This past semester I learned a new term that describes about lessons learned that are not part of the official curriculum. That term is implied curriculum. An implied curriculum recently learned in my Curriculum Theory class is there are right ways and wrong ways in designing online courses. One thing I do miss in my online classes is some for me real-time student-teacher interaction. Nothing beats being face-to-face chats and questioning with instructors and I would at least attempt this using Skype or Google Hangouts if I ever need to create an online class. It could help facilitate this interaction.
This past sub term I saw how asynchronous communications in an online class can be a hindrance to an educational experience. It should be a cardinal rule when creating online courses to remember students cannot ask clarifying questions about assignments because of the asynchronous of an online environment. Online assignments must be as self-contained and self-explanatory as possible so students can clearly understand what they need to do. One assignment this past sub term serves as an example of this need for clarity. The assignment was to conduct an evaluation of a textbook using a provided chart in the assignment instructions. These instructions stated questions at the bottom of the chart needed to be answered. When I looked at the chart there were no questions at the bottom. I figured the chart was an updated version with the questions built-in to the other parts of the chart. Wrong! The questions I needed to answer were not on the chart but in the assignment instructions and it was not clear these were the questions to answer in the chart. This would have been quickly cleared up in a traditional classroom because either the instructor or one of the students would have raised this concern about no questions at the bottom of the chart.
In an online environment, students sometimes must make judgment calls regarding the parameters of an assignment. This means course designers must take student independence and asynchronous communications into account when creating assignments. Why did I not email the instructor? I know to do this now but I had never experienced such a situation before. Also, it may take a day or more to receive a reply depending on how often an instructor checks email or needs to get clarification from third-party course designers. Also, other students might miss out on this important communication because of a missed email or the instructor only replies to the individual student. In the assignment I described I may not have been the only student with this problem because the instructor sent an email telling the class one assignment can be revised for full credit. Knowing what I had to do, my textbook evaluation grade went from 75 points (due to unclear instructions) to 100 points! Even with this experience I am still enjoying my online educational experience. Thanks to implied curriculum about online course design I got a bonus lesson out of deal.