I realize this is going to be quite a controversial post, but I’m going to say this nonetheless. Too often, Deans or Chairs will hire an individual to teach an online course merely because they have taught online elsewhere–as if that experience guarantees they know how to teach online. Often these individuals show their online courses to other instructors as examples of how to teach online. Too many of them, however, are not good courses. Too many online courses are simply this: read documents, post to the discussion board, do a project. I’ve taken a number of online courses and they almost always follow this format. Even in this format, though I’ve grown quite tired of it, there are some effective discussion boards and some that are not. Those that are worthwhile are those in which the topic of discussion is clear. That is that the instructor hasn’t asked the students to discuss several topics within one posting. That is that the instructor hasn’t asked several questions, but one. Effective discussion boards also have some input from the instructor other than simply a grade.
If an instructor says “10 points for your initial posting, 5 points each for responding to two other postings” and tells you at the time she scores points that you got 20 points for that discussion board (and says nothing else) you tend to wonder if the instructor really reads the postings, or simply looks at the number of postings and words. I know, because that’s how I feel about a course I’m taking this semester. This instructor teaches a large number of courses online for that University, but in my experience as an instructor, a course designer, a course evaluator and a student, this is a poorly structured course. If this instructor went to some other institution with the credentials: taught 2 courses each semester online for the past 5 years, it is my experience that the new institution will be impressed merely by the fact the individual has taught online.
This all leads me to a quote from The Little Prince: “Grown-ups like numbers. When you tell them about a new friend, they never ask questions about what really matters.”