When you think of online classes, probably some of the best examples I can think of are for a company that doesn’t really use online courses yet. So instead of just having the information that the students are going to work with (or have already), they get a whole lesson that’s just going to say “You’ll need to read this, or this, so read this, or this, to understand this.” Or, sometimes the idea is more like, people will get this information from just talking to them, then they’ll do an activity — do an interactive exercise that they’ll read and then go to a class. And so we have a lot of programs like that, or we have a lot of programs where you can do the same thing but you add your own learning element, which can be a video from somebody, or a paper from somebody. That sort of really focuses on getting students to do something.
You say in the book that “in order to make sure it actually works, there needs to be a clear and straightforward design.” Do you think that you could have done much better?
In a lot of cases we’re talking about online courses where you just don’t get enough of the instructional elements. So, maybe a class will get done a certain way because everybody’s in it; maybe a particular subject gets figured out, and so then you go in with that idea of “This is what I want to do,” and you’ll see that it’s just not the case. And the reason is it just depends what kind of experience that you have with the course. Sometimes it’s just like, “Ah, I don’t like the information. I don’t want to do this. This doesn’t quite make sense.” For some of our larger projects, we were just trying to figure out how to make that kind of learning more approachable for students without just the kind of overwhelming instruction that would make it overwhelming [for people with different types of learning disabilities]. For instance, if you’re a deaf person, or a person with a learning disability, and you’re just looking at just the instructions; you don’t know the person’s specific situation. You just see all the information, and then you do something, and you’ve really done nothing. And we needed something that would be more approachable for a lot of these different kinds of people.
The fact that you can see more information and you can do more than you would have for somebody without a particular type of learning disability is important because
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