Tracy asks this (and several other important questions) in a comment on her “Whats in a grade?” post:
“Are we trying to learn how to effectively set up on-line classes for an educational environment?”
It points out an important disconnect that may well be at the root of much of the confusion about what it is we’re doing here because, oddly, the answer to this is “no.” We WILL be doing it anyway, but that’s not really one of the goals of the class. Perhaps a quote from the syllabus:
- Understand the concepts and history of distance education
- Select the appropriate distance learning tools to maximize student learning
- Analyze and discuss current practice in distance education
- Research and identify effective distance education practice
- Discuss learning theories and how they relate to distance education practices
For those who have been twitting me all semester about not stating the goals upfront, these *have* been posted since before the semester started. They *are* the goals established by the curriculum committee for this class and which I am bound to teach. Please pick out the goal that includes “implement.”
There isn’t one and there’s a good reason for that. This is not a class in application. It’s a class in background. When we’re done here, the idea is that you have an understanding of what distance education might be and how that varies from what you’re told, taught, and believe about education in general. You’ll be able to look at education research and begin to start taking it apart to look for flaws and fallacies. You’ll have some experience in working with the tools and with the process of tool selection. As a capstone you were *supposed* to write a research paper, but I balked at that — instead requiring a capstone project for each of you to demonstrate your understanding of the underlying content. Technically, the implementation isn’t a goal. It’s just the mechanism I’m using for evaluation because I wanted to give you some practice in performance based assessment by being subject to one.
There’s a really good reason for this.
The probability is very high that few of you will ever be allowed — and I use that term deliberately — to do much of what we’ve talked about in terms of distance education using online tools and affordances with your K-12 classes. Some of you have run into the bureaucracy already. There are a lot of good ideas for using bits and pieces. Since I believe that even your classroom based classes are “at a distance,” I think that a LOT of what we are talking about has direct application in your classrooms — something you’re pretty much all fighting me on because, as you point out, I don’t really understand classroom teaching with kids. And if there’s little direct applicability for actual implemention because of the political, social, and financial realities of your practice, then why in the wide world would we spend your time teaching it to you?
In hindsight, I should have twigged to this earlier. There’s plenty of evidence that nobody read the syllabus, and while I knew that a lot of your frustration was based in a disconnect between your expectation for the course and the experience of it, I completely missed this aspect of the disconnect. The title of the course is “Principles of Distance Education” but I missed the fact that many of you were unaware of the distinction between “principles” and “practice.” I hope this post clears that up and you can relax a bit and pay attention to what’s going on IN the course and not what you thought the course was “supposed” to be.