>Your keynote raised a number of important issues, and I will be interested
>in what others pick up and want to talk about.
>I have a couple of real concerns. First, we surely do need to have some
>peer review, which is probably not possible in our respective
>departments/campuses, because individual faculty are the specialists
>operating in their speciality. Add to that the few who operate on-line.
>The non-online-participants do not make the best peer reviewers.
>We who do spend time and effort on web pages, on-line instruction, do need
>some independent source to verify that what we are doing is top quality (or,
>on the other hand, poor). Most examples of online courses seemed to be
>"how to" --how to surf the internet.. for example. So when I found an
>online course in my field, using the text I am using, I asked and received
>permission to "lurk and surf" for a week. On the one hand, the physical
>layout of the pages, and ease of movement and feedback, were excellent. On
>the other, the content was very poor. This course was not worth 3 cr, and
>not comparable to any 3 cr course given, I submit, on any campus anywhere.
>A subsequent study came out that showed 80% of DE students were regular
>students on campus, taking some courses online because of (a) convenience,
>and because (b) on line courses are so much easier. Absolutely easier.
>So, maybe I'm overreacting to one course, and over generalizing. Yet we
>have a faculty member in another department who created an online course,
>now running, who demanded that his department certify the course and that he
>planned to give it for credit even if they didn't. Great.
>Somewhere somehow we have to develop two types of peer review. One approach
>came from an Australian university who studied a number of sites and gave a
>"Madonna" award for looks, the ease of movement, etc. I view this type of
>review as "procedural."
>But we also need substantive review, which deals with content. And this is
>far more difficult. If we don't have something that can certify courses,
>then a degree earned thru online courses is likely to be worth very little.
>In all honest, I have to admit that my department (Political Science) is
>likely to resist any such effort. Unlike math, and foreign languages, we do
>not have sequential courses, where the skill and knowledge base of one may
>determine the ability to field the next course. Each of us is an
>independent scholar, devising and teaching the course "our way."
>Imagine the trauma if I should develop a course in the summer to be
>delivered in the fall online, and learn at the last minute that the course
>has been given a low rating. Or learn midway through the semester that it
>doesn't measure up. What would I, or the University do, in such a case?
>And because Pol Sc often deals with the current rather than the past,
>submitting a course for review 9-12 months before it is to be given will
>ensure an "out of date" notation by any reviewer.
>Trying to figure out a way to obtain peer review, at a time when university
>administrators are pressuring us to put courses on the web--and want our
>courses up before those from other campuses--is mind boggling.
>I do wonder if we might not want to use several existing professional
>organizations, and that we go to whichever we feel most comfortable with.
>Eventually there would be a pecking order, of which courses are rated by
>which reviewing organization, with some courses regarded as higher quality
>than others. Let the students know, and pick. So, the National Social
>Science Association is the largest social science organization, yet has far
>more members from 2-year campuses than 4 yr. That might be an appropriate
>certifying organization for 2 yr campuses in the social sciences.
>There are regional political science, and international relations
>organizations, which could certify certain courses.
>And then there are the great national organizations.
>There are also international organizations, from International Studies
>Association, to Internatl Pol Sc Association.
>One could seek certification from more than one organization. Just as
>clipart pages have lists of awards they have won, online courses could have
>symbols denoting approval by different organizations.
>Maybe a Harvard-based course would have different set of awards than a
>similar course from my campus. The certification could be part of a
>student's transcript. The degree would be worth what the courses were worth.
>I have no idea how such a mechanism could be funded.
>I appreciate your raising the problem.
Many thanks to the above writer. Further comments are welcome.
Professor, Kagawa Junior College, Japan