Why study at a University when you can take an open course for free at anytime, anywhere? Hundreds of Universities claim they have open courses, but are that true? A quick look at some of the websites shows that what are offered are lectures that are recorded with video and/or audio, not complete courses. Or is it that we have a different understanding of what a course is?

As an instructional designer, we learn that when we design a course, it is certain criteria that are required to create a high quality course. We have to consider the components of a successful learning system. “These components are the learners, the content, the method and materials, and the environment, including the technology. The interaction of these components creates the type of learning experience necessary for student learning” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012, p.152).

There are several issues to consider when thinking of the learners. Who are they, what are their needs, where do they come from, and what are their prior experience? These and other questions will give us the answer on how to create a valuable learning environment (Simonson et.al. 2012, p.155)

“The scope of the content for a course needs to be sufficient to ensure the entire learning experience will lead to the desired outcomes” (Simonson et.al. 2012, p.157). We have to consider those outcomes to know the content, but also how it should be sequenced to make sense for the students. We also need to match the content with the needs of the learners (p.158).

It is not until we reached this part of the planning that we can consider the delivery method. Dr. Piskurich talks about instructor-led or learner-led courses that are asynchronous or synchronous (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d). That decision will lead us to the environment where the course will take place, but also the technology to use to present the content.

With these criteria in mind, I looked at two courses, one from Stanford University and one from MIT. To be able to compare them I choose two similar courses. Underactuated Robotics from MIT and Introduction to Robotics from Stanford.

Underactuated Robotics from MIT can be found at http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/electrical-engineering-and-computer-science/6-832-underactuated-robotics-spring-2009/. It was taught in spring 2009 and looking at the Syllabus give us the objective of the course. There is a complete calendar of the pace of the course, readings with a list of relevant textbooks and what to read for each week. There are assignments, exams and projects to be done. There are also video lectures. This course can be done online, or you can download the course materials except for the videos that have to be downloaded from ITunes U. Video lectures are long, around 1-1½ hour each.

Introduction to Robotics can be found at http://see.stanford.edu/see/courseInfo.aspx?coll=86cc8662-f6e4-43c3-a1be-b30d1d179743. It was taught winter 2008. There is a link to syllabus, but it does not include learning outcomes for the course. It does include a lecture and reading schedule. There are power point handouts and assignments with solutions. Video lectures to watch online or at ITunes U, with transcripts. This course can be done online or you can download the course materials except for the videos.  Each lecture is about 1 hour long.  It is a good thing that they have handouts to the lectures since the quality of the videos is not so good. Images that are shown are not readable.

Both of these courses are designed for face-to-face teaching (instructor-led synchronous teaching). They are planned with a purpose even though MIT have clearer course goals. According to the Syllabus it looks like MIT is more clearly over whom the students are (or should be). The content seems to be sufficient for the goals. To add all the material online is not the same as teaching an online course. They are making the material available, but it is then up to me as a user of the material what I do with it. Will I follow the whole course, listen to the lectures, and make the assignments, or will I just watch a lecture here and there that seems interesting?

The best part with all of the course material that have been made available for anyone, is that I can use lectures held by professors at well-known Universities in my own course at my small University.

References

Introduction to Robotics (n.d). Retrieved Oct 3, 2013, from http://see.stanford.edu/see/courseinfo.aspx?coll=86cc8662-f6e4-43c3-a1be-b30d1d179743

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Planning and Designing Online Courses [DVD]. In Series Title. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Underactuated Robotics (2013). Retrieved Oct 3, 2013, from http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/electrical-engineering-and-computer-science/6-832-underactuated-robotics-spring-2009/index.htm

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