Putting a Course On-line

I've mentioned before that I am in the process of putting one of my courses, Understanding Vietnam, entirely online for the coming Summer Session. It has been a frustrating & difficult process so far, though I think I am about to break through into understanding. Because I am used to the continuous scroll of blogging, I have found creating discrete "learning units" counter-intuitive. Beyond habit, though, I think the two approaches make different assumptions about the nature of learning. In the end, I'm just not convinced that learning can be "unitized" in the way that Blackboard demands without a loss of the essentially improvisational nature of teaching & learning. There is a sense in which, once I have loaded all the units into the course, I have finished teaching it. (That's one reason I'm taking such trouble to get the structure right.) Once the course is loaded into the system, all I have to do is sit back & watch the students take it unit by unit like so many pills. Of course, I monitor their progress through the material & ultimately assign grades. The very language in which I have written the last couple of sentences reveals, I think, the questionable philosophical assumptions on which the software is based. So why am I doing it? Because I think it's inevitable that we will move some of our courses online & I want to know how to do it. Because, by going through this process, I will have earned the right to suggest other systems, other approaches.  Because I'm interested in whether the whole distance learning thing can be done legitimately. Actually, I think it can be--I'm just not sure how. I'm pretty sure the way its currently being done in the for-profit sector is a crock. Well, time to walk the dogs, then get back inside the belly of the Blackboard beast.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

2 thoughts on “Putting a Course On-line”

  1. I did an online course for the first time last summer. One thing my students really liked was something somewhat like podcasting–once or twice a week I would post an audio clip, usually 7 to 10 minutes. These weren’t lectures but meditations on what issues that I thought needed more reflection. I didn’t write a text or even an outline beforehand. Here’s an example. I don’t think it is one of my better ones, but you will appreciate the topic and my sense of wanting to talk through it, not leave the students just with readings and my online notes. [Pam’s syllabus is here. jd]

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