Archive for October, 2012

On-Line Education Experience, The Home Stretch

I just completed the 6th week of the 8 week Intro to Sustainability course from University of Illinois and Coursera.  So far so good.

The good news is that it looks like I’m passing. There are 3 ways to achieve a “badge” from the course, a) achieve 70% or better on the quizzes, b) participate in the weekly online discussions or c) complete a project.  Being a traditionalist myself, I opted for option a. I must admit that this has been pretty eye-opening to me. Nothing like being on the other side of the desk to get you to think about things.  But more on that in a bit.
Each week there are 2 quizzes, one about 20 questions, one about 5, most all multiple choice. It’s not clear if they will be equally weighted, so I’m counting them separately. Here’s what I’ve done through week 5 (week 6 will be released tomorrow). Long quiz first, shorter quiz second.

Week 1: 90%, 60%

Week 2: 70% 87.5%

Week 3: 85%, 83%

Week 4: 92%, 95%

Week 5: 80%, 68.8%
Like I said, the good news is that I’m pretty clearly passing. The bad news (or, more objectively, the interesting news) is that I’m not acing the course!  Even more to the point, one of my lowest sets of scores was for week 5, which focuses on energy, the area in which I am supposedly an “expert”!

Which brings me to my thoughts about academic quizzes and test (or, in the jargon of the profession: assessment).  I found the quiz questions to be pretty straightforward, but a bit annoying at times. All too often, they were testing on whether or not I heard a specific statistic in a video, or was able to glean a specific detail from the reading.  Instead, I was hoping for questions that probed my deeper understanding of the issues.  After all, that’s the desired outcome, is it not?

Of course, that’s much easier said than done and I suspect I would do much that same if I was designing a class of this nature.  And, in all fairness, I’m simply not putting in the time (10 to 12 hours/week) that the course designers suggest.  I’m lucky to fit in 2 hours, sometimes less.

All-in-all, this continues to be eye-opening and it continues to make me think about the way I teach. It also has given me more appreciation for the lives of my students.

But more on that later.


October 8, 2012 at 5:35 pm Leave a comment

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