Blog Post

Course Critique

Course Critique Essay: LLG1 Shared Learning Experiences  

            “Write your course critique as a blog, not as an academic paper.”  This gem of a statement came from our professor.  Music to our ears!  How fitting, especially after reading Cathy Davidson’s “Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science will Transform School and Business for the 21st Century.”  After reading Davidson’s theories, ideas, and position on how education has changed in the 21st century, it’s rewarding to have the opportunity to share our thoughts, ideas, and perspective on this educational site.

            Our group’s task was simple: participate in two different online classes, analyze and discuss, and write a paper about our experience with focus on design, learner engagement, personal learning styles, evidence of adult learning theories, and overall effectiveness of the online learning.  We decided to critique two MOOCs (rather than compare webinars, or youtube) one on canvas titled, “Business Ethics for the Real World,” and the other on coursera titled, “Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects.”  Overall, both courses enrich the online learning platform and offer engaging opportunities for adult learning and growth.

Design

            Both courses were laid out similarly. Being MOOCs, they were self-paced in nature with a multimedia approach to engage the learner. Usually each module started out with a video, the length ranging from two to ten minutes, discussing the key ideas and major learning points for the week’s subject matter. What followed was either a short quiz to test the student’s retainment of the information, or a discussion post to get the student to explore the ideas further as well as engage with the rest of the class. Bringing in a mix of media for students to engage ensures each learning style is catered to. It also is a way to help each learner really “lean into” the content and engage in class. Although these courses were primarily self-paced, having students post to a discussion board ensured that there were times throughout the course where the learning community was brought together to engage as a whole course and not only a series of individuals.

Learner Engagement

            Learners in these courses were able to engage in a variety of ways. “Business Ethics for the Real World” required its learners to engage because to move further in the week-to-week modules in the course, future modules would not be unlocked until a student progressed through the prior modules in its entirety. This method ensures that students read through all content and complete necessary activities and not “cherry pick” the content they wanted and left the course. Within the “Learning How to Learn” course, students submitted short, one to two question quizzes after each video to immediately test their knowledge and evaluate if they retained the content. The videos were also very simple in their design; they were short, concise and did a good job of clearly conveying key concepts.

Personal Learning Styles

            “Business Ethics for the Real World” is a self-paced course.  This allows the student the ability to rewatch or reread concepts before moving on to the next module and topic without the constraints of weekly due dates.  In addition, if a student enrolled in the course well after the initial start date, they would not miss out on any of the information as they have access to all modules.

          For a “thinking” learning style, the Business Ethics course lets these types of learners know they are learning from a teacher who is an expert in their field. The instructor for this course has been teaching business ethics for thirty years. Both of these courses work well for a “thinking” learning style due to the fact that they are self-paced as thinking learning styles need the time to reflect and absorb content before moving on to the next set of ideas.

            For a “initiating” learning style, the Business Ethics course catered to the ability to take action and initiating when it came to completing the modules. The different media styles also worked well with the initiating learning style because it would get the wheels spinning on creativity and the experience of different triggers for learning. The courses were motivating because you can work at your own pace but also be held accountable for retaining the knowledge.

Evidence of Adult Learning Theories

            Both courses catered to the adult learning theories and appealed to various learning styles. With the use of various videos, examples, and follow up knowledge questions, it allows retention of the information in a friendly manner. Although this was an online learning platform, both courses utilized the Social Cognitive Orientation despite the lack of a physical classroom setting. With the discussion portion of the class, it created a social environment that positively impacted the learning environment and influenced the motivation to complete the work.

            The nature of online learning fundamentally supports the humanist theory.  “From a learning theory perspective, humanism emphasizes the freedom and responsibility to become what one is capable of becoming.  These tenets underlie much of adult learning theory that stresses the self-directedness of adults and the value of experience in the learning process” (Merriam, Caffarella, Baumgartner, 2007).  Both courses allow the learner the ability to immerse themselves in the learning process and find meaning in their studies.  The courses are designed to offer freedom and flexibility from a humanist perspective.

Overall Effectiveness of the Online Learning

          Overall, “Business Ethics for the Real World” is easy to navigate.  It’s intuitive and seems to flow nicely with eight-minute lectures (videos), followed by some type of case study/discussion prompt.  We were engaged throughout the course, and felt involved in the learning.  We absolutely loved the discussion portion of this course.  The class is given a situation to address, or a case study to consider (“What would you do/say in this situation?”). This discussion prompt enables the classmates to respond in their own practical way by using either previous real-life examples, or theoretical ones.  We found this part of the class engaging.  The second discussion prompt offers a chance for the class/audience to reflect on personal values in life.  Although this may be viewed as busy work, the personal nature of the assignment makes it more likely that students will complete the exercise (again engaging students to complete tasks and assignments is crucial to experience this free class to its fullest extent) .

          However, since this is a free course for any and all studious minds, the course follows a very predictable pattern.  Although some may like the consistency and continuity of the course, at times that same consistency can bring boredom and a feeling of predictability.  Also, the course does not offer a variety of learning styles.  It seems to stick with the format of lecture, discussion board, and quiz.  The discussion board is very engaging, as each discussion thread is a separate theoretical situation (case study), but the class may not offer enough variety of different learning styles and strategies.  It simply sticks to a predictable format.

          The coursera course, “Learning How to Learn” offers short and concise videos, whereas the videos/lectures on the business ethics course are slightly longer- approximately eight minutes.  Watching short and engaging videos online is crucial to the attention span of the audience.  Research shows the average attention span of online videos is roughly three minutes.  After three to five minutes, the audience loses interest/focus and moves on.  Pushing the video to eight minutes, as the business ethics course does, stretches the attention limit of its audience.  The coursera course, however, keeps it short and sweet!  

          Although the coursera course videos are shorter, the nature of the videos seems gimmicky. The use of visuals is an added touch as it shifts the attention from the lecturer onto something the brain can focus on; however some of the visuals are slightly juvenile.  At this point, the audience question whether the visuals actually aid or hinder the learning process.

          After four to five well developed videos, it’s quiz time!  There is a quiz after each set of videos for instant evaluation.  ‘What if we’re terrible test takers?’  ‘What learning opportunities and strategies are available for us to showcase mastery of the information without multiple choice questions?’  These are questions our group asked.  In the business ethics course, a case study and discussion post directly followed the videos.  Within the ‘learning how to learn’ coursera course, this was not the case.  There was a ‘get to know your classmates writing assignment; however this assignment was optional.  In addition, there was one essay assignment.  But this particular writing assignment seemed vague and abstract.  It is a reflection piece?  Does it ask for a personal experience?  Does it ask for a specific example?  Instructions were given but we weren’t entirely sure if we should write about a specific learning challenge, a learning goal, or a learning obstacle we’ve overcome .  And if we’re not sure what to write, what type of feedback and constructive criticism would we receive from other classmates?  This portion of the course needed more clarity.

          Overall, both online courses offered opportunities for successful growth and learning.  Following the humanist learning theory, the potential for individual growth is amplified by the engaging videos/lectures, and the case studies found on the business ethics course. The learning course on coursera also provides opportunity for growth and individual development.  Since perceptions are based in experiences, our perception of both courses was positive.

 

Merriam, S.B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2007). Learning in Adulthood A

Comprehensive Guide (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

 

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