Some Christian leaders in our community are taking steps to open a Christian college in our community. One of our ambitions is to have online courses. I have taken an online course but have never been involved in constructing one so I guess my biggest concern is will it be too complicated or expensive to operate.
A couple of observations: online courses are just as expensive and complicated as traditional classroom-based courses --- but no more so. The design and delivery costs are different. For example, the design of the online course is likely more formal and organized than a course that a traditional instructor might prepare the night before the class meets.
Whether online or in the physical classroom, all courses need good pedagogy to reach the learning objectives.
The technology tools to support the online course objectives can be as simple or complicated or as expensive as you choose.
When all is said and done, I find that the investment in good teaching is the same for both traditional and online courses.
Interaction between professor and students and among students is very different in online learning. The professor, as a colleague brought up a long time ago, moves from "the sage on the stage" to "the guide on the side" - a very different role. Some of our faculty find this exciting, others find the transition challenging. As Myrna says, it is an investment - a significant one in either case - and must be made no matter how the content is delivered.
Myrna, good point about online courses being no more expensive and complicated than traditional classroom-based courses. I think the reason they "seem" more expensive and complicated has to do with the fact that they require different metaprofessional skill sets (see attached article written by me for an explanation of that). Most of us Ph.D.s were research oriented when in our graduate and doctoral programs and never set foot inside of a classroom focusing on pedagogy or methodology. We studied theology (or, in my case, literature) and found ourselves T.A.s, perhaps, based on our content knowledge of the discipline. When we finally got out of our doctoral programs and were hired as teachers, we were confronted by students with whom we dealt in the same way we were taught - for many of us in Catholic seminaries, that was the Roman model - we appear in a classroom and just transmit information from our lecture notes. The "teacher as conveyor of information" model gives way to the "teacher as facilitator of learning" model, which the online world promotes. For those of us who master this latter model, we'll find that it helps us better understand how to teach more effectively in our face-to-face, traditional classrooms. So, really, it's what you say - the paradigm shift isn't in the direction of technologies as much as it's in the direction of good teaching. What professors in our seminaries and theological schools are dealing with most is the introduction to teaching skills - the whole science of a School of Education plopping down on top of their professional discipline all at once. It can be overwhelming for those who've never been trained in it, for those who never felt they had to be trained in it, even.
Amen to this Sebastian. And many are also pastors - skilled in preparing for sermons, but able to "fake it" if they need to. Online teaching and learning (or more specifically the students in classes) can be unforgiving if you aren't prepared and don't have things in place. Using videos? They need to be completed, placed on the server, etc. Say you'll have content in place? It needs to be there. The (to me significant) advantage is that after the first time faculty can concentrate on improvement of the course content to lead to better outcomes, the basic work if good and valid doesn't need to be done again.
Carolyn, I'm building a website now for teachers in the Catholic Distance Learning Network on how to develop a sense of teaching online. The materials are freely available to anyone, though, and they might be of help to you. The topics include:
Module 1: Developing a Basic Sense of the Terminology
Module 2: Transactive vs. Transmissive Pedagogies (activity-based learning)
Module 3: Andragogy, an Adult Learning Theory
Module 4: Developing the Distributed Learning Platform
Module 5: Establishing a Social Presence
Module 6: Online Course Management (Resources and Students)
Module 7: Direct and Indirect Measurement Tools
Module 8: ePortfolio Development
If you go to www.catholicdistance.org and click on the "Online Certification Course Modules" link, you'll find all the materials there.
In class I use lecture, discussion, videos, powerpoint presentations, small group work. Online, I use discussion forums, glossaries, wikis, written assignments, blogs, links to websites and YouTube videos. I regret that some of the DVDs I show in class I can't "show" online. I also miss the opportunity for the give and take of a classroom discussion, even though I know that some students actually shine better in the online discussion format.
This mixed format is one which has much appeal for me. I have two specific concerns arising from my experience with online discussion in chat or forum settings. The first is that real time chat discussions heavily favor students who can type rapidly. (They don't necessarily think all that quickly.) Since the chat format is strictly linear some students get left behind. The second concern is that most of my students are training for Christian ministry, and much of that will be face to face. In other words engaging people in face to face discussions around world religions (my course) is part of professional training, not merely a pedagogical tool. Right now I'm looking for online tools for video conferencing that might address both of these concerns.
On chat, I haven't had good luck with that, so I rarely use it. The problem is that the advantage of the online class is more flexibility, yet a specific chat time ties students down, even if more than one time is given (which ties me down!).
The lack of face-to-face is significant for ministry students. Besides developing video classes, which we have also used, one way of dealing with it has been to limit the number of online classes, which in some ways provides the best of both worlds, providing the advantages of both face-to-face and online education. Online classes are especially rich when I've already had students in face-to-face classes.