The other day I sat down with the instructors from one of the programs in our college to discuss the curriculum review process they were about to go through. The program is offered completely online and face-to-face with most of the instructors teaching in both environments. Because our credit system has recently changed, we are going to have reduce the program by 9 credits. As part of this process we will have to analyze the current program and then evaluate whether or not the current credits assigned to each course are accurate. We determine this by taking into account the Instructional time, Lab time and Tutorial time required for each course. When I was explaining the process we were about to go through, one of the instructors asked me how we determine “Instructional” time in an online course. To be honest, this isn’t really clearly defined anywhere that I can find. He made the point that his online course has already been developed and pretty much runs itself. His role (in his opinion) isn’t nearly as important in his online class as it is in the face-to-face class. I asked him if he thought his presence in the class had any effect on the participants learning. Salmon (2011) states that e-moderators should be self-aware and demonstrate interpersonal sensitivity and be able to influence? I wanted to know if he was capable of ‘influencing’ how his students thought, interpreted readings or participated in discussions and other activities in his online course. He wasn’t sure. I then asked him to think about his role in the classroom when his students were participating in a discussion or working on a collaborative project. In this case, he was confident that he still needed to be ‘present’ and help guide the learning, while at the same time knowing when to step back. When I asked him why this should be any different in an online environment, he said he hadn’t ever thought of it that way. I then asked him if he would approach his online course differently as a result of the conversation we just had.

I came across the following infographic that I thought was relevant:

One of the biggest challenges for course designers and instructors is deciding how to include interactivity in an online course (Fuller, Kuhne and Frey 2011). These interactions can be among the participants (students and instructor) and also between participants and the content. Knowing the nature of the course, the types of learners and what types of resources are available should also be taken into account. I agree with Tony Bates (2012) when he says these important design decisions need to be made at the program level rather than the course level. This will allow for scaffolding and better alignment of learning opportunities.  In the case of the instructor mentioned earlier in this post, I hope that the program review will address some of these issues including the role of the instructor in all the courses offered in this program. After all, shouldn’t this be consistent throughout the entire learning experience rather than hit and miss depending on which instructor teaches which course?

Salmon, G. (2011). E-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online (3rd Ed.) New York and Abingdon: Routledge.

Bates, T. (2012). Cohere conference on blended learning. Retrieved from http://www.tonybates.ca/2012/10/21/cohere-conference-on-blended-learning/

MacMeekin, M. (ND). My first infographic. Retrieved from http://anethicalisland.wordpress.com/author/anethicalisland/

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