Almost all schools now have an “online learning platform”, whether it is Moodle, Blackboard, Blackboard Vista (previously WebCT) or some other means of providing students access to online course content. I believe that these platforms are underused in many institutions and should be expanded to support all classes.
While in-person courses are the traditional form of course administration, I feel that they could be supplemented by their “distance education” counterparts. I feel that there is much enhancement that online course platforms can offer traditional courses, and I believe that there was ways that online courses can be improved as well. I would love to see traditional courses use online platforms the what that distance courses presently do, and distance courses should be in a totally new class of learning.
First, I believe that all courses, no matter what delivery method, should have an securely accessible class site where at bare minimum there is access to a syllabus and grade sheet. That alone would allow students to stay better organized and on top of things. The addition of any paper documents handed out in class being added to the site would only add to the usefulness of the course site. For institutions utilizing SmartBoard technology, there is no reason to not provide electronic access to the instructor’s notes for the day. Students often spent a large amount of time taking notes in classes, usually writing what the instructor is saying as well as whatever they are writing on their boards, this is a step of redundancy for auditory learners. Absences from a course can often be disastrous, especially for classes that meet only once a week, but an enhanced web presence for a course could ease that disaster into an inconvenience. The web presence can not become a replacement for class attendance, but it can help keep students more connected to the material, and perhaps as a result, less likely to have a need to drop or withdraw.
Next, online courses have been allowed to fall to the level of a guided independent study. For undergraduate education, this is inadequate. There is a rich world of knowledge available online, and it would seem that such information would be the best place to start with building an online course. There should be more to online courses than reading the text, having discussion boards and taking tests. There is a lot of information that is not academically suited on the Internet, but that’s where the instructor comes in, to guide students to appropriate information. Online students should be held to a higher level of technical competence as well. It is possible to conduct elaborate projects and utilize information technology in far more ways than is being accomplished presently.
Also, and this is highly optimistic of me, I believe that instructors should post their syllabus at least 2 weeks before the semester is to begin, to allow students to plan accordingly. Most courses carry 3 hours, but that doesn’t mean they all carry the same amount of work. Additionally, it is quite possible for a student to have a conflict with an instructional style in use. Providing syllabi a few weeks ahead could save everyone some trouble, and also allow students some “inactive” time to prepare for the course.