Friday, September 23, 2005
Getting Good At It
“A new version of (our web platform) is coming out this Fall, and it’s completely different from the current one. Everyone will have to be trained on the new one.”
The folks who are already offering courses online will have to go through the same training as the folks who aren’t sure about this newfangled ‘electricity’ thing. It has ‘morale killer’ written all over it.
I saw the same thing, magnified, at my previous school. At one point, we had used three different platforms in three consecutive semesters. The faculty were livid, since they spent all of their time in the low-payoff part of the learning curve. They didn’t have enough time to get good at it.
I’m wrestling with a similar issue at home. The Wife bought me a nifty, cool, way-fun object of techno-geek lust, and I’m trying to figure out how to use it. It will probably be a blast, once I figure out how to make it go. Until then, it’s an annoying time-suck. Thirtysomething that I am, I keep analogizing it to earlier technologies, incorrectly. Damn that historical memory.
It’s futile to ask innovation to slow down, I know, and probably a bad idea anyway. But from a faculty perspective, time spent learning to use the new web platform is time wasted. They want to be able to get good at it right away, to spend time on actual course material, and they’re right.
Hell is a series of workshops.
I suppose it depends on what they're changing. Are the upgrades necessary or just out of habit?
If it were at all possible, I'd squeeze the techies and make them work harder, rather than the faculty. There's fewer of 'em, at least.
A few issues have come to light:
1. A system is being implemented before they know it actually works.
2. Most of the faculty have ante-deluvian computers that can take up to half an hour for one class list to be generated. The techies obviously have recent computers that are a lot faster.
3. The reaction by IT is to retreat behind jargon and let everyone else deal with the mess.
and my school charges for printing, too (well we have a 25$ allowance, which gets used up pretty quickly considering that we have to print out readings), so... i'm not too happy about that, especially when some professors are actually putting every reading on the web.
on the other hands, things like online posting, multimedia, etc are cool.
One of the ways of encouraging faculty (since this is our second webframe in the last 3 years) is to offer stipends for course development. This also allows some oversight and support in the semester before the course starts up. Looked like a good idea to me. I was scheduled for 2 online courses in spring 2006.
Two problems I've had with that: one is that the dept heads signed me up for going online next semester in two different depts. When I filed the stipend proposal, suddenly the deans noticed that I was doing two new courses in one semester. Not only did I not get the funding, but one of the courses got pulled (ostensibly for my own peace of mind). So if there are going to be negative consequences of applying for funding, I can imagine faculty having some reservations about participating.
Another part of the support and mentoring is offering monthly brown bag lunches with the instructional development folk. This would be a great idea, but the last time I went, and asked my questions, I wasn't thinking of the dean's attendance in her role as quality control and stipend awarder. The next day the group met on the stipend proposals and I suspect that my questions might have been in the back of her mind -- maybe indicating that I'm struggling. Having someone attend what should be an open discussion who could later withdraw faculty from an online course inhibits the kind of questioning faculty can do.
doesn't address your question in the abstract, but I'm deep in the practical right now.
So the initial package trashed the internal email system (becuse it duplicate other email systems--but it also guaranteed that email was not spam and did not carry viruses), it trashed the instructor's ability to create groups within a class (private spaced for each group). The new version does not allow an instructor to impose accessibility controls on on-line quizzes, which the old one did. Maerial posted mysteriously disappears. And, at leas for now, the gradebook feature is not present--they rolled the new program out without it.
And when I went to a training session, we spent almost 2 hours receiving no information of value.
Now, why would anyone be upset by all of that?
If you want to tie this to student services and backend (i.e. automated grade-keeping) you can, but most instructors in B&M take grades manually. Why is this so anathema to online courses? Maybe you need a function to help the folks who use Scantrons, but beyond that?
It just goes too far without reason.
Anyone remember MUDs? OK, you can stop laughing now.
I do use Blogger with students for collaborative blogs and will continue to do as long as it's free. But there is published research showing that online courses take more of the instructor's time than do classroom courses. If the students email you at 2 p.m. on Saturday morning, they expect answers now, not Monday. Well screw that.
as a educational technology person in the midwest, i have to, respectfully, call bull$&^* on the way most schools are using technology. schools accept things from their tech departments that they would never accept from any other. Meetings with no results, changes that were not required or inspired by the users. You would never accept a faculty member to have required reading that only 25% of the class could access.
Too often, schools let their lack of knowledge about technology mean that the techies get to dictate what happens. You need a middle person--someone who understands technology but from a teaching and curricular view. If you don't have this, decisions are made based on technology only, rather than what is best for the instructors and learners at your institution.
It's so bad that students at my school set up an external web site, which is what I use. I just email a student supplemental material and she adds it to the site. No muss, no fuss -- and the kids do a better job than the 'professionals'...