Inspiration for Students of Instructional Design and Technology

For this week’s assignment, we were tasked with reviewing an open courseware class and judging it against the standards specified in our course textbook. I chose the Human Memory and Learning course, which intrigued me because we learned about this topic in an earlier Walden class. The course link is:

http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/brain-and-cognitive-sciences/9-081-human-memory-and-learning-fall-2002/index.htm

MIT Open Courseware InitiativeThis course is part of MIT’s Open CourseWare Initiative program, a “high-profile open courseware project” that promises to “greatly expand the number and range of instructional resources available to instructors teaching online” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p. 141).The following are my answers to the assignment questions.

Does the course appear to be carefully pre-planned and designed for a distance learning environment?

No, this course is merely an upload of lecture notes. When designing a distance learning course, teachers should resist the urge to simply upload their course materials to the Web, creating “shovelware” rather than a true distance learning experience (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 134).

Does the course follow the recommendations for online instruction as listed in your course textbook?

No. Clarifying the organization and requirements of a course is a fundamental feature of online teaching (Simonson et al., 2012).The online version of this course does provide a syllabus, calendar, and list of assignments. However, these items are for a face-to-face class, not an online class. I still thought I might receive value from the posted lecture notes. However, I found them to be nothing more than a brief outline of topics. In addition, I followed links to the course readings, but discovered only abstracts. The full texts were viewable for pay only. When designing for online learning, the instructor should focus on the visual presentation of materials (Simonson et al., 2012). A few other courses that I browsed included videos of class lectures, which would have been more beneficial than the lecture notes provided in the course I reviewed.

Did the course designer implement course activities that maximize active learning for the students?

No. Instructors teaching a distance course should plan activities that “encourage interactivity” and “allow for student group work” (Simonson et al, 2012, p. 153). Although one of the course assignments was to lead a class discussion, this was only in a face-to-face setting.

Conclusion

After reviewing the Human Memory and Learning course on MIT’s Open Courseware site, I was perplexed about its purpose. This course certainly did not fit my idea of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) as it obviously was not a real distance learning class. Perhaps an instructor wanting to teach a similar class might be able to use the syllabus as a starting point. However, as someone wanting to learn more about memory and learning, I came away empty handed. I briefly perused some other courses on the MIT site, and it seemed that many of them were simply materials for a traditional class that had been “shoveled” online.

coursera

I also looked at coursera.org, and I suspect the open courses on that site may fit the definition of distance learning. With coursera, you sign up for a class starting on a designated date in the future, and there is an actual instructor. For example, the E-Learning and Digital Cultures class lists videos, readings, discussions, and collaboration under the class format. Upon completion, students receive a certificate but no college credit. Unfortunately, since this course starts in January of next year, I could not review it for this assignment. Although open courses are becoming popular and hold the promise of “democratizing higher education” (Lewin, 2012, para. 4 ), this assignment left me wondering if you don’t, in fact, get what you pay for.

References

Lewin, T. (2012, March 4). Instruction for masses knocks down campus walls. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/05/education/moocs-large-courses-open-to-all-topple-campus-walls.html

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

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