I know you’ve all been waiting for this one. ;)
This is a conundrum online courses have puzzled over for a long time. How do you estimate how many hours per week a course might take? For a very organized and focused learner (or one who doesn’t apply himself), it might take less time. For a particularly inquisitive and extra hard working learner (or one who is just slow), it might take more time.
It is difficult to estimate and impossible to measure or nearly impossible verify after the fact. So most online courses take their best guess, and then credit is given for that amount of time.
A bigger question is should seat time be such an important factor in granting credit?
Some groups, like Western Governors University, have experimented with competency-based criteria. Have those models worked? Is it feasible to do this on a large scale?
For K-12, seat time is the rule. Kids attend x number of hours of school and then move on. Repeat. Repeat. The idea of competency-based learning in K-12 is a model many of would like to see. Stop constraining students to age-based grade levels. Let them move through content at a pace that works for them. Supported differentiation and elimination of pacing would be a real way to make sure no child was left behind.
For P2PU,the process is all about individual learning. It’s all about gaining competence in your chosen area in a way that you define.
Does issuing credit put a crimp in this? I’m not sure.
Traditional university courses have a syllabus. They are set at the beginning of the course (without any input from students, in my experience) and don’t change.
While all the courses in the P2PU School of Ed pilot have a syllabus, that is not the case with all P2PU courses. Some courses may start out with a syllabus. Other groups may choose to develop a syllabus together as a group. Others may feel that having a syllabus is antithetical to their learning process. This could pose challenges to certifying a syllabus for credit in advance.
Even in the School of Ed, we encourage participants to customize the syllabus for their own needs and classroom situations. If an activity isn’t valuable, don’t do it. Instead, suggest one that meets your objectives. That’s what self-directed learning is all about. Yet that does pose issues for a traditional credit issuing process.
A couple years back, I was involved in an open, online course in which midstream in the course, there was something of a revolt. The participants were highly engaged in the studies, so much so that they felt they needed more time to reflect, write, discuss, and play with the ideas being covered. However, the course load and pace didn’t allow that. So midway the course syllabus was significantly altered — by the students.
In my opinion, this is an exceptional example of how education should work. If there were more of this kind of learner self-direction in traditional PD and especially in K-12 classrooms, more and deeper learning would take place.
How do traditional institutions cope with this? At a university, it may be acceptable from a well-respected, tenured professor, but less so from a newer instructor. In district PD, it would not likely be accommodated. In K-12, it is the kind of thing largely frowned upon in this era of pacing and standardization. To me, this is a huge failing. It is definitely not a trap we are willing to fall into at the School of Ed.
So customize away! We’ll leave the lights on.