Friday, October 20, 2006

Remember that online course proposal I submitted?

Probably not.

After all, I decided to start writing the proposal to teach my majors' biology course online way back in April. A few days after I decided to write the proposal I asked a quick question about its design here on the blog1, and then submitted the finished proposal to our curriculum committee in early May.

The committee finally approved the course this week. It only took five months and three additional revisions of the outline, but it's done.

Let me back up a second to help those who are not enmeshed in academia. Courses taught at community colleges must be approved by some sort of oversight body; at the campus level this is usually a curriculum committee, but there are often many layers of bureaucracy above that committee (e.g., in California the chancellor's office has final say over most courses, though thankfully they don't get involved too often). These curriculum committees approve official course outlines; these are not the course syllabi handed out at the beginning of the semester, but instead are a general summary of the content covered in a course, the way that content will be taught, the objectives of the course, and other things (e.g., the campus facilities required to teach the course). These official outlines are critically important at community colleges, as they're the documents that are sent to four-year universities to determine whether our courses will transfer to their esteemed institutions.

Teaching a course online at my campus requires adding a special online supplement to that course's official outline. Thus, since I wanted to teach my biology course's lecture online, I had to modify the course outline and get it approved by the committee. Filling out all the required paperwork and hunting down people to get signatures was time-consuming. Being asked to do three revisions of the course outline was frustrating. But even more frustrating was that none of the requested revisions had anything to do with the online component of the course I was proposing (which was the only major change to the outline). Instead, our campus has recently decided that all courses must have Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs2, which are somehow different from objectives in a way nobody has yet concisely explained), and thus the committee kept bouncing my outline back because my SLOs weren't good enough (they didn't use the proper verbs, even though the SLOs I originally used were written by a state-wide body of biology faculty).

In any case, I will now have the option to teach my primary course's lecture online starting in fall 2007. Now all I have to do is figure out how I'll do it.

1 Many thanks to everyone who responded to this post and helped me design the online course!
2 This has to be one of the best acronyms ever.

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