This week I completed the course "Online Pedagogy in Practice EDU8114" at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). This is my second and final unit at USQ, before returning to the Australian National University to complete postgraduate studies in online tertiary teaching and research supervision.
Overall, the pedagogy course was similar to my previous experience with USQ's "Assessment, Evaluation and Learning" (EDU5713). USQ is well set up for supporting online students and my experience of online education was far superior to previous face-to-face studies, as well as superior to other online courses I have taken. The course materials are excellently designed, the tutor was expert and enthusiastic. However at times the tutor seemed overloaded with students.
The course content on the web site did not match the course notes, which caused confusion every week. The course forums were not used by more than a handful of students, as the forums were not integrated with the content and assessment for the course. These are curious flaws in a course which is about designing online courses.
The course content had few surprises for me, as it follows the same approach advocated by Professor Gilly Salmon, which I have used to design a course for the Australian Computer Society. One disappointment was that I selected USQ, partly because Professor Salmon had recently moved there, but she had left by the time my course commenced.
USQ's implementation of the Moodle Learning Management System and Mahara ePortfolio were reliable and effective. Some of the other USQ online systems worked only intermittently or not at all. In particular there were major problems with accessing online readings via the USQ library and I used other university libraries instead of USQ. Wimba Classroom is used for live online classes at USQ, but I was unable to get this to work reliably and had to dial in by phone for every session.
USQ has an excellent centralized online help facility. Unfortunately this system does not cover IT support, for which there is an online system which students do not have access to. So I had the frustrating experience of the IT support system sending me automated messages, inviting me to log-on to a system I was not authorized to use.
USQ is interested in student feedback, but I seemed to get a survey to complete every week, and in the last week of the course, a survey every day. This became more than a little annoying. So each time I got another survey I would lower my rating of USQ. As a result, the surveys may be lowering student satisfaction, rather than helping improve it.
Overall studying at USQ was worthwhile. But contrary to the impression given by TV ads, any university study is hard work and a very frustrating experience much of the time.
What was most useful for me, as a student of education, was the experience of being a student again. As an ICT professional, web designer, university lecturer and an award winning e-learning designer, I though an online course in online pedagogy would be easy. But being a student is not easy and I discovered I still have much to learn about improving the experience for my students.
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