Online learning removes students from the dreaded (and stupid) syllabus and allows us to package a course into a simple process:
- Read this
- Watch this
- Listen to this
- Do this
I see four basic models for online learning:
Model 1: Your own pace
- Academic Earth
- MR University Microeconomics – a 12 hour course with exam
- MR University Macroeconomics – a 10 hour course
- Foundation for Economic Education
- Mises Institute
- My own course on Analytics (including Numeracy Skills Bootcamp; An Introduction to Game Theory; Collecting and Presenting Data.
- The US Holocaust Museum has a module on Ethical Leadership
- Justice, Michael Sandel, Harvard
- The ‘God and the Good Life‘ course at Notre Dame does a great job at presenting an online syllabus.
- The BBC’s “History of Ideas” are lovely
Model 2: Virtual classroom
- HBX Core Curriculum – an 8-18 week programme utilising HBX Live. Around 150 study hours. For an example of virtual group discussion – see Michael Sandel’s course “The Global Philosopher”.
Model 3: Remote classroom
Model 4: The voyeur
I have taken, and recommend, the following online courses:
- The Modern World, Part One: Global History from 1760 to 1910, Philip Zelikow, University of Virginia, Coursera
- The Threat of Nuclear Terrorism, William J. Perry, Stanford Online
and I’ve enrolled on:
- Financial Markets, Robert Shiller, Yale, Coursera
It’s not obvious that teachers have the right skillset to create online courses.
The key skillset for a lecturer:
- Knowledge of the content
- Personable delivery
- Ability to grade exams
The key skillset for an online instructor:
- Ability to curate content (a great source for videos are TED Talks and Learn Liberty)
- Aptitude with alternative technologies
- Choice of assessment
I see a major advantage for online courses being the opportunity to crowdsource and aggregate grading into quick, responsive, 360 feedback. My ideal grading system would be:
- A web form to enter information and then WHAM it converts it into a report.
- Students see each others and vote on which are the best ones.
- Or, it just prints them all out and I grade them in one batch.
In terms of technology there’s a few different ways to create content:
- Powerpoint with voiceover – this is probably the simplest, and I have several examples. There’s also products such as Adobe Spark that perform the same function but slightly slicker. do be careful about whether to put the slides online as well, since this can reduce the likelihood of students watching the video.
- Dual video and slides – this is a great way to convey detailed content but in a personalised way (e.g. Andy Field)
- Video – this is the simplest way to do it but I find it a little awkward when done as a lecture. If it’s more informal it’s more engaging, but slightly more complicated to plan. Using a light board is probably the best way to do this.
- Interactive powerpoint – for my EMIB course we had an interactive green screen. This puts the presenter inside the screen and permits interaction (e.g. drawing directly on the screen). It’s basically reading the weather. It’s harder to plan but the final result can be quite effective.
Key factors for success:
- Tough assessments
- Strict schedule