Saturday, November 20, 2010

A flash of insight

Right now the secondary narrative of my life is this St. George and the Dragon relationship I'm having with the online instruction people. Hint: I am St. George in this scenario, and I really am more amused than irritated. Note: We are supposed to be able to teach these courses as we wish to teach them, so I'm not violating any principles in wanting to change things.

The Dragon has wanted meetings. I have had meetings. Lots of meetings.

The Dragon wants me to maintain the course structure as far as folder structures and so on in the labyrinthine course space. Sure. Fine. Whatever.

The Dragon wants me to change nothing about the course, including adding assignments or changing the grading plan. I disagree.

The Dragon wants me to link to nothing beyond the world of the course. Uh, that would be a big negative on that one.

The Dragon wants me to give it my materials now so that I have no control over them and cannot change them for 8 weeks. I don't even have the desk copies yet. Nope.

Now, I'm sure that the Dragon really does think it knows best and is being very helpful, but its #1 concern is that nothing change, ever. My #1 concern is to give the students the best possible online experience and education that I can give them, based on what I know from previous online teaching experiences and, oh, by the way, being a professional in the field of literary studies for a goodly amount of time.

Here's the insight that caused me to put the sword away and stop instigating contact: I have the power to change things in the course space without asking anyone about it. I'm not going to violate any meaningful rules or principles (folder structure), but if I change something and they don't like it, they're going to have to come to me about the issue.

This is a whole different dragon-slaying contest from what I was doing, which was explaining what I wanted to do and then having them respond, "But that would change an assignment, wouldn't it?"

I just got contacted for yet another introductory meeting but was warned by the Dragon representative that ze was very busy and zir time was limited. With my new insight, I replied that I would only be available on a certain date during a 3-hour block of time for a meeting and cheerily concluded that ze should let me know if ze wanted to schedule a meeting.

Insight! It's a wonderful thing.


Historiann said...

Undine--it's a good thing to be the boss, isn't it?

This comment puzzles me: "The Dragon wants me to link to nothing beyond the world of the course."

Taking the ONE advantage of online courses and throwing it out the window? Priceless. Do we need further evidence that online courses are all about "monetizing" education more effectively? I think not.

If you think this is scary, readers, you should hear about the bull$hit world of software written for Electronic Medical Records systems. Yeah, the magical electrical computerized fairy is going to make everything all better for us and save us all tons of money. . . not!

undine said...

Historiann--the "no links" thing is apparently driven by a few things. They're worried about ADA compliance for external sites, although I don't think the course management system itself is ADA compliant (for a visually impaired student, for example), and they're also worried about the permanence of web links for future iterations of the course. Call me crazy, but I think Project Muse and the New York Times might be around for a while.

I'll have to read up on the Electronic Medical Records--any links?

Historiann said...

Undine--I see. Still, it strikes me that anyone who signs up for an online course ought to be pretty good with the internets--why not give the students the links?

As for EMR: no links that I know of, just dinnertable intel from my husband, who's about ready to go back to paper because of the assininity and rigidity of the system he has to use at the hospital. Same story as yours: it's billed as customizable, but the reality is that they just want you to use it like they designed it, not how it should work.

Bardiac said...

Go you! If the software isn't built to make doing changes to the course easy, then it's not going to work for teaching, because we're always changing courses. We learn new stuff in a field, and we change our courses.

There sometimes seems to be this underlying sense among people who don't teach that if you get the course just so, there's no effort to teach it, so voila, cheap! :(

undine said...

Historiann--that's exactly the problem: supposedly customizable but actually "use it the way we want you to" software. I read in the NYT that some hospitals are assigning "scribes" to doctors because of this problem: the doctors talk to patients, and the scribes enter it into the unyielding software.

Bardiac, I think that's at the heart of the conflict: they think no change = extra profits, and I think no change = limited possibilities for teaching. My technical skills, such as they are, seem to alarm them precisely because I can change things.

Arbitrista said...

Your post adds another little bit to my unease with online instruction.

Anonymous said...

I salute your victory and feel that you should be wearing a "got root?" t-shirt, but I will just say that though the NYT will be around for a while, they along with several other newspapers move stuff around their website's structure much too much for me to be happy linking to them without checking it works every couple of months. And over a full course's worth of links, who wants to do that? Project Muse at least provide what are supposed to be permanent URLs.

undine said...

Arbitrista--it will work out; I just have stop provoking them by saying what I plan to do and just do it instead. An online class can be a good experience (though never the same experience), but it's a lot more work not only in terms of planning but in terms of the hours you spend interacting (via comments) with students.

tenthmedieval--good point. I was just going to point students in those directions rather than link to individual articles, but it's true that links might not be around.