Sunday, 6 March 2016

Activity: How to Ruin a Course

At last, an activity that practically qualifies as therapy.  This task is to list ten things that can ruin a course - I'm taking it to mean online course as that is what we are ultimately designing. Responses from other people can be found here.

My top ten (in no particular order).

  1. Fuzzy thinking and lack of purpose: Everyone, no matter their age or background will have some point at which they pause and stop to ask themselves "so why am I being asked to do this?" Different kinds of learners will have different motivations (extrinsic or intrinsic) and although theory says some pedagogical approaches are more one that the other, with either approach if the course isn't clear why things need to be done, how they are relevant, how it all fits together, eventually something will give. So the design of the course needs to state and restate how each part fits into the whole. I don't accept that only applies to an associative approach (only) in fact I think it is even more important in something very situative of constructivist (the other learners may co-construct that structure, but they won't do it by accident). I still remember being told to submit a learning journal for the NPQH course when it bore no relation to the course objectives or how I would be assessed, and frankly I wanted to pass and move on to the next job - so my motivation and learning from the experience was not good.
  2. Mistakes in the materials: An online course lives and dies by the quality of what learners self-access. A broken link is terrible. Two is distressing. A file that won't open, a document that is outdated. All of these things break flow, waste precious time and make it more likely the learner will just skip ahead and not actually explore that part of the course. Also, with an online course, the provider saves a huge amount of cost - some of that saving needs to be reflected in the quality of the materials. My personal yardstick is that if it looks and feels worse than what I'd expect to see outside work, it probably isn't good enough - and a dead link on Amazon would indeed be a #fail.
  3. Setting high expectations and under-delivering: People will take on board advice about what to expect and not expect. Some will still push that, but to promise support of any kind and then not have it there when it is needed is another cardinal sin. Better to say "support is only available by email" and mean it.
  4. Lack of feedback: If you're struggling or puzzled a three line email can be a life saver. Opportunities for peer feedback, to view model responses to reassure yourself you're on the right track, to engage with course staff are all essential - and they don't need to be highly intensive. Working in total isolation required a lot of motivation.
  5. Poor dynamics: A course is like any kind of event or 'show' - it needs changes of pace, episodes, highs, quiet moments. A monotone tick-tock-tick will lose people.
  6. Technical issues: Enough said. Everything has to be tested and tested again. When there are issues the route to solve them is essential.
  7. Fail to provide the right kinds of choice: Choice is not always a good thing, but to offer more than one way to interact with material from time to time gives ownership and allows self-differentiation.
  8. Setting pointless activities, that everyone knows are pointless: Back to the point at the start. Filler. OK the course needs to say it will take 4 hours, but honestly if I can learn it in 2, don't make me waste 2 hours doing something that doesn't take me to the right place.
  9. Fail to get the social presence aspect of the COI right: Back to 4 and 5 - if there is to be a peer to peer element, pay attention to it, set expectations and enforce them. Otherwise as the studies of cMOOCs found, people retreat into their comfort zone.
  10. Fail to take account (and to exploit) the personal/ agency presence of the COI right: Nobody does a course as a blank slate, whether it be in reception or postgrad. Assuming there is nothing outside the course to use and build on is a resource wasted.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to comment. All comments are moderated - I will aim to review your comment quickly and make sure it is made available.