Shirley's Journal

I'm an online facilitator, currently working on the Ultraversity workplace degree programme. This is my personal journal and you are welcome to leave comments on the entries.


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Monday, March 23, 2009
Viable models in higher education

It could be interesting to compare the Learning, Technology & Research delivery model against other university courses, both campus-based and online. I have had time to realise that it may be a fundamental problem to use a delivery model that requires relatively expensive staff/student ratios at every point. In some American universities, at 200 students per tutor the model for undergraduate online tuition is financially sound, but there would have to be a trade-off in quality that may not be acceptable in all institutions. Currently, the Learning, Technology & Research team is looking at 35 students per tutor as an acceptable ratio although there is less certainty about the quality of facilitated discussion within the university requirement for this to be the equivalent of three or four hours per week.

Do the numbers make sense? A full time teaching load would be for each tutor to lead 4 modules per week, at four hours per module (perhaps 3 hours), with 35 students per module. I tried to clarify this but somehow the numbers keep slipping beyond my full comprehension. I keep thinking I must have misunderstood - but perhaps this is because I know that there would have to be radical changes in the delivery of the Learning, Technology & Research course in order to fit the numbers. We seem to have developed a Masters degree approach to an undergraduate degree course - but without the opportunity to charge a Masters degree fee that would cover the higher costs.

The problem seems to need more information than is available to me. One of the challenges is that in an online course, a considered response to one student might take half an hour to compose - and even though the response would usually be made available to all students, the figures would indicate that in four hours of facilitation, only six to eight questions per week would get full responses. Is that a bad thing?

In a typical week, there are more than eight different questions from each module. Although exploring the questions is fun, perhaps it is not a viable approach.

Posted at 10:27 pm by shirley

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