Online Course

I've been racing to finish getting my Understanding Vietnam course ready for its wholly online launch in a week. I have thirteen students signed up, which is a good number, I think. As I have mentioned here before, the university is using the Blackboard "learning system" for its new online courses & while I am now familiar enough with the software that getting around inside it is no longer a problem, I continue to have philosophical & pedagogical problems with the system. It is proprietary, which in my view sucks. Software improves when it has a community of developers, as in the open source model. But the main problem is that Blackboard consists of a set of pre-defined categories that presume the developers know what the educational dynamic is about. This causes what I'd call a registration problem -- you know, when the various layers of a printed image don't quite match up, leaving blurry edges of weird colors. I'd rather have a blank sheet, something much more like a blog. Now, given what I've just written, this is ironic: I'm using weekly Powerpoint slide shows in place of lectures for this course. (I would have liked to use something like Demo Builder, which I played around with & which creates svn / Flash files, but the learning curve & the fact that I'm working on an ancient laptop* made this too big of an undertaking for this first all-online version of the course.) I feel very comfortable in Powerpoint, actually. I try to follow Tufte's rules, but given that the course is completely online, I'm using more text than I would if the slides were coming up behind me as I lectured in a classroom. Powerpoint, in user look & feel is closer to blogging than Blackboard. (He chuckles ruefully.) _____________________ *The university is getting me a new machine, but the funds don't become available until July 1st, about two-thirds of the way through my summer course & way too late for this development phase in any case.

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.

4 thoughts on “Online Course”

  1. Have you (or Clarkson) checked out Moodle? A fully open-source platform with a few developers on board to extend it might give you a lot more flexibility…

  2. I’ve heard of it, Larry. The problem is “a few developers on board.” Clarkson is a historically a “tech school” but we have a strange aversion to open source, bottom up systems. I wish it weren’t so,

  3. Today at Tacoma Public Library we did The King’s English, as I mentioned in an earlier comment. I brought in a print-out of the blog entry – Ashbery. The five found it interesting. When we closed the group for the summer I was added a favorite novel to a list – Borderliners, by Peter Hoeg, about post-world-war-two students at what was once a Grundtvigian folk school. Grundtvigian teaching philosophy directs a lot to the students aloud.

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