This past semester I was invited to join the university’s Blending/Distance Learning Advisory Committee. I attended my first meeting of the committee a couple weeks ago, and it was very interesting on a number of levels. As the new guy, I mostly stayed quiet and listened.
The committee is drafting a process for developing a university-sanctioned online course. A significant piece of the process is quality control, and early on the course developer is asked several questions about their qualifications for teaching an online course and how the course design leads to effective learning.
One of the group asked, “How come we have to answer these questions about online courses, when the Curriculum Committee doesn’t ask them of courses offered in the traditional face-to-face manner?” We went into a predictable discussion about how the reality is that online courses, as something relatively new and nontraditional, are suspect in quality and that we need to explicitly address those concerns in our online course development process if we hope to give the process validity among the UMW faculty. In the middle of the discussion, it occurred to me that a more profound response would be to imagine a time when we would ask those questions of all course proposals.
Could our work on this committee lead to more deliberate thinking on course design and course quality by all our faculty at UMW? If we get sufficient buy-in from this online course development process, perhaps the curriculum committee would consider adopting aspects of our process for theirs.