Thursday, July 21, 2011

eLearning? iLearning? oLearning? What??

My head is spinning. My professional body is losing it's connection to the earth. I swear this story is true. At ASU, they now divide online courses into i-Courses (traditional-program students taking internet courses) and o-Courses (online-program students taking internet courses). Students who normally register on their own without problem are now lining up outside advisors' offices, physically and virtually. Online and on-ground. On-phone and on-form. They're confused by the vowels. They want a course. Taught by their favorite professor. It's in the schedule of classes. They can't take it?

No, they're an i. It's an o. They're an o, it's and i. It's a mess. And it doesn't help that every school or program interpreted the i-o vowel memo differently, and so each program labels the course designations differently.

Wait, we haven't even started with the head-spin and body levitation yet. What IF same favorite instructor as above offers an e-course (my own neutral term), and their program WANTS to offer this course via the internet to ground-students and to online-students? They want the instructor to teach it only once. Well, the instructor must open TWO sections for that same course, so that the administrators can keep separate count of the students. I swear this is true. Students in the same degree program, taking the same online course, divided by whether they live near campus or not.

It's my job to explain the logic of this decision to faculty and to help them step through the maze of creating two sections but one online experience. And it gets worse. The administrators of ASU Online (administrators that support the Schools' fully online programs--the o-students) chose a different LMS than ASU's Blackboard; they chose Pearson eCollege Learning Studio. A house divided by a platform for which Pearson can't even decide on a name. Pearson? eCollege? Learning Studio? You choose. No one knows.

Still, this is not the problem. Like Valdemort, an LMS need not be named. We know it's there; the name is minor. The real hurdle for instructors is that they have used Blackboard for a very long time and are told (often very late in the game) that they need to use the LMS with confused name because o-students will be in the course. Thus, if the i-students take the class, they must experience the LMS they've never seen before so that o-students will not. Small worry that the instructor must teach in an LMS they've never seen before.

Caveat: What if it's an i-course (not an o-course) and an advisor decides that it's needed by an o-student to graduate or to meet a pre-requisite? Then, without the extra o-section or o-LMS, the advisor sneaks the o-student in the i-course. And guess what? Just as in busing in the 60s, the e-learners (my vowel again) get along fine.

Change is hard. In a culture-bound institution, it's much harder than it needs to be. But bless our administrators' hegemonic hearts, they ARE trying. (Students and faculty would say that they are VERY trying.) On the bright side, whether named with an i, an o, an e...more fully digital e-courses are appearing each term. And our students are lining up to take them.