Mar 3, 2013

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

It's been several weeks since I've shot or posted any new Existentialism videos.  I can of course plead excessive occupation with my current classes and other matters at Marist College, where I currently teach part-time -- I'm shooting videos and developing a lot of online course content for my Ethics and Introduction to Philosophy classes.  I've also been reading and rereading a lot of Lev Shestov, preparatory to shooting videos on his works and thought, hopefully later on this coming week.

But really, the delays have been much more a matter of exploring a number of possible options for offering online courses, on the one hand, and determining what sorts and sizes of "learning units" would provide the richest and the most manageable educational experience, on the other hand. 

We've decided on a time-frame, on the content, and on the structure for the first course -- but, as we all know, it's easier to make grand-perspective decisions, but a lot harder to follow through an all the intermediate and lower-level matters, the locus where things actually happen.  What we've settled on -- as the first online course to be offered by ReasonIO, with myself as the instructor -- is: The Fathers of Existentialism:  Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche. This will be the first in what is projected to be an entire sequence of online courses on Existentialism -- and I'll write more about specifics in a later post.

Most likely, this particular course is going to run over the Summer from June 1 to about August 15 or so -- again, more details that have to be sorted out, and under an assumption that we can get everything I want to see in a class developed by that date (if not, we roll it back a bit and offer it in the Fall). 

We've yet to decide upon the platform for siting the course -- and that's a weighty issue, since that initial decision really determines a lot of other factors. There are quite a few options, but like a Goldilocks if she were in a house chock full of bears, we've been finding it difficult to settle on something as really being "just right" for our vision. 

In the last several months, we've considered Udemy (courses a bit too short -- though I might produce some of those on the side), Google Course Builder (seems to require a LOT of webmaster expertise, but if it's in our capabilities. . . . ), Lore (good point: Facebook-like design, matched by bad point: Facebook-like design), YouTubeEDU (quite a few of the features don't work well, and support staff are entirely unresponsive), and Professor Direct/Straighterline (all sorts of issues -- a whole conversation there!).  Those are the ones we've considered, not the dozens we looked at and were able to rule out fairly quickly.  Right now, we're leaning towards Moodle, which is a pretty flexible online Course Management System that might answer to our needs best.  

The basic idea motivating the project and all this research is that -- if we're going to go beyond shooting videos and carrying on casual conversations with students and life-long learners -- if we're going to invest all the time and work (as well as the trial and error) required to produce a high-quality course, to create the sort of interactive learning environments for Existentialism (and down the line for other subjects) -- we're going to have to be able to decide precisely what we want the course to be able to do for us and for learners.  And, we need technology as tools that can make that planning and execution comes off -- not necessarily without any hitches, glitches, hiccups, or even small catastrophes -- but with a high enough degree of reliability that we can focus primarily on teaching, learning, design and development, and interaction in a community of inquiry.

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