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online learningI’m taking an online course this summer through the University of Western Ontario. It’s called an AQ, which stands for additional qualification, and is part of a modular system of credits one can add to a teacher’s certification to expand their areas of expertise. This is part three of three, and will give me a specialist designation in teaching French as a Second Language.

This isn’t one of those MOOC classes—we had to prove eligibility for the course (by taking the part one and part two modules previously—and passing a test or interview to qualify for those) and we get an actual, real-world credit for it.

I thought it might be fun to bring TeleRead along for the journey. The last AQ credit I took—also with this university—was four years ago. Has online learning progressed since then?

1. The Textbook

online learningThe big innovation this time around is … no textbook! The part one course five years ago had one. The part two course four years ago had one, but you could get a digital version as well, which turned out to be a fiasco of usability issues locked by DRM restrictions. Well, they’ve done away with it now. The organizer for each module of the course now incorporates links throughout with articles and websites to visit and read.

What has not changed is the manner in which these readings play into your final grade for the course. As I did before, I have to both initiate conversations, and respond to conversations initiated by others, in a way that proves I’ve done the readings. Since the course is only four weeks long, I’m expected to do this every day!

2. The Technical Setup

The course is set up as a website—you log in, and a side panel offers links to the organizer (which contains the course content), your mailbox (where you can receive emails or messages from the professor and other students), the file area (where you upload your assignments) and the forum (where most of the work happens).

The forum is, unfortunately, a horrible setup.online learning

I would have preferred a Google Reader-esque side panel that would list the messages so I could click and read. Unfortunately, it’s all one giant screen.

There are several different forum areas (the main discussion, areas for the different groups of a small-group course-long project, and a place to post questions for the teacher), and they’re all just plopped in.

What’s worse is that once you open up one area and read a message, it reloads the entire forum when you mark it as being read—this means you’re back to the homepage with the list of all the forums, and you have to go through the root levels and back down to where you were again.

Hugely clunky! Ick!

3. The Workload

They gave us one day to read the organizer and introduce ourselves to each other, and now we’re onto the real stuff. As best as I can determine from the many “Read this first” files the instructor has posted thus far, my responsibilities for the first module include the following:

• Read through the organizer and introduce myself, which I’ve done
• Initiate a discussion based on a question that’s been assigned to me
• Initiate a discussion based on a reading that’s been assigned to me
• Respond to topics initiated by others, on a daily basis, citing the readings
• Write a short paper comparing two articles I must find myself

That will take us to July 8, at which point the paper is due and the second module commences.

4. Initial Impressions

This feels much the same as my previous courses did. And I am a little surprised by that. No video content yet? No Skype chat? Just typing on that horrible forum in a way that proves I have done the readings? Um, OK …

Stay tuned for my thoughts next week on Module Two.

Maybe it gets more fun later?

 
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