Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Blackboard and the Veil of Darkness

I quote from one of my recent posts elsewhere;
'Finally, while I am no big proponent of Blackboard for various reasons, one of the big problems that I have with it is the veil of secrecy that drops over everyone's courses. It is almost as if we are back to the secrecy that surrounds me teaching in a campus environment. If there are great innovative assignments or technology being used, who can find out about it. It is also hard to share information across courses. One of the great advantages of the web is its universal access and availability, and we can see what is being done in other courses. The MIT open courses, while not a great example, are a kind of good example of what can be done out there.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Online Course Design

I am re-posting here some comments that I recently made re the growing emasculation of instructors with the course design process at NVCC. This is a big step backward, and it seems that we are now encroaching on the way that hgih schools use Blackboard. I am also unclear whether our admin and staff, supposedly concerned with student success, really wants to engage in a discussion of this topic.

Here is my original note:
In a recent post to the ELI discussion about student success, Thomas Mora raised a very important point, a point that several other faculty commented upon throughout the discussion:

“Being one of those faculty who do not fully follow these course design principles, I would work with the faculty member to learn what their learning philosophy is and how it is evident in the design of the course. There is an assumption that there is ONE "correct" way to design a course. I do not subscribe to this philosophy. I believe we need to respect the expertise of the individual faculty member and find ways to work with them. I have felt that I am expected to follow these design principles without question. I do not remember being asked what assistance I need, but been told I need to participate in this process even though my courses have high completion rates. I do not feel respected for the expertise I have developed over the years of developing my course and working with
students. This creates (for me at least) a level of defensiveness for I feel I need to " protect" my territory. I feel ever increasing pressure to submit to course design principles (and changes to my
blackboard site) without consulting with me.’

I have the distinct impression from my conversations with my colleagues at ELI over the past year or so, that faculty teaching at ELI have lost control of the course design process, and that course design is being forced upon them without recognition of faculty’s specific expertise, course goals and intentions. (What Tom wrote is an excellent expression of this.) And it is pretty clear that the instructional designers, many of whom have far less actual course design and teaching experience than the faculty with whom they are working, are telling faculty what they must do in their courses instead of presenting faculty with what they could be doing, i.e., some options of what might work in their courses.

I like the way that Tom Mora wrote about the issue, and I believe that this issue of faculty course control is an important issue re the design and development of ELI courses, and while I recognize that
there may (and I only say “may) be some considerations re specific “good” distance learning practices, it is also clear that there are few, if any, “rules.” It remains pretty clear to me that a faculty instructor is the one who should have the final say about instructional content and process, not a course design, or redesign, team.

I think that the nature of the faculty/designer relationship at ELI merits some discussion to clarify the issues and processes involved. That relationship used to be pretty clear, but it is not so anymore. I do not think that this is a discussion that can take place on the discussion board or via Centra.