Anti-Disclaimer: This post is based on true stories and true characters. Any resemblance to actual courses, past or ongoing, is entirely intentional and hopefully to the benefit of the online community of teachers.
1. Changes in course content and objectives after enrollment.
I had a recent encounter with the biggest sin of all: the announced and advertised title of the course is not what the course is actually about.
A year ago: I also felt somewhat perplexed when the moderators decided to change the tools we were to get familiarized with halfway through the course.
And I felt cheated when some of the stated objectives were just touched upon in another course, without going in depth and without us participants actually learning something.
2. Unclear instructions.
It is not just the usual unclear instructions that some inexperienced or careless teachers are prone to make. My recent experiences include gasping at different wording of what was supposed to be the same task, in the outline section and the task page itself: not nuances, but substantial differences in the components of the task.
3. So not web 2.0, so methodologically unacceptable.
Ideally, an online course material should be easily eyeable and searchable. It is not a textbook with one- or two-page paragraphs of verbose text.
I admit wasting some time trying to figure it out where the relevant resource referred to in one course was; then I wasted some more time figuring out why the course designer did not use a HYPERLINK.
My genuine plea: Please try and apply more paragraphing, bolding of key concepts, hyperlinks, bulleted key points, illustrations, examples, stating the aims and objectives, key questions and graphic organizers for revision, [pls continue the reasonable wish list yourself].
But don’t go to extremes, because I don’t want to see dancing neon letters either. The way you organize your resources, their clear visual layout, and easy navigation is something I appreciate both consciously and subconsciously.
4. It is a question of time I: schedule
I see more often than not a lack of clear timeline of tasks provided at the beginning of the course or, even better, prior to enrollment. The participants need to know if they will physically be able to complete the tasks on time.
An awkward phenomenon I experienced was having to wait a couple of days for the course activities to start after the official beginning.
The participants need to know in advance the pace of the course; let them know if it is more intensive and may require completion of three time-consuming tasks in just a week.
I have a life. I got a real job to do. I am no superhero: I am willing to sacrifice my weekends and a couple of nights for the common good, but I can’t go without sleep for weeks.
5. It is a question of time II: overall number of hours
Occasionally I run into a somewhat painfully misjudged number of hours needed for a participant to finish the course. (A call for a rigorous ‘know thyself’ exercise both on the course designers’ and the participants’ side.)
6. Spells of illiteracy.
7. Unclear criteria.
Not announcing up front the criteria for awarding points for tasks is another major no-no.
My alternative pet hate: changes in the criteria after the participants have completed the tasks.
8. Unknown technical requirements.
It is only after enrolling that I found out that I need to install a dozen of apps, many of which are similar to the ones I already have. Well, I like my computer and I am sort of picky who it befriends with.
9. Invisible moderators.
The only thing that is more demoralizing than an over-patronizing moderator that shovels uncritical “Great job!” remarks at every feeble attempt of a participant and never lets a forum thread come to its natural end is the one who is self-apologetically absent as a moderator.
We teachers have embraced the trend of development from a pedagogue (the old Greek word for a slave who escorted children to school) to facilitators, enablers and resource-centers-on-demand, but this should never mean leaving the students entirely to themselves.
Why is it that some course designers think that they are exempt from copyright law?
What are your not so positive experiences with online courses? What is it that bothered you? Please let me know. If you want anonymity, why not take part in this questionnaire?