I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the topic of online courses and making them student-centric. This is a loaded topic and I’d be very curious to hear the thoughts and ideas of others regarding this topic. Teaching at an online institution myself, I completely understand and appreciate the need for student-centric courses. Our students often have very different needs and skills that they bring to the college, and these needs and skills are appreciated and acknowledged. But I do wonder if we are moving towards a model of giving students what they want versus doing what is best for the student overall.
For example, many schools are giving more thought to flexibility for when assignments are due as well as multiple extensions for assignments. While it’s important to be flexible in specific, known situations, do we want to make this a standard model? Does it benefit the student to make faculty accept late work even to the detriment of others in the course? As a Gen Ed program chair, I feel strongly that education is about facing new ideas and embracing a larger world-view. But we need to look at the practical side of things; what message does it send if we continuously craft our courses on population demand, and not quality content?
For me, much of this stems from recent discussions about making higher education more like a customer service experience. I understand very well that students spend a great deal of money on college — probably far too much actually — and so it is critical that their voices are heard. But at the same time, we owe it to them to challenge them, to make them work, and make them question the way they’ve lived before. Otherwise, why are they here at all?