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May 2013

The number of students enrolled in a course section has implications for faculty members teaching these sections, regardless of the delivery method. There is no doubt that more students means a greater volume of assignments. There are more assignments to grade and record. Interaction may be lost or minimized due to size. It becomes more difficult to know students as individuals and to give personalized attention. Delivering to large numbers of students looks very efficient if the lenses used only look at cost of delivery. If the lenses looks at the quality of learning or the satisfaction of the students about their learning experience, you may find that this model does not appear very efficient for student learning. If the lenses looks at the amount of management required by larger sections on the part of the instructor, a different viewpoint may appear. Teaching is a complex endeavor that does not stop when students exit the door of a classroom or exit an online course.

The online environment is designed to approximate many of the interactions found in the face-to-face environment. Although not perfect, most Learning Management Systems are sophisticated enough to allow virtual individualized instruction. Most online courses are not designed in this manner and strike a balance between group and individual interactions. Talk to any online instructor and you will find that most believe that striking this balance requires more management than doing the same for a corresponding face-to-face course. The textual nature of online education and the sophistication of the tools generates a greater volume of work at a much higher pace than seen in face-to-face courses.

As the number of students increases in online sections, online instructors can quickly become overwhelmed due to the volume of work required to be present in the course. Although some features allow the instructor to talk to the entire class (e.g., Announcements), the number of individual emails and discussion board threads rise dramatically.

The design of the online course influences how adequately the course supports the facilitation of teaching and learning. Many times we are talking more about tweaking a course slightly to make management more effective but sometimes the existing course may require more work. At other times, it may require changes in grouping strategies.

page last updated 9/12/2014 8:33 AM