status quo.

Whither online efforts? They wither because they are denied resources.

This is unsolicited advice that I offer to institutes of higher learning (IHLs) that rely heavily on the standard lecture-tutorial system even after COVID-19 lockdowns ease. I reflect on some planning considerations before a new semester starts.

Assuming that we can return to campus, I suggest some reductions for practical and pedagogical reasons.

Reduce or remove lectures. The halls cannot hold everyone if social distancing standards are to be maintained. Create or curate videos instead. This will have the long term benefit of shifting away from lectures as we know them.

Reduce tutorial class sizes. Like the note on lectures, this reduces human density. If a class is 30-strong, reduce it to 15 or 20. Why meet for tutorials? They (should) focus on learning content, not (re)teaching it. Tutorials offer social immediacy for the negotiation of information so that it becomes constructed knowledge.

Having smaller classes means faculty need to teach one class twice or there must be more faculty to handle the higher teaching load. Local IHLs have enough time and money to make this a priority. Making this move is a return to what makes makes an IHL valuable to society — a focus on the close nurturing of young adults.

I think of this nurturing like a hen brooding her eggs. There is only so many that one chicken can sit on and look after. Stuff any more under her and the eggs do not hatch.

Reduce face-to-face time by flipping the classroom (change what happens where) and flipping the learning (change who does what). The differences between the two are important, but the first lowers the need for face-to-face time and the second empowers the learner.

Reduce barriers to change. The barriers are not the ones already mentioned, i.e., requiring standard lectures before tutorials or large class sizes. They are also about mindsets about how an IHL educates.

One hidden barrier might be the focus on content delivery and the assumption that only experts should do this. Experts do not always make the best educators. They might need professional development on how to be instructional designers, facilitators, mentors, and evaluators.

One barrier that must be worn down is the operating model of in-person classes. While valuable, such a mode is not always necessary for consultative or cooperative learning. One need only deconstruct the efforts of online choirs to suggest what transfers to higher education.

Video source

Even the worst experiences of emergency remote teaching will likely have taught teachers and educators something about the value of proper online classes.

These lessons should inform the design of courses moving forward. If we do not change, we waste the time and effort of teaching and learning in lockdown. If we do not change, we risk making the same mistakes when another lockdown happens.

The Straits Times had a report on Coursera, a joint venture by five universities in the USA that will offer courses for free. The original reports was from Reuters.

Here is the ST attempting to provide a balanced perspective by highlighting a disadvantage of the programme:

Here is the Reuters original:

For whatever reason, ST decided to end the article on a negative note. I guess it is entitled to.

But if you remember basic cognitive psychology, you might recall that people tend to remember beginnings and endings, not bits in the middle. So the subtle message ST sends is: There are free online courses, but they are not as good as what you might get face-to-face.

I would flip Winckler’s argument. How about considering the forms of collaboration and collaborative learning that take place online that cannot or do not happen face-to-face? How about the sheer relevance of these sorts of collaboration today and tomorrow?

But I do not have to convince Winckler since Reuters reported that he considers the free courses rigorous enough for his students. I might have to convince those who read the ST article and did not bother to get a second opinion.


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