For those of you who don’t know, a couple of months ago I moved into an administration position at my institution. I now oversee the online learning program for our university. It has been a wonderful transition to a job that seems to be made for me. It allows me to combine my teaching, with my research in online learning, with my interest in technical writing. The best of all worlds. I also still teach three courses…a topic for another post.
So, part of my new job is to review newly developed online courses to ensure they meet our Quality Matters adapted course guidelines and create an effective and engaging learning experience for our students. In the last week, I’ve reviewed probably six or seven courses from across disciplines. On the surface, they all meet the minimum guidelines. That should mean these courses are built to create an interactive, user-centered learning environment. So why do I feel lackluster at best about these courses? They meet QM standards, but now what?
I recently reviewed a new course on multimedia learning. Yet, the only multimedia included in the course was a video. What’s worse? I can’t even say for sure that the video was accessible. Let me say at this point that our faculty work with instructional designers who have been through Quality Matters training, so, in theory, accessibility is a serious consideration when building a course. That being said, I get the sense that my institution is at the place where many institutions are–we’ve implemented Quality Matters. Now what do we do?
Here’s where I struggle. I’m currently attending a distance learning conference that’s discussing many of these issues. Today I heard from some great faculty on my campus who are integrating wonderful, engaging elements into their course based on survey responses from students about what they look for in a course–they’re really personalizing the learning experience to give the students what they expect. Fabulous! So why the gaping difference between the courses I’m seeing and the courses they’re building? I was talking with one of our IDs at lunch today who said he believes our guidelines checklist is in need of an update. I would go a little further and say our guidelines checklist needs an overhaul. And I wonder how many institutions are in our spot. Several years ago we created a process that integrated QM standards, and we’ve done nothing since. It’s time.
There are incredible tools available to faculty, but many of them fall outside those already integrated into a given LMS. Let’s explore them. There are many ways to create a course that is both accessible and engaging. Let’s see examples. There are best practices to designing a web site. Let’s integrate that into course design. You see, I think what I’m finding is that our online learning program is ready for the next generation of course design improvements. I know we have the talent in our instructional designers and IT specialists. But you know the saying, if it ain’t broke? But, the problem is. I think it is broken. So, let’s get minds together and find the fix. I’m anxious for it, and I think our students are, too.