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  VISION FOR THE FUTURE 
 
  • Academic Concerns: Online Teaching/Learning
     
    The following answers are the thoughts of professor Dale, UCLA

If pedagogy is the science of teaching children, (and andragogy the science of teaching adults), why is the term pedagogy considered to be synonymous with all types of education?

Academic Concerns: Online Teaching/Learning
It is certainly correct, at least technically, to distinguish pedagogy from andragogy. Most teachers are aware of  the difference in teaching and learning issues between children and adults.  We teach children far differently from how we teach adults. In fact, we approach each age group and grade level differently.                      
       
What steps can be taken to assure successful completion of online courses by students who are not self-disciplined? In your opinion can online classes be structured for all students?
 
Generally, the consensus seems to be that students low in motivation, study habits, or self-discipline benefit from more structure, smaller chunks to take in and work with, more opportunities to work with others, and more reinforcement from the facilitator. So I guess we hold their cyber-hands a bit longer until they’re ready to fly on their own. For sure, we need to try to find out how each student best learns and try to tailor the course to their needs.
How do we know that the person that signs up for the course is actually taking the course? Or, is the person sending in the assignment, taking the tests, etc., really the student or someone hired by the student?
 
This is of course a key question when it comes to online assessment, and certainly more so when the stakes are high. In other words, the answer will really depend on how important the results of the assessment are. 
                
For higher-stakes situations where authorship is an issue of concern, perhaps face-to-face testing is required or perhaps the assessment should be constructed so that student responses can be carefully compared to previous work, (i.e., writing style, vocabulary, etc.).
 
The problem is not really just an online issue though. How do you know that your face-to-face students are who they say they are? Perhaps you've been teaching a stand-in all quarter? Or perhaps on the day of the final in a class of over 100 students, you fail to notice a student you've never seen before and yet you later recognize all of the names on the final exams. Someone may have taken the test for another there just as easily as it can be done online.
 
Even the online software that requires a periodic cyber-fingerprint, so to speak, whereby the student must re-identify him/herself every few test items, is not a perfect system. The authorship issue really bleeds over into the larger cheating question as well. Online students can simply have expert test-takers sit in with them during the test feeding them answers.
 
Student integrity is required online, just as it is in the face-to-face environment. The bottom line, I suppose, is that you need to get to know your students well so that you know their work so well that evaluating their work and giving out grades becomes a no-brainer and won't come down to one test performance.
 
They also need to get to know you very well so that they take from you your passion for learning the particular content you're teaching and so that cheating is no longer an issue. The old line about cheaters only hurting themselves is true, even if it doesn't shake up the students every time.
 
I’ve also read about free term-paper mills which are now proliferating madly. They churn out term papers to be downloaded by students. Some sample sites are http://www.cheater.comhttp://www.BigNerds.comhttp://www.PlanetPapers.com,  the Essay Shack, and perhaps the most famous, http://www.SchoolSucks.com  whose motto is: "Download your workload"). These sites subsist on advertising revenue and some claim to have as many as 9,000 hits per day. Some require students to submit a paper before downloading one. Some of the papers are straight out of an encyclopedia; most contain egregious spelling and grammatical errors.
 
I certainly don't have all of the answers and your own programs may require stricter authorship requirements. In my class, you're learning how to become a better online teacher. Cheating to obtain a degree or certificate seems to me to be pathetic and laughable. But some of you will be teaching online courses for higher stakes and may want to pursue more structured assessment policies.
       Lack of online student motivation
 
What steps can be taken to assure successful completion of online courses by students who are not self-disciplined? Can online classes be structured for all students?  
          
Generally, the consensus seems to be that students low in motivation, study habits, or self-discipline benefit from more structure, smaller chunks to take in and work with, more opportunities to work with others, and more reinforcement from the facilitator. So, we hold their cyber-hands a bit longer until they’re ready to fly on their own. For sure, we need to try to find out how each student best learns and try to tailor the course to their needs.      
           
        Should textbooks be online too?  
Either way. Some students really want to read paper copies of everything, others do it all from the computer screen. It would be nice if both options were always available.  
 
Paper-based vs. screen-based text               
I read them onscreen. Most online students and teachers report that they download, print, and read everything off screen.
 
        Online standardized test taking     
           
     Unfortunately, tests like the GRE or GMAT online are computer adaptive tests that are great at giving you the best test items based on your ability, but are not designed to provide any kind of meaningful feedback. What we need is a scripted program that allows instructors to insert  multiple-choice test items so that when students choose a response, an individual comment for each one, whether correct or incorrect, pops up in response. That way, students can learn much more on their own with this type of guidance. I wish someone would put this together for the aforementioned admission exams.    
           
         Online class size
    
How many students should be enrolled in each course?  
 Teachers normally don’t have much control over this issue, but ideally, I think you should limit a class size to 20 students online. If you want to really encourage them to talk back and forth, it can get out of hand if you have more and they’re all very talkative. When you have under ten students, you tend not to get enough interaction.