Monday, January 28, 2013

Linked Online Courses?

Okay, I admit, this is crowdsourcing as a blatant attempt to save time.  Researching this formally would be quite an undertaking, but I’m hoping that some of my wise and worldly readers have seen something like this.

We’ve been experimenting with variations on “learning communities” and “linked courses.”  Different campuses define those terms differently, and not every nuance is relevant here.  For present purposes, I’m looking at two or three courses in which the students are the same but the professors and subjects change.  (Here, we call those “linked courses.”)  Everybody in Professor Freud’s Psych 101 is also in Professor Van Helsing’s Intro to Phlebotomy, say.  The idea is that the students are likelier to bond with each other, form support groups, and the like, if they see the same faces from class to class.

We’re running multiple variations on the format; right now the finding I’m comfortable sharing is that the model works best when it doesn’t take up every course in a student’s schedule.  A little variety goes a long way.  But when you offer, say, a bloc of three courses that students have to take in unison, the logistical conflicts multiply.  So many of our students work 30 or 40 hours a week for pay, often with variable hours, that the rigidity of a linked course model may defeat some of its possible gains.

In trying to figure out how to balance the “group bonding” benefit of a cohort model with the obvious need for flexibility, someone suggested including an online course in the mix.  

I was intrigued.  On the one hand, it would obviously introduce some flexibility into the scheduling.  On the other, I’m not sure whether the group bonding would carry over from the classroom to the screen.

Has anyone out there seen or tried that?  Does it work?