Hi, you’re doing it wrong: Course Design

As I’ve explained, I started my master’s program three weeks ago. Through an online program, I’ll have a Master’s of Teaching and Learning in Curriculum and Instruction in 14 months. It’s my first time in an all-online learning environment. They’re doing it wrong.

This is the front page of my current course:

This is the discussion forum:
You’ll note there are multiple threads. That’s because not everyone in the course responds to the weekly discussion questions through reply.
Here’s a classmate’s response post:
Here’s my attempt to preemptively stop all of my classmates from posting their discussions and responses as file attachments:

The “Education Specialist” has a thread about each upcoming assignment, except one that was due last Sunday. On the syllabus, it’s due next Sunday:

On the due date sheet, it was due last Sunday:
In the course dropbox, it was due last Sunday:
In the discussion forum, where we’ve been alerted to how to complete all assignments, not a peep:
My e-mail:

The “Education Specialist’s” response:
The page that has heretofore gone unmentioned in the discussion forum:

Each course at SLA uses moodle as a content delivery system. From time to time, I’ve attempted to use Google Calendar or other means of delivering due dates and course assignments. It hasn’t worked. My learners have looked in one place. If I put it in one place, they know where to look. It makes the actual work easier if they don’t have to search for assignment due dates and descriptions.
The same could be said for this course.
In short, they’re doing it wrong.

7 thoughts on “Hi, you’re doing it wrong: Course Design

  1. Zac,I bet they just don't bother to update the assignments. I taught an online college course a few years ago. When using WebCT, the instructor must update all of the assignment dates and links. They just don't. That's the problem with a canned/premade course. No one updates them as the semesters change. Bill

      • Yep. I took a course that used Blackboard this summer and the dates for when assignments were due, etc. all were all at least two semesters old. When I asked the instructor for clarification she seemed a bit annoyed with me. Let me just say I lost a little faith that her heart was in it.

  2. Somewhere in this huge push for more and more distance learning, someone ought to take stock of the number of educators who really know how to effectively facilitate learning online.

  3. Someone just sent me the link to this wonderful post! I train faculty on how to use the Internet and our college LMS to teach online, and I actually believe this to be part of how we teach in the 21st century. The biggest problem I find isn't showing them how tools work, but getting them to understand how to use the tools properly. We require things like discussions, which they dutifully add, but then completely ignore. They add their tasks, assignments, and quizzes, but then don't return fully detailed responses to the students. It goes on and on.I experienced this first hand as a student in an online Instructional Design Masters program. Each class was designed EXACTLY the same… the only differences were the topic and the textbooks used! They lasted 10 weeks, you completed a basic assignment each week with a discussion, then on the tenth week, gathered together all the assignments and put them into a paper that would be graded as a whole. That's it. I got straight “A's” and remember exactly nothing. And don't forget this was an INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN degree! When I challenged them as to how the exact same design could possibly work for every topic covered, they countered with “students don't have the technology to do advanced functions such as download videos or work as a group”. Not an exact quote, but you get the gist. This supposed educational institution which I won't name (but is named after “the brightest star in the constellation Auriga”) underscores the problem with pushing online learning without the proper background in design and pedagogical thinking. Without understanding of the tools as well as the effective use of the tools, we can produce nothing but busy work with no useful outcome. You can design the greatest hammer in the world, but if you don't understand how to use it, you might just injure yourself and everyone around you!

    • Thanks for the comment.I wonder if part of the answer to this problem isn't a doubling of a problemwe already see. The oft-repeated comment that teachers will teach as theywere taught if they don't get support within the first two years of teachingcomes into play here.The even bigger problem is that most teachers were never taught online,didn't grow up learning in online spaces and never played online. They havenothing to revert to. As such, without online teaching mentorships and anykind of oversight or push back on their online teaching, they appear to bereverting to something that's less than “chalk and talk” teaching. With theabsence of teacherly voice in my class, I'd qualify it as “chalk” teachingwhere the chalk is permanently engraved on the board and students filethrough.How do we get teachers to think bigger about online learning spaces? How dowe get them to think communally?What successes have you seen with the faculty you work with? To what do youattribute those successes?

      • I am in a position where I train instructors but don't get to see how effective the training really is. I do see them using the tools and many thank me and my fellow trainers for the training, but I don't get to actually participate and review what they ultimately do and teach. That makes it difficult to judge success or failure.I do know those that are effective come back for more training, communicate with fellow faculty on discussion boards, and in general are easily recognized and can be named by colleagues. In other words, they make themselves known, they truly recognize that to be effective they must remain active and open to new knowledge, and they don't fall back on the excuse that they are the ones that know their subject so don't need someone else to show them how to teach. I find that those that are experts in their field are quite often not the best teachers. To teach one must be able to effectively transfer knowledge, and that is one of the hardest things to do. I often say that those that can do, because they can't teach, and I stand by that. Teaching is not just knowing a subject, but knowing how make that subject understandable. Give a monkey a hammer and they just smash things. The effective use of the tool is what a teacher brings to the table, not the tool itself.We have a Teaching and Learning Effectiveness program at our college (pedagogical theory) but I'm not sure it is that effective overall. I talk to faculty and get mixed reviews. Our faculty want concrete answers to specific problems, and just having training in pedagogy is, in my opinion, less effective. There is a reason entire degrees in Instructional Design and pedagogy exist… it isn't “learnable” in a short training session. I would think a mix of step by step procedural learning (this is a tool… this is how it works) and instruction in best practices (now that you know what the tool is, this is how it has been used effectively in the past) is the most probable answer.It would also be wonderful if department chairs would actually take an interest in exactly how effective courses are, instead of just relying on numbers of students and classes “making” as markers of successful teaching. I would much prefer fewer students that actually learn than large classrooms of barely passing non-learners. Effective teaching is not measured by numbers, but by how successful a student is AFTER they leave the classroom. Now if only we can get administration to support that idea, we would have it made!

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