Reading “Online courses ‘more time-consuming’ to prepare for, study says” (News, 21 September), I had to remind myself as to the non-urban areas in which bears, generally, answer the call of nature. Of course online courses are more time-consuming to prepare for – when first taught. But, with common-sense content design and future-proofing, they do not need to be rebuilt from scratch every year. If reused in year two, the average time spent on preparation could be as much as halved, and I would suggest that a better metric would be over the life of the course. Yes, assessment and moderation can be more time-consuming, but they don’t have to be: careful design of assessment and feedback is the answer. Understanding how much time is spent on various activities is to be applauded; investigating exactly how that time is spent, and whether it is spent efficiently or necessarily, is perhaps more challenging if a timesheet-culture is to be avoided.
Edmund Hewson Director
Distance Learning Unit
Leeds Beckett University
It has long been known that online courses take longer to prepare than classroom versions. That one of the study authors claimed that the study “exploded the myth that online education...was less time-consuming [than on-campus courses]” is difficult to understand. Ask anybody who specialises in online education. They would have said as much 15 years ago. And this is how it ought to be: a well-designed and resource-rich online course should take much longer to build. Experts outside academia who build online instructional software and content will tell you that millions of dollars can be spent on course development.
The larger issue is that individual faculty are ill-suited for preparing substantial, intelligently designed online courses. Given the narrow skill sets of faculty, limited time, lack of incentives and near non-existent budgets, they can only repurpose classroom materials for their online students, which necessarily falls short of leveraging the full potential of the online environment.