I am taking another online course at another institution that shall remain nameless. The course is on graphic design, and it’s very similar to Designing Visuals for Instruction. After several courses on visual design now, it’s pretty clear that I shouldn’t quit my day job. Things like composition, color, etc. totally escape me.
When I signed up for the graphic design course, I expected that it would be very similar to the online courses that I’ve taken at Kent State. I assumed that there would be a lot of student interaction through discussion boards and a lot of opportunities to give and receive feedback.
Instead, over the past several weeks, I have been totally alone in this course. The instructor placed all of the materials in Blackboard and left the class to their own devices. There are no discussion boards, no chats, no online office hours. I have emailed the instructor several times with questions about assignments, and I’m still waiting on a response. The feedback that I’ve received on assignments seems canned, and I’ve been unable to get more information to figure out what I’ve done wrong. The course already stressed me out because of the subject matter, and now I have the additional stress of floundering around with no way to communicate with anyone else. It is a very isolating experience.
Online learning doesn’t have to be isolating. In Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, Will Richardson writes that blogs “expand the walls of the classroom” (Richardson, 2010). Richardson is referring to the ways that blogs can outsiders, such as experts, into the classroom, but I think this statement also can be interpreted another way. Online tools, including blogs, wikis, and discussion boards, can expand the classroom beyond a physical location and help students create a community even though they may never meet face to face. I think this sense of community is really important in ensuring that students are successful in the course. As much as students (myself included) may grumble about discussion board posts, I really have learned a lot from my classmates by reading their posts.
As I have been working through the material in the graphic design course, I am really missing the feedback that my classmates could provide. (Lord knows I need it!) At the very least, we could bond over complaints about unanswered emails.