Teaching Tip: On-Line Courses in Operations–Some Basic Questions
“The debate about whether online courses are a good idea continues,” writes Faculty Focus (March 15, 2015). Who’s right or wrong is overshadowed by what the flexibility and convenience of online education has offered institutions and students. Those features opened the door, and online learning has come inside and is making itself at home in most of our colleges. Online learning and face-to-face instruction are routinely compared. Face-to-face instruction has features that online learning can’t have, but then online learning has advantages not possible in face-to-face instruction. Here are 3 basic questions worth considering:
What courses should be offered in the online format? Whatever the students want and will take online has become the default answer. Operations Management does seem to be working well at many large (and small) colleges. MyOMLab is perfectly suited to on-line study as it has numerous self-help ways of tackling homework problems. Videos and readings are built into the software, as well as assessment tools that let students advance when they are prepared.
Who should be teaching online courses? What instructional strengths and weaknesses make a faculty a good choice for online courses? First, faculty who realize the importance of instructional design, or who have access to professionals who do. Online courses need strong coherent structures. They must stand on their own more than face-to-face courses. Course materials matter more in an online environment. Online teachers should have the ability to convey their presence and create a sense of community without being physically present. And good written communication skills are more important than oral ones in online environments.
Who should be taking online courses? The most successful online learners are typically adults who are self-directed learners. That makes online courses a much riskier proposition for beginning students who don’t have clear educational goals and possess marginal abilities as learners. We can’t prevent students from taking online courses, but we need to tell them what skills they need to succeed in those courses.