Van Dusen, C. (2009) eSN Special Report: Beyond the Virtual School eSchool News, Nov 1

Because of the volume of stuff that comes through my portal, I don’t usually cover k-12 reports, but I’m including this one because it provides some excellent examples of what I like to call hybrid learning (reduced but not eliminated face-to-face time plus online learning) that could easily be adapted for post-secondary education use. It also looks at some ‘desperate’ schools that are using online learning materials in the classroom because they are short of qualified teachers.

This has prompted me to float an idea that has been bubbling around for some time in my head, to do with very large lecture classes.

We now have initiatives such as Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative that develops high quality e-learning material that is designed to be used with local instructors. Carol Twigg’s National Center for Academic Transformation has also been re-designing large lecture classes with increased time being spent by students working online.

Why not go the next step, and have a state/province-wide or national program to develop high quality online materials for first and second year university students on at least a 50-50 model of face-to-face and online learning that can easily be adapted to local needs? (For example, modular, so if a local professor wants to add in something to the program face-to-face an online module can be replaced).

Do we really need Mathematics 101 poorly designed differently from scratch every year by thousands of professors then delivered badly by graduate students? Why not have a well-designed ‘core’ hybrid online program that can then be adapted and modified, supervised and managed by local research professors, with (specially trained) graduate students as online and face-to-face tutors?

Some students may need all the face-to-face teaching they can get; others may manage the whole program online; while others will appreciate the blended model. Some departments may well be happy to take the whole online program; others may want to use only small bits of it; others may want to mix and match with local, face-to-face teaching. All we need to make this happen is for professors in different universities to agree to work together on the initial design. Not much to ask, is it? (Yes, I’m joking.)

Comments, please!


  1. Hi, Tony,

    I saw the article last month and this was my immediate response:

    However I agree with you about the need for collaboration amongst teachers and professors. Here in the UK we have the National Education Network (NEN) and within that the National Digital Resources Bank, (NDRB) which is an attempt to share and re-purpose digital materials. It looks very promising with the majority of Local Authorities contributing. I think that there will be a major launch at BETT (London) in January.

    Best Wishes,

    Ray Tolley FEIDCT, NAACE Fellow, ACQI, MBILD
    ICT Education Consultant
    Maximise ICT Ltd
    Winner of the IMS ‘Leadership Regional Award 2009’


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here