De-Aggregation Method (Jason Fiske, Guest Blogger)

Since you are now reading this I can assume that either I did not completely bore you out of your mind in my first blog, or you are ignorant to my first blog post and I now have a new opportunity to bore you. Can’t wait!

I thought I would now spend one blog talking about our research-based solutions that resulted in our current setup of our online program, and spend my next blog talking about new ideas I have for the future. We conducted a massive amount of internal research through targeted student surveys (this could be several blogs in itself!), and also pulled from numerous other sources.

There were two main things we found through our research and observations: 1) when our adjunct professors were left to their own devices there ended up being massive inconsistencies with the way different courses were taught, organized and delivered online; and 2) our adjuncts simply did not have the time to do everything that I would have liked to see in an online course by him or herself (it is physically impossible).

Our solution: what we internally call the “de-aggregation method” of course instruction. We have split up the functions of each course into its core components and have a different person specialized in that part handle it:

1) Instructional core: We follow the flipped classroom method that has been discussed in other blog posts, our adjuncts create these videos and they are placed in our “study guides” (see below), and they also teach live-online with students coming in having viewed the created videos. This is the primary function of the course, as well as creating the assessments.
2) Feedback/Study guide creation/discussion forum engagement: We have a “course manager” for each course who is a professor that gives timely feedback on all assessments (within 72 hours), runs active discussion forums (20% of overall grade for students), and also creates study guides. We have one study guide per week that students work through before each live session. Essentially it breaks down a topic into sub-parts and tells a student to read 5-10 pages, then asks a few questions about those pages and has the pre-recorded 8-10 minute video of the professor on that sub-topic for the week there as well. There are usually 7-8 sub-topics per week broken down in the study guide in this manner. Each study guide starts with a concept map that charts the entire course and where that week’s material falls within the grand scheme.
3) Online set-up of course in the LMS: We have a separate person entirely set up everything online. I have a team of federal-work-study JD students who help me with this. I train them on how all courses need to look and feel, and this has resulted in a consistency of format and delivery of information for all courses. Professors and course managers have very little power to change things themselves within the LMS, though they can always post announcements. Naturally, not all the professors liked this (though some were actually relieved) and I would not recommend this in all instances. However, we have seen a substantial improvement in satisfaction of course organization as a result.

If you would like more detailed discussion on any of these topics, check out my blog on online education .



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2 responses to “De-Aggregation Method (Jason Fiske, Guest Blogger)”

  1. jman5555101010 Avatar

    Great question This is certainly part of the issue isn’t it?

    I was able to switch around the funding of the classes so that it was budget neutral. So it was just a matter of convincing them on the system, which was easy.

    This is part of what I referenced by not some professors liking it, as they were getting paid less. But I made the case that they were doing less since the course managers would be doing so much.

    Not easy, and you have hit the nail on the head for certainly identifying one of the challenges. Advantage I had is that all of our professors for our program are practitioners and adjunct professors, so they understood more so than tenured faculty (I would imagine).

  2. Avatar

    I think you’ve nailed it on the head: The Lack of technical expertise and time on the part of instructors have got to be the two biggest obstacles to the adoption of new pedagogies that involve technology. Even with ample evidence that a new teaching method will lead to better student outcomes, unless the instructors have sufficient support change is not going to happen in most classrooms.

    One question; how did you make the case to administration to get the additional resources to make changes in course structure?

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