8.02 Beyond Courses: The Search for New Forms of Education Online
With the course firmly established at both the secondary and post-secondary levels as the basic unit for delivering and accounting for education, it is perhaps not surprising that it has also assumed such a role online. On high school and college campuses, courses serve to structure the time and attention of instructors and students. Courses constitute the major portion of the formal educational program. Moreover, they allow for the efficient use of physical facilities by permitting schools to schedule multiple courses in any one classroom throughout the day, the week, and the term. Courses also structure educational accountability processes by allowing for assessments of student performance in each course and then by providing convenient units that may be assembled to fulfill the requirements for a diploma at the secondary level and for general education, majors, and degrees at the post-secondary level.
The course has served a number of similar functions as it has been moved online. Perhaps more than anything else, the use of the course as the unit for packaging and delivering education online has lent legitimacy to education in a non-traditional environment. However, the use of the course as the primary unit for online education has also brought some expectations that may be inappropriate or unrealistic. Courses are assumed to allow for a certain degree of interaction and for the establishment of close relations between faculty and students that may prove unattainable online. At the same time, reliance on the course as a delivery mechanism may prevent exploration of other more appropriate models.
To begin the exploration of models of online educational delivery other than the course, this paper will consider alternatives, including research collaboratories that can take students to the leading edge of scientific discovery, expert discussion groups that rely on broad participation, and digital libraries that organize and present content to address a well-developed conception of audience need.
Natriello, G. Beyond Courses: The Search for New Forms of Education Online. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association of Internet Researchers. Toronto, ON.