Tidbits, Resources, and Discussion for ELI Faculty

Friday, July 10, 2009

Creating free online courses for the Obama administration

In his continued attention to ensuring all Americans have more than a high school education, with particular focus on community colleges, Obama and his administration have been working on an interesting initiative to get community colleges and high schools to create high quality, modular online courses that could be offered free.

I'll be interested to see how the initiative develops, but I must say I share the concern of the first poster--will these courses have active instructors, or will they be free-standing modules students can work through on their own? There is certainly a place for courses/learning modules available online for anyone to work through, but I think most of you will likely agree with me that the role of an instructor in leading the class and facilitating student learning (whether it's helping students stay motivated, answering questions, providing individualized feedback, or whatever) is essential to student success. It seems to me that there's an increasing demand from various quarters for "online education" that means, to the speaker, instructorless education--and in the vast majority of cases, I don't think that's the right direction for us to be headed.

What strikes you about the plan?


Laura said...

If these online courses are to be free, then I don't think we can expect instructors to be involved in the learning process. Who is going to pay instructors for their time if they do this?
I did not read the article you reference but would students be getting credit for these courses? If so, then shouldn't they pay for them (the courses would be offered though some educational institution and some administrative work would be required to provide the credit). I take it that government funding would be provided for whoever develops the material but once developed, if the students will benefit from contact with instructors and/or educational institutions, then the students ought to pay for such services.

Nancy said...

I think that it would be great for there to be free courses for students to take to prepare for placement tests and other things that require students to know particular skills when they begin a course. Not all of our students would be disciplined or motivated enough to work on their own, but I think it would be wonderful to offer it for those who are. One of the big hurdles for students in developmental English and ESL courses is the sheer number of courses they need to take before getting into credit courses in English. If some courses were available for them to work on independently, it might help them. They often have complex schedules and multiple priorities that keep them from completing courses in a timely way -- even with incompletes. This might be a helpful option for some of them.

If the courses are going to be offered without instructors, then we might want to make some kind of fee option for use of the tutoring centers. We could also offer a 1-credit portfolio review and proctored writing exam so students could submit particular pieces of writing and proctored writing pieces for instructors to evaluate to determine student readiness for particular courses. The idea of free courses coud be a big draw for some students.

The other thing I think offering such courses would do is push us into developing skill-based entrance/exit tests/standards for some of these courses. Such tests could help us in ensuring that students have the skills they need to move forward in ESL and English courses.

I can envision several outcomes of making such courses available:

l. Some students would be able to move forward and take fewer NOVA developmental or ESL courses before reaching ENG 111. They would probably be likely to stick with NOVA for their other courses if they've had a good experience and see us as meeting their needs.

2. Some students would try this approach and fail. They might recognize their need for an instructor and then enroll in a distance or campus courses.

3. Some parts of the community would see us as working to be a resource truly available to all.

4. In skill-based courses like developmental English and ESL, we'd be moving away from the seat-time method of awarding credits to the achievement or mastery method of awarding credits. Given the non-linear structure of the internet and the way that students use it to find specific information when they need it, it might be an option that suits some of them better than the options we have now.

reading said...

it's good think for new english speaker that they avail this services on the internet . . it also provide useful content which will help to move ahead & speak well . .
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