The dentist is where I can go to get some great insight into the student experience in online learning. Oh yeah, and get some dental work done, too. The dental administrator goes to my university and she speaks openly about her courses. I’m always thinking about what learning will look like after COVID, but the conversation shifts my thinking to why it needs changing.
As always, I do not want to generalize course quality, there are more great courses that not, and many outstanding ones. With all the teacher training and articles on what great teaching resembles there is no excuse to have awful courses. I predict that students will no longer have the patience to put up with awful course. Students who have taken a handful of courses have seen what good online and hybrid teaching and will stop accepting anything but.
First, students will begin to have more of a voice into their learning experience and this will put pressure on instructors to improve their courses. The website Rate My Professor is gaining momentum and students use it to select their courses. Unfortunately, with cutbacks the courses with low rankings are the last to go and the only ones available. Students will stop putting their money into courses taught by instructors with low rankings, and due to the growing flexibility in programs they can take alternative courses.
Secondly, students will demand more up-front content to pre-assess their levels going into a course, so that they don’t have to waste anyone’s time covering half a semester of content they already know. PLARing a course is becoming more streamlined, and so is micro credentialing. Students don’t want to waste precious time anymore, we’ve stalled in 2020 and probably much of 2021 and they want that time back. Self-paced learning will be more common, and students can challenge a mid-term or even the final of a course to get credit. They can challenge an exam at any time. If a student passes the mid-term but not the final, then they can begin at he halfway point and just do half the course for full credit.
Thirdly, this is all based on the assumption that a post-secondary education will remain relevant, which it will be. The dental assistant mentioned above told me that she had no idea how to make practical use of the concepts she has practiced in the course. She has four mid-term exams in just that one course, each worth 25% of the grade. She made me cringe when she mentioned her instructor demands that students turn their phones on so he can watch them do each exam. Students will not put up with this treatment anymore and struggle through a course that is so out of touch with the realities of modern workplace demands. If this course reflects even a fraction of the courses then instructors will put themselves out of a job. Students demand authentic applications of their coursework and assessment. Anything less and they will go elsewhere.
Lastly, well, that’s enough predicting. We see many changes on the horizon and I have not spoken about international students, the capital investment in brick-and-mortar classrooms and other amenities when learning is going online, and top-heavy administration issues that are only getting heavier. I see positive change ahead for post-secondary learning, which does not necessarily mean positive change for each faculty member or staff.