David Sidwell, PhD
Utah State University
Brigham Young University-Idaho
As a major organization devoted to promoting and improving online education, it may behoove us to consider the creation of international standards for online education. Many students and school administrators still look at online education as something that will never match the quality of face-to-face courses. It is considered by many to be second rate. However, are there not many times when students must endure a boring face-to-face lecture but are engaged and enthralled with quality online learning materials? Additionally, with the lifestyles of many in the world today, traditional face-to-face courses are not an option. Online education may offer these individuals coursework that would be impossible to access otherwise.
Several online education organizations offer standards at present. The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), offers standards in online courses, online teaching and online programs. Their standards, created in 2011, are relatively new, but they seem comprehensive and reasonable. You can access their documents here. Their three standards areas seem like good jumping-off points for a discussion in WAOE. Indeed, the standards from iNACOL and other organizations will certainly give us an excellent basis for forming our own. It may be possible, on the other hand, to simply endorse and use standards that we find elsewhere.
There are some online education precepts that fly in the face of how many people view online education. For instance, one standard at Brigham Young University-Idaho, one university for whom I work that has a very quickly expanding and well-thought-out online education program, requires frequent student contact by the instructor. Additionally, its program requires student collaborations and weekly student-to-student contact as well. Most courses at BYU-Idaho have daily activities in which student engage.
Many students taking my courses online at both Utah State University and BYU-Idaho are often surprised to find that the courses behave very similarly to face-to-face courses in terms of weekly activity requirements. The courses I teach are very active, knowledge-constructive learning environments.
Finding and identifying standards are major pieces of this puzzle, but as new technologies and methodologies appear, our standards will have to be able to hit a moving target or be adapted on a regular basis to meet the needs of a changing educational landscape as well. I recommend that WAOE begin the process of devising such standards.
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