The content doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that the strategies employed were typical of traditional online learning practices. Yes, I called it traditional online learning! After all, online education has existed for decades in its present form. The course in which I enrolled required me to read short passages of material and click links to move from passage to passage. At the end of a “chapter” there were questions to be answered.
I’ll give points for the fact that there was immediate feedback for all answer choices and the student could not move on to the next concept until he or she picks the correct answer. I’m subtracting points for the fact that neither the questions nor the answer choices are randomized. Meaning I could eventually create pattern memory of the correct answer without even reading either question or answer. YIKES!
This approach of read the chapter and answer the questions is just not engaging. In fact, I found myself moving from reading for comprehension to scanning the text for contextual clues in order to move more quickly through the program. Pretty soon I began not to care if I missed a question or two because I knew it would prompt me and give me another chance to guess the right answer.
Being a student of Phil Schlechty’s work on design qualities (see the 3rd page of this document), I tried to find evidence of novelty, choice and authenticity in the design of the course I took…Crickets chirping, because there was none.
I found myself wanting to talk about this experience with other people (as in a learning community) while the design of the course offered no such avenue. Instead, I am taking it upon myself to form that community right here on the Bold Visions blog.
The icing on the cake was when I arrived at the end of the course. Having completed all parts successfully, I was offered the summative assessment (no authentic task here either) and after clicking submit, I was informed that I hadn’t spent the required 2 hours inside the course. In order to get credit I needed to “click around” inside the course for an additional period of time before I could actually submit my work! Gah – the travesty of this kind of teaching!
As a student I viewed my only options as either giving up (receiving no credit for my work) or cheating the system (watch TV while clicking a page every 3 or 4 minutes for the required period of time). Neither option resulting in increasing my curiosity or mastery of content.
And so I have compromised with myself. I’ll click around as required (I want proof I finished!) but meanwhile I will write this essay on disengaged online learning…