I’m an instructor for the University of Phoenix Online, which is an interesting experience unto itself, but this morning the Powers That Be issued an interesting note that I thought I’d share with you:
“Dear Online Faculty,
“Quite a few of our students are in the military, and during this time of readiness, are deploying to points around the globe. Just a reminder that we are not to work around the attendance standards for our campus. It’s important that we not tell these military students that they can submit their work early before they deploy and still earn a letter grade. That’s not what will happen. If they miss attendance, these students will be auto-dropped, and then they will be eligible for only a W or a W/F grade.”
I’m actually cheered by this message because one of the cornerstones of online education is that participation is critical. It’s one significant difference between the old correspondence courses and the new, modern online education taking place through the Internet: you don’t just turn in your assignments and pass the class. Instead of the 1:1 relationship between students and the instructor, parodied in as unlikely a place as the Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks, e-learning involves an intensive discussion between students, often only self-directed.
The University of Phoenix Online requires students to participate in discussions five days weekly for every week of the course, and to participate “substantively” (defined by each instructor, usually at least 1-2 postings of 1-2 paragraphs. No “me too” messages count!).
Given that requirement, students deployed to the Middle East clearly cannot participate and experience the full breadth of the learning experience, so my kudos to UPhoenix for taking what might well prove to be a politically risky step and state that deployed students cannot just “slide by” with assignments only.