Are Faculty Members Able To Build Good Online Courses – The Challenge of Content

on November 8 | in Administrator's Perspective, Course Creation, E-Learning, MOOCs | by | with 1 Comment

In general, most faculty members are classroom instructors who lack the skills and experience necessary to create good online courses.   There are several aspects which contribute to this assessment.

Professors are generally expert in an aspect of their fields.  That is, they are specialists in an increasingly specialized academic world.  Broad disciplines like economics, psychology, sociology, history and the physical sciences have in recent decades been carved into specialized sub-disciplines.   Faculty members are often hired in the sub-disciplines; that is, for example, a person is hired not as a professor of economics but as a professor of financial economics, or of experimental economics, etc.  The research faculty members do is in narrow sub-fields of the sub-disciplines of the broader disciplines – for example, in the capital markets sub-field of the sub-discipline of financial economics.  When teaching more generalized courses, faculty members rely on textbooks (or course packets gathered from multiple sources) for content.   What the instructors bring to the classroom is interpretation of the textbook; enhanced explanations; insightful commentary; exciting examples especially drawn from their own specialties; attention to the students and their needs for elucidation and support.  This is a great deal.

In consequence of increased specialization, most instructors do not have sufficient command of the subject matter of the course(s) they teach to create a full course.   This is especially true for the broad courses which constitute most of an undergraduate or master’s level professional curriculum.  It is less true of highly specialized courses in Ph.D.-level curricula in which the professor teaches primarily material with which she or he is intimately familiar.

In general, instructors add considerable value to the institution and to students by their teaching, without being able to write their own textbooks or, most likely, author their own online courses.

This has two adverse consequences.

a.     A faculty member will have to do considerable work to up-date himself or herself with his or her field in order to prepare a full course.   He or she may not relish this new assignment and may believe he or she is entitled to additional compensation in some form (a lesser teaching load; a higher salary; a bonus; time off entirely from teaching and administrative responsibilities).

b.    A faculty member is likely to include assignments in traditional printed textbooks as part of an online course she or he authors.   In this case a student must still pay for a regular textbook and also may be charged for the online components of the course.  This will increase the cost to the student of course materials when there is already considerable complaint about current cost levels.

Because most instructors are not well-prepared to author on-line courses, the content of the new online courses may be inferior to that of courses produced and provided elsewhere.   Online, such comparisons are not difficult to make.  If this is the case, the institution involved will end up with sub-standard online courses prepared by their own faculty.   This is not likely to be a successful response to the challenge of the MOOCs.

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One Response to Are Faculty Members Able To Build Good Online Courses – The Challenge of Content

  1. Judy says:

    nice! this green is more soothing, while mananiiting continuity with the old one.also, you'll probably find that the sidebar could use pruning anyway and this is a good time to do it.

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