tsukinofaerii: Missing: Presumed Nekkid (Missing: Presumed Nekkid)
tsukinofaerii ([personal profile] tsukinofaerii) wrote2010-07-28 12:34 pm
Entry tags:

A collection of ramblings and a rant about Online Education


Okay, that's out of the way. I am tired and extremely cranky right now, but I want to focus on the positive. Like the bunch of Robin Hood (Men In Tights) gifs I just skimmed off the internet. And also, this example of a kickass Aunt May. It totally explains why 616 and 1610 are split into separate universes. If they'd put Gail and May into the same continuity, they would climb out of the pages and take over the world with awesome.

I have a freakish urge to put Stevie onto a motorcycle. There's a gorgeous visual in my head of her taking a tight turn with her knee nearly scraping pavement, and no helmet so half-grown hair is all over and dirt smudges from a fight and... guh. Muscles. Trick riding. Leather (flail) I am so shallow. I'd also like to have Tony ride behind her, but I'm pretty sure that would be a convenient method of Tony-murder. He would be drooling. I've never even owned a motorcycle, and the idea of moving that fast without any significant protection scares me. D: WTF self.

Hmm. I really need to make a mod icon. :\ (lazy)

To cheerlead and beta, or no? I typically don't open myself up for beta work. It's just taxing, and different authors have different standards, and I admit that grammar/spelling are not my strong points. I will completely miss common misspellings or typos, and with grammar I can usually say "this sounds wrong" but I can't say why. (hands) IDK. I shall think on it.

One of these days, I am going to give DW monies.

(bounces and stares at bank account) Come on! Give me monies! I need to buy my plane tickets before it goes up any more! (bounce bounce flail)

Okay. So I get help calls from people taking distance learning courses, right? Web-based (internet only) and Web-assisted (internet sometimes) courses, mostly, though we have a spattering of hybrid courses and other such weirdness. I stay pretty busy. We're a large-ish school, and there's been a hard push to get instructors to use internet technology. Lately, we've been growing, because a lot of people who couldn't afford university courses anymore moved to us. So that's all good. I may complain quite a bit about some of it (I make a face every time I hear "I've read the instructions, now what do I do?"), but there's a lot to be said for the ease of access online courses provide.

That all being said, I am starting to headdesk over how "moar computers!!!!!!!" is being offered as the solution to everything that's wrong with education. It's not. It's so not.

Online courses are amazing. They really are. They're a solution to problems of distance and access. They help people who are uncomfortable in traditional classes, and they can be combined with Self Paced courses for people who have limited time. But they're only useful to people who are comfortable with computers, and relatively knowledgeable. Not just "can use Facebook" knowledgeable, but the sort who know what a browser is, what an operating system is, what a plug-in is, how to save a file, etc. The problem is that they're being pushed to everyone, as the sovereign remedy, the panacea.

Access to computers isn't a given. It's a privilege; a growing one, but not yet a general one. There are libraries and such, yes, if you're lucky enough to have a library with computer banks within convenient distance from your home. Even then, someone who isn't computer savvy isn't likely to sit at a library computer for long enough to really learn how to use it. They'll perhaps hop online to do something that needs doing, but if there's an offline option they'll use that first, sort of the same way I'll take a bus instead of a motorcycle if those are my only two options. The bus is slower and more inconvenient, yeah, but I don't know how to use a motorcycle, and only an absolute need is going to make me try.

Just like if I were to try and ride a motorcycle, the person who isn't computer literate but is taking a web-based course is going to crash. They don't know how to turn in their work, or how to e-mail the instructor, or sometimes even how to login to their course. Worse, there's no one to hold their hand and walk them through it—students who are 100% unfamiliar with computers need someone at their elbow looking at the same screen, physically pointing at things. They're unfamiliar with the vocabulary that rolls so easily off the tongues of those of us in the field, and it frustrates them when they don't understand. It hurts them when they can tell that a Help Desk person is struggling to change terms in order to explain. They feel dumb, inept, useless. That's if they can even find a Help Desk phone number to call. It's all online, if you know how to navigate a website. Their eyes aren't accustomed to skimming to the bottom of a page for a Help Link in the fine print.

Even worse, many instructors don't understand their difficulties. I have conversations regularly with instructors who are shocked to discover that some of their students use dial-up, or Windows 98, or even don't have computers. Frequently, these instructors aren't computer friendly themselves. They know just enough to put together a course, but not enough to make it convenient and easy for their students to navigate through it. I have had to have a conference with an instructor who honestly thought placing important information in red text on a green background was a good idea. This same person had links to (non-school) websites which required a fee to access, and PowerPoint files upwards of 20MB. That is a very bad pile-up of problems, but any one of those is an access issue by itself. For someone who isn't computer literate, it's an impenetrable roadblock.

As a result of all of this, students who aren't computer literate may have extremely low grades, or possibly be failing altogether. Some of them will drop the class. Some of them will drop the idea of education all together. They have no other choices. Even if they are able to avoid the online course trap, so many instructors require computer work: in their papers, in projects, in research. It's everywhere, and it's unavoidable.

I can't speak for other schools, but the "basic computer literacy" classes we offer are a joke. They're not basic, and they're not general "computer" classes. I was forced to take one in order to get my degree. We spent a day on hardware components, and then started off with MS Word. By the end of the semester, half the class had dropped because they didn't have the basic knowledge needed to complete the course. There is no "starter" course, which covers powering up the machine, the nature of passwords/logins, file management, internet use, single-click versus double-click, intuitive computing... Nothing. For what does exist, we make no effort to funnel students through those courses early on. They are required for most degrees, but it's possible to put them off, and most people do. There is no computer literacy test for taking Web-based or Web-assisted courses, nor a prereq, and no push to create either. No one wants to make a barrier to people giving us money.

And everyone says that online courses are so easy, and so convenient. Instructors push them, because they lighten the workload and deepen the paycheck. Admin pushes them because having a lot of courses online looks good for the school. Computer-savvy students push them because they're "easy".

There is a solution, but no one wants to take it. In the meantime I'm fielding calls every day from tired, frustrated, discouraged students who don't know how to take their course, and feel unintelligent because it's supposed to be "easy". "Children can use a computer, why can't I even manage this?" And all I can do is try to be encouraging, try to get them to call me for help, and try to walk them through as best I can.

I love my job, but we're doing a disservice to our students, and it's got to stop.

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