I teach online courses which are only a minor part of the institutional process. Classes, teaching, libraries, start and stop dates for terms and so on are all based on the in-class model. An online course of the sort I teach does not easily fit into this old wineskin. This receptacle is perfectly fine for old wine, but not for new. With old wine, students and instructors are scheduled to appear at a particular time on a particular day where teaching then occurs. Assignments are assigned and a deadline is given and the students produce results in time for the scheduled due date – again in one of the scheduled dates and times of day for a regular class. Terms begin on a particular date – say a Thursday, and end on another date, a Wednesday some months later – the important point being (at my university) that there be 12 class meetings in that period of time.
Online courses do not easily fit this model because there is no specific meeting time. It is possible I suppose, to force students to go online for an hour or two on a particular date and time, but that seems utterly silly given the nature of the internet. The internet is flexible if it is anything. The courses I teach (using Desire2Learn’s course link platform) come loaded with ‘lectures’ in text (I call these, ‘your online textbook’), photographs, videos, and links to websites and to eReserve books in the university library. I add YouTube videos of myself giving overviews of assignments and other places where students seem to need more elucidation. I also have a link to a Prezi where I can add information on the fly if need be – a kind of online white board. Students can contact me publicly on an Ask the Prof forum, or by email or by Skype. The information is divided into 12 units that are supposed to correspond to the 12 week term used at my university. But students can access this material at any time in the course, ideally in the week, day or night.
Well, I tried for the upcoming Fall term to make the 12 units and 12 weeks match the odd Thursday beginning date for term and thus end neatly with the 12th week and unit ending on the last official day of classes – a Wednesday. I have been told I must revert to the old 10 day week 1 and 5 day week 12. I must pour this new wine into the old wineskin.