Requiring Independent Learners to Collaborate: Redesign of an Online Course
“Technology in the Language Arts Curriculum” is an elective course that falls midway through the eleven-course sequence for the Masters of Education in Technology in Education at Lesley University. When the course was prepared for online delivery it incorporated a major collaborative writing assignment that featured the use of networking and peer feedback in the writing process. Data collected during the first two sections of the course indicated serious problems with the collaborative writing assignment. The problems experienced by students and instructors were similar to those reported in the emerging literature about online teaching and learning. The course was redesigned to adjust for these problems. Data was collected for three additional sections, and the lessons learned will be useful to other online course designers and instructors. We point out faulty assumptions in the course design regarding student preparedness, and we recommend that, early in the course, instructors teach and test for mastery of technical and other skills normally assumed in graduate students. We emphasize the need for instructor-to-student and student-to-student trust prior to major collaborative assignments. We propose a thoughtful approach to options and accountability for collaborative assignments.