Later this week I will embark on a new endeavor. I will be creating my first online course. After I create it, I will then facilitate the course for about ten students. We have started two programs online at WPC, and both seem to be moving forward. In a couple of weeks we will have a F2F meeting with the students to see how everything is going. With the advancement of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) many schools are moving in this direction. It is interesting that according to research conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Learning, online schools are the least respected by hiring companies. I don’t think this means online courses, but only those schools that exclusively offer online courses.
Stanford has now gone down the online road. John Taylor, professor of Economics at Stanford University, wrote about is experience in today’s WSJ. He noted that he usually taught ECON 1 in a large lecture hall with hundreds of students, but this summer he tried something new, an online version of the course. What he writes about his experience is exactly what I have observed with the development of our courses, in other words a course that is well thought out, with excellent assignments, and weekly activities that demonstrate how students are learning. I think some of our onground courses could learn from this development process.
Taylor wrote, “The course was called ECON 1v. Last fall, after each ECON 1 classroom lecture, I went to the recording studio and gave the same talk divided into smaller segments, for easier online viewing. Producers then mixed in graphs, photos, videos, illustrations and captions, and indexed each video for easy searching.” He goes on to describe how they “supplemented these videos – about 70 in all – with study materials, and discussion forums on Stanford’s online platform at Class.Stanford.EDU.” This is set up in a similar format as MOOCs. Although WPC does not have the same resources as a Stanford, we are developing our courses in the same manner.
As I read this article this morning, and read Parker Palmer, I have to wonder will online courses help students find the sense of integration so desperately needed in their lives? Or as Palmer describes it, are they developing the skills needed to live an undivided life? I agree with Palmer when he states, “Our colleges and universities need to encourage, foster, and assist our students, faculty, and administrators in finding their own authentic way to an undivided life where meaning and purpose are tightly interwoven with intellect and action, where compassion and care are infused with insight and knowledge.”
I have no doubt that we are giving our students at WPC an opportunity to develop this sense of integration. I also believe that Faculty and Administrators have an opportunity to accomplish this. However, I have to ask this question, what about an online student? Do they have the opportunity to develop their own authentic way to an undivided life? After thinking about this, I have say yes, but they need to be aware enough to recognize it.
The modality does not make any difference when it comes to a motivated person and their ability to grow intellectually. Some people need an onground environment to learn and grow, while others are more internally motivated. These folks are usually reading, thinking, praying, and accomplishing other developmental activities to grow and live an undivided life.
In our business program, my goal is for my students to be able to be Christ centered business practitioners who want to serve their communities. This seems to me to be an important skill, one that is authentic. In other words a life filled with meaning and purpose, focused on weaving intellect and action, theory and practice, by using intellect and knowledge to compassionately care for those around us.
I truly believe that a student who studies at WPC will learn these very important skills, at least in our onground offerings. I also think those who take our online offerings will be able to accomplish this, but many will not. It will depend on the individual.
And that I my thought for the day!