With the final assignment, the EMA, submitted, it’s time to look back and jot down some impressions of this online course, the only compulsory one in the road towards the OU’s Master in Onlineand Distance Education (MAODE).
It definitely made sense for me to study technology-enhanced learning, which includes e-learning, through an online course. I believe that I learned as much from the course materials as from actively experiencing the online course as an ‘informed observer’. As the course materials were rather heavy on papers, bringing the main debates about technology in learning to the fore, these two forms of learning were complementary.
Online courses are sometimes touted as bringing ‘flexibility in time and space’. The two should be put into perspective though. The course starts at a fixed date and features weekly activities and regular deadlines. You can afford skipping a few days or a week at most, but all postponed work should still be caught up with. Besides, if you’re a few days late you probably miss all the discussion in the forum. Flexibility in space is more realistic as all course materials and communication can be found online. However, I found myself still printing most materials as I find it easier to take highlight and notes. I also found myself working for 90% of the time at the same spot. A fixed place to study helped me concentrate on my work.
The weekly course texts are excellent and are one of the main draws of the course. The texts are clearly composed with great care and written in a style that is accessible and motivating, like someone sitting in front of you is explaining the material to you. These texts refer to different activities, readings and web links. Usually readings come with some questions that can be discussed on the forum. I enjoyed interacting in this forum, sharing my thoughts and readings others’ reflections. The forum made the course more social and motivating for me, as well as the occasional Elluminate audio conferencing sessions. Most participants were somehow active in the education sector and reading their take on the questions enriched the course for me. Unfortunately, some participants preferred not to engage actively in the forum, and the little weight in the assessment didn’t seem motivating enough.
The course is designed by a course team, unlike courses in brick-and-wall institutions, which are often the product of one professor. A group of about 20 people has contributed to the H800 course, most of them OU staff, some hired from outside. I believe it certainly enhanced the quality of the course, as each topic has been written by a specialist and team work increases the likelihood that multiple perspectives would be considered. For example, some of the course team members are clearly more sceptical about the role of technology in learning. This diversity is for me also one of the advantages of formal studies, as obtaining a similar quality and range of viewpoints would be very hard.
Although the course team has designed the course, all student-teacher interactions are with a tutor. Positively, my tutor was very active on the course forum and responded quickly to all kinds of questions. Nevertheless, I would have liked more interactions with course team members, for example to discuss papers they’ve written that were included in the course.
It’s another two and a half months until the final results are published. The course is a 60 credits one, or one third of a Master Degree. In the meantime, I will be recharging, catching up on some of the suggested readings in H800 – there were so many, I could easily spend another year reading them – and thinking about the next course. H807 is the most likely option.