Wednesday, July 01, 2009

E-learning more popular than blended course

I planned to run the course Green ICT Strategies (COMP7310) at the Australian National University in a blended mode: e-learning via the web with optional seminars on campus. But this has not been popular with the students and yesterday I decided to drop the on campus seminars making it a pure e-learning course.

This is disappointing as I wanted to combine the best of the on-campus experience with distance education. The idea was that the students would have the flexibility to choose if they needed the on-campus component or not, each week, as their needs and circumstances dictated.

However, it has become clear that this flexibility just caused confusion. The students wanted to know if this was an e-learning course, or not. When I tried to explain about optional seminars this just confused them more.

In addition there was the cost of running the face to face seminars to consider. The seminars require about as much in resources as the e-learning component, while only making up about one tenth of the course. There did not seem to be much point in spending so much effort on something of limited value which the students did not want anyway.

Also I included the seminars as a way to make the course more palatable to more more conservative academic colleagues. I assumed that they would have a bias against pure e-learning courses, seeing them as not real courses. However, this has not been the case and they welcomed the e-learning idea. Like the students, my idea of blended mode with optional seminars just caused confusion.

I might still schedule one or two seminars during the semester and invite the students along, with staff, government and company people, to discuss green ICT issues. One student expressed interest in having their assessment by way of a seminar presentation, rather than a written essay. It may be that after the semester commences the students may welcome some face to face interaction, provided it is not seen as a required part of the course. I would still welcome speakers for seminars, but the planned "ANU Green ICT Seminar Series 2009", is cancelled.

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