Ken Kelly — Columnist
I am not sure there is a “Best Practices” manual for those laying out university curricula, but if so, I think there is a red circle with the words “Seven-and-a-Half Week Courses” printed inside it, and a very thick, red line cutting diagonally across it.
This is my last semester. I have done my capstone and my defense. I am currently taking the last two seven and a half week courses I will ever take in my life. Therefore, I feel uniquely qualified to reflect on my experience. This is my advice:
(1) Either make the course an entire semester or make the reading lists feasible. I think it is absurd that one can cram an entire semester’s worth of work and learning in seven and a half weeks.
(2) Realistic expectations should be set. Many seven and a half week courses are online classes, which brings a separate set of complications.
I understand the desire to generate discussion, but there is a difference between generating discussion and forcing discussion. Some instructors require that the student comment on another student’s post a specific number of times.
Some of those same posts are hardly at a high school level, let alone a graduate level, and I find it difficult to respond to that charitably. There are also no guarantees that student questions will be posted by a specific due date, and when they are not, the rest of us are forced to scramble because of another person’s irresponsibility.
(3) Skip the introductions in which people talk about themselves. If an instructor feels he or she must do it, it should not be a course requirement. In my experience, many of us know each other from other online classes in the program.
(4) Do not assign online group projects. Inevitably, I have found that one or two people do the work, but the entire group receives the credit.
(5) These classes should be reevaluated with the student in mind. An honest evaluation might show that the university does more educational harm than good with these short courses.
In the short-term, I suggest that those professors who find themselves tasked with these sorts of classes examine their syllabus and their expectations to see what is necessary and what is simply fluff.