What the heck is she talking about? Flavors?

Well, my experience is the world of the California Higher Ed system – community colleges, the state universities (CSU), and the “university of” (UC) systems. In this world, online instruction has been “compartmentalized” into “delivery methods” for instruction using technology.

Decipher this as: “reduced seat time”. Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to. The $.

This concept is neither new, nor original. It’s just antiquated. But that’s another story…[check back later!]

So, using this paradigm, let’s talk “flavors”.

Currently I know of 4 distinct flavors:

  1. web-enhanced, otherwise known as tech-enhanced
  2. hybrid/blended but not distance
  3. distance learning
  4. fully online distance learning (aka – online)

What a mouthful. But really – all of these labels apply to “reduced seat-time” on a campus, which translates into operating expenses, allocation of resources (physical space for rooms, utilities, support staff such as tech and janitorial, etc.), and dollars shelled out for students attending “on-campus” versus virtually – and sometimes, increases in fees when courses go virtual. Yep – it affects everyone.

So, what are these flavors? A few definitions here…and some correlating examples to put this all in perspective:

  1. Web/Tech-Enhanced: Course still meets fully on-campus. The LMS acts as a “document dump” where students can download course materials for class and sometimes even participate in discussions outside of class.
  2. Hybrid/blended non-distance: Courses meet partially on-campus but are still less than 51% online. The LMS acts as the document repository and utilizes more interactive tools for those class meetings that are “virtual” – increasing the use of discussion forums (bulletin boards) and online tools like wikis and whatnot.
  3. Distance learning: These courses definitely impact seat time – they are more than 51% virtual. They can be the “telecourses” that use cable tv and a website to deliver the entire course (they are the successors of the “correspondence” courses”). They are more often than not those courses utilizing LMSs for delivering education at a distance that significantly reduces seat time on-campus (reduced on-campus meetings). The LMS comes into play because it’s the easiest, most manageable vehicle for campuses to deliver these types of courses. Drop in your syllabus, PowerPoints, weblinks, videostreams, podcasts, and add discussions, chats, online and upload document assignments…build it out and they will come.
  4. Online: You guessed it – 100% online delivery of a course. Of course, distance learning encompasses “online” learning. I make the distinction because of the reduction in on-campus seat time. I also make this distinction because the level of preparation for fully-online courses increases exponentially over all the other flavors. Why? Because now your course is “LIVE” 24/7 – and you had better be prepared for the barrage of management and maintenance issues for instructors and support staff alike.

So, Moodle? Yep. Moodle accommodates all of these course flavors. To Moodle, a course is a course is a course, of course. :)

How you build it – that’s what matters. That’s where the IDs (the instructional designers) and trainers and experienced eLearning instructors come in.

Whatever flavor you choose to build, you MUST have a plan – and the flavor will also be dependent upon – if not even influence – your audience.

Read on, dear reader…read on….

- Mary