Some issues when developing web based teaching material and on line courses


Introduction - Appropriate / Adequate content: a problem with developing online courses

My web site does not attempt to provide in any way a complete 'online' course. To produce a good quality on line course a massive amount of continual effort is required. Clearly impossible for one person, and probably only organisations with a significant amount of expertise (i.e the Open University) can produce anything which equates to a good traditional experience. This is clearly the case when one considers that a OU unit usually involves (a unit is the amount of work expected from a student in one week for a particular module) :

Over a longer period the student also may be involved in:

The question is how can someone hope to provide a comparable experience with regard to quality of teaching material? I believe this can partly be achieved by using a mixed approach. This involves:


Gradualist versus big bang

What I feel is very important is to develop a gradualist approach when aiming towards a completely Web based course delivery. Any good teacher continually adapts to meet the needs of students and the first few times a course is run is usually a mutual learning experience. I feel therefore it would be foolhardy to devise a new course with new material initially for web delivery. Such a strategy would mean that the teachers would be to a large extent cushioned from any problems, with students and the dissatified ones just dropping out for no appaarant reason. Using material that already works can to some extent minimise this problem.

Clearly at each stage of the courses development it should be fully evaluated from a number of perspectives including that of both the students, teachers as well as an economic appriasal. As with traditional courses students should be involved in all aspects of the course design.

Why have a completely on line course?

From the students perspective the advantages of such a method of delivery usually focuses on distance and the enhanced experience of 'multi-media' type approaches. However the cost of developing (and maintaining) good multimedia should not be understimated.

From a financial perspective there is a break even point dependent upon the number of students. Simply traditional methods are believed to be most economic for small to medium sized groups, but for large groups web based delivery is believed to offer significant financial advantages (I have not cone across any good quality empirical research yet - anyone care to suggest any?)..

This page is ment to be rather provocative and the author has deliberately painted a picture that may not be altogether unbiased.

Robin Beaumont Tel. UK 0191 2731150