28 September 2010

Scaling-up courses? What about spreading learning out?

I'm sure many universities and colleges across the U.S. are scaling-up courses by fitting more students into larger, high-tech classrooms. Let's remember that scaling-up is a cost-savings measure, sometimes an enrollment management measure, as well as a facilities management measure. So if scaling-up is triggered by at least three (and likely more) conditions 1) cost, 2) enrollment and 3) space, wouldn't it be interesting to call it something else, like spreading-out and see how that looks? 

Spreading-out courses, say in time and space, seems like it could afford a number of solutions. Hybrid and online courses, delivered synchronously and asynchronously spread courses out in this way. From CMSs to 3D virtual environments to smart phones, learning can happen across the digital landscape and diverse devices. What you can't do with 1000 students in a lecture hall, you can do with some of them in Second Life, some using self-directed i-pad elearning, some attending your web-based lecture and the rest watching the archive.

You could also spread out tasks by using peer-based feedback strategies for low-stakes assessments, or a low-cost, vendor-provided online writing system with automated feedback. And hybrid courses could share one classroom over its schedule.

It just seems like spread has a lot more potential than scale.