Magazine article Distance Learning

Online Courses Have Three Critical Components (and Learning Management Systems Are Not One of Them)

Magazine article Distance Learning

Online Courses Have Three Critical Components (and Learning Management Systems Are Not One of Them)

Article excerpt

It is happening again. Vendors-and some well-meaning educational administrators-are talking about the power of course/learning management systems and claiming that the technology used to deliver online courses has an impact on student achievement.

How many times have we heard the phrase "put your course in Blackboard, or convert your courses to Canvas," implying that this will make it a better course? The idea seems to be that putting something into an online learning management system makes an online course a good one.

Some may remember the statements of several decades ago about putting a course "on film," "on video," or even "on the computer" to make them relevant or effective or improved. As Clark (1983) so famously noted, "media are mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causes changes in our nutrition" (p. 446).

Let's be clear. There are really only three critical components of an online course- or any course, for that matter: content, design, and instruction. The learning man- agement system can make an important contribution to course effectiveness, but only to the extent that it appropriately facilitates the "big three" components.

Content, design, and instruction; let's examine each. First, as any publisher will say, content is king. That is why there is education: to provide access to important content and processes.

Next, design-or how the instructor organizes the vast quantity of information that could potentially be presented in a course. …

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