MOOCs (massive open online courses) and blended or hybrid learning (combining online and in-class instruction) have gotten a lot of attention recently in higher education, with both earning mixed ratings for academic effectiveness.
At George Washington University, another version of online course is receiving much better reviews. An associate professor of archaeology created a four-week online course as a precursor to a fieldwork program in Kenya. The online course replaces a 150-page, custom-published manual that students were supposed to study before they set off for Africa.
The problem was, the students rarely looked at the manual until they got to Kenya and were in the middle of field studies. The required online course “features videos from previous trips to Kenya and key information that the manual covered, but presents it in a way that’s more accessible for the students,” according to The GW Hatchet, the school’s independent newspaper.
The university couldn’t require students to take a traditional face-to-face class to prepare for the program because some enrollees were based in other countries. However, the online class is available to all students, regardless of location, and ensures they start the program armed with the necessary basic concepts to conduct fieldwork.
The videos incorporated into the course also help students to grasp the unfamiliar conditions in which they’ll be working and living in Kenya, something the old print manual couldn’t really convey.