Bells and Whistles

I frequently hear comments from faculty members that go something like this…”Shouldn’t all this ‘design stuff’ be done by professionals?”  I’ve come to discover two things hidden in this kind of question.

First (and I’m not being cynical here, just stating an observation), the faculty member really doesn’t want to spend time setting up the online environment.  They’re busy.  Some may feel vulnerable and uncomfortable in the technology environment.  And some just don’t want to put effort into learning how to  use the technology – they just want it to work.  I get it!  I’m just not going to touch this one now.  😉

The second hidden observation I see in this comment has to do with what we might call the bells and whistles of a course.  There is an assumption that an online course must look “pretty”.  Above form and function, above all else, the course must be attractive.  And, as the line of thinking might go, this will require an expert.

I want to dispel this notion!  I’ve worked with several institutions creating online courses in all sorts of ways, and I’ve seen online courses at their best and their worst.  Some great online courses looked fantastic!  I mean, they could have been entered in a magazine contest (Academics Illustrated anyone?).  I’ve also seen similar, fabulous looking courses that weren’t worth the digital paper they were printed on.

In fact, the most powerful (based on student and faculty feedback) online courses I’ve seen have been more text based than anything else.  So, what made the difference?  Well, while a good-looking online course is nice, those bells and whistles quickly fall to the side for those things that are most important: content, interaction, engagement, and faculty presence.

The nice thing we have going for us at Fuller is that Moodle puts the power to create an engaging and transformative online course in the hands of the faculty member.  You don’t need to have an MA in Instructional Design to have an engaging online course.  In fact, I would argue that something integral to the learning process/environment is lost when the design and development functions of the course are separated from the teaching of that course.

But for now, if you’re a faculty member thinking through using Moodle to either support your F2F class or building an online class, I encourage you to move ahead.  Don’t get bogged down by making the course look good.  And, don’t hesitate to contact me or anyone in the DL office if you want help with any of the design/development aspect.  Images and other multimedia can be essential to the online course, and we are here to help you with that!


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