Monday, May 01, 2006

The course proposal is in!

The proposal to teach my majors' biology course online has been submitted to our curriculum committee. I want to thank everyone who commented in response to my call for design suggestions; the comments were all very helpful.

Readers may recall that my main design question was whether I wanted to run the lecture entirely online or run only half of it online, allowing me to have a single meeting a week for course discussion. I decided to propose holding the lecture exclusively online; here are a few of my reasons:
  • I can always go back to a hybrid (or completely offline) lecture if the online lecture flops.
  • By doing the lecture entirely online, I'll be forced to immerse myself in online teaching and won't be able to take the easy out of just lecturing on topics that would be challenging to cover online. If it turns out that there are topics (or course elements) that I can't do well online, I'll go back to a hybrid.
  • The students will still be meeting face to face in lab, thus allowing for in-person dynamics to take place there. In fact, I'm pondering re-designing some aspects of the lab to take this into account (i.e., moving some memorization-based lab content into the online lecture, freeing lab time for more discussions and work on scientific-reasoning skills).
  • We consistently have trouble scheduling our science courses so that biology majors can take all the non-biology courses they need (math, chemistry, physics, etc.), especially since our majors vary widely in the level of non-biology courses they take (e.g., some are still in first-semester general chemistry, while others are taking second-semester organic chemistry). By running my lecture online we'll remove a three-hour block from the students' on-campus schedule, hopefully making it easier for them to take the courses they need without conflicts.
Of course, there's no guarantee that the curriculum committee will like what I've proposed. They'll be considering my proposal in a few weeks, and I won't know more until then.

[Update Oct. 20 - The course proposal has finally been accepted.]

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