So far I have a list of probably ten items that I want to work on next year with the MnOnline Council. Clearly that is more than can possibly be done, especially with a group that meets only five times a year. Some things will need to sent to the Council Workgroups for their attention. I'm not going to post them all right here right now. That would be information overload and some of the ideas need a little more time to ferment before I express them. But here's one of them.
Major issue: I think students have far too little information about the online courses and programs for which we are enticing them to enroll.
If I told you I had a car for sale, would you buy it on that info alone? Is there a chance that you would want more information? For the most part we tell students that we have an accounting degree program available or a Cultural Anthropology course available online, tell them the price, tell them when it starts and ends, and assume that they don't really need to know any more info.
Providing much of the course info should probably be handled at the campus level, although I'm beginning to think that some systemwide guidelines wouldn't be a bad idea since we have students taking classes from several instiututions simultaneously. For example, does the course have any synchronous time requirements or any specific place requirements? Are there proctored exams or other assessments, and if so, how many? Does the course require group work? How many textbooks or other resources are required and at what cost? Are there special hardware or software requirements and what will they cost? How long are the windows of opportunity for submitting quizzes, papers, or other assignments? Are things typically due on a particular day and time (every Sunday at 11:59 PM, I always love that one), and if so, when? Controversial: how have previous students done in this class...are there available outcomes assessment data to review? How long has this instructor been teaching online? How many times has the instructor taught this particular course online?
It is of little wonder to me that so many students drop classes during the drop/add period when they first encounter course requirements that they don't like or can't handle. Had they known this information in the first place they likely would have chosen a course that is more to their liking, learning style, or time availability. Remember they are not a captive audience, they can walk (run) away very quickly with their little mouses or PDAs. Also, know that they talk to each other about this information, and they probably wonder right out loud why we don't tell them these things and what we're trying to hide.
Of course, I may be the only person concerned about these kinds of things.
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