Milestone Report for the project: Curriculum Design, Production & Delivery of MEA 200 as a Web-Course

Part 2

PROBLEMS AND DISINCENTIVES IN PUTTING A COURSE ONLINE

Updated on: Monday, 15-Dec-2014 06:53:49 EST

This part of the report includes discussions of problems and discincentives that faculty encounter putting a course online, related issues such as copyright and cooperative learning on the web, and some conclusions from my experiences to date.

Directory

Problems & Disincentives
Related Concerns
Conclusions
Return to Project Background, Goals and Objectives

Problems And Disincentives

The problems and disincentive to take a course on-line can be subdivided into four main categories. Each of these subdivisions are discussed below.


Authoring an On-line Course

Faculty members who have developed and taught outstanding courses at NCSU for many years should be the pool from which to recruit candidates to take their courses on-line. It is my distinct impression, however, that the degree of ease with which this is done has as much to do with whether they already have written their course in a publishable fashion (i.e., as an Independent Study Course to be offered for credit, or as a Course Pak available for sale for regularly scheduled courses) as it does with their desire to offer their course on-line. Writing lesson plans in a recognized format (Introduction, Learning Objectives, Reading Assignment, Discussion, and Written Assignments, etc.), even if the faculty member does not have plans to take the course on-line, can be a daunting task that may take many months.

I had been teaching MEA 200 for more than a quarter of a century before I put my course online. During the first decade of my teaching experience, as I developed the course, lesson plans were written and rewritten and I followed them quite closely in teaching the course. After that, however, I taught this course from a well developed outline, not from written lesson plans. The outline, a result of the evolving nature of the field, my extensive experience, and my changed feelings about what are the most important concepts that students should learn, and how best to help students learn, turned out to be quite different from the previously-written lesson plans. Then turning around and rewriting these outlines (for an Independent Study Course that was offered through the UNC-CH program) in the proper lesson plan format, required more than 12 months of concerted effort to complete.

As already stated, this written MEA 200 course formed the core of my web-course and was converted to HTML using Claris HomePage software. I am not entirely certain that I would have agreed to take my course on-line in the immediate future had I not already been contracted to write MEA 200 as an Independent Study course.


Getting the Course On-line

The main disincentive for a faculty member to actually get a course on-line is knowing where to get the training and/or technical help to create and put the web-course on-line, but the University invested considerable capital to hire this expertise as part of Project 25. This expertise has been restructured at LTS and each year proposals for funding are requested.

At the time I decided to begin constructing my course as an online course, I subscribed to a listserv that was supposed to provide other's ideas for putting a course online. I unsubscribed after 3 months of sifting through opinions that were of little value (spending days arguing about unimportant things like what to call such a course - online or internet, for instance). I had hoped someone would give me a "template" of what was good about an online course.

Finally, I simply sat down and wrote the course with one goal in mind;

In that regard I succeeded, as you can see in the Comparisons part of this report.


Obtaining the proper equipment

To convert an existing course to a web-course requires the purchase of high-end computers and software, and of such things as scanners. In most instances, the purchase of these items will require a faculty member to obtain substantial resources, probably beyond that available from his or her own department operating budget. In fact, it was my impression that both the Project 25 faculty (myself definitely included) and technical staff were as much surprised by the need for such high-level computers and software as we were by the time required to bring a full course on-line.

Related Concerns

Related to the two categories above are some additional problems that need to be addressed by any faculty member contemplating an NCSU web course for credit.


Copyright issues for material used in web course

The "Fair Use" rule that allows faculty to make appropriate numbers of copies of figures, articles out of scientific journals, etc., or show commercially produced movies, video tapes, slides, or transparencies in the classroom as part of the learning experience, may not generally apply to use of those same types of materials on a web course. Even when access to the web course is strictly limited to registered students, and they are required to purchase the textbook, permission may need to be obtained from the publisher for use of materials that would be permitted in the traditional classroom.

The laws relating to the use of copyrighted material in the 'new' learning environment is continually under consideration at the national level, and publishers and other commercial enterprises are working hard to restrict fair use on the web, or any other electronic media. Considerable concern was raised by the Scholarly Communication Subcommittee of the University Library Committee (of which I was a member) to require faculty participation in the drafting of UNC GA Copyright Policy Document so that fair use of materials can be extended to electronic media. I also sat on that the NCSU Copyright and Patent committee, and those issues seem to have been resolved.


Cooperative and other learning strategies in a web course

Faculty interested in the issue of quality of instruction recognize the importance of cooperative learning, where traditional classes are routinely divided into groups to answer questions posed by the instructor, and in critical thinking, where questions are posed that require contrasting and comparing and looking for links between cause and effect, etc. Faculty can include real critical thinking into their courses regardless of the venue, but cooperative learning is much more problematic and is difficult to emulate in a distance learning environment.

Someday technology advancements may provide an environment in which interactive synchronous video in a web course may be possible, but course scheduling would put very real constraints on students living many time zones away and on the faculty member who would have to be present during the chat. As stated in earlier status reports, the problems of providing cooperative learning in a web-course are definitely challenging.

Conclusions

There are some conclusions to draw from this study:

 

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