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In one of my classes the professor and the students have all started to have in-depth conversations about aspects of the program. An entertaining aspect of these conversations is that they are taking place (for the most part) on the static discussion forums. We (the students) have brought up concerns such as time spent and the flow of conversations on the discussion board and the professor has brought up concerns about the amount of posts that take place from week-to-week.
It should be noted that these conversations are only taking place in one of the two courses. I think that this is such because the professor is so anxious to make the program better and is eager to “listen” to our concerns and feelings. The other course is mandated by strict deadlines to complete a collaborative project about the general population’s knowledge about MRSA and C-Diff- so there is no time for “off-topic” discussion there.
It is interesting to see how we are all coping with being online students and still wanting/needing the community that you would have in an on campus program. Some of the conversations have turned into what could be seen as complaints and would not normally take place in front of the professor- but we don’t really have a choice.
I’ve worked to put together a chat room that is independent from the course so that the students can gather to discuss concerns and the topics at hand away from the eye of the professor– something like an after class hallway chat time. We’ll have to see how this goes and if it helps us all to cope with the courses better.

Issues about time spent have been raised on numerous occasions and by multiple students. The general consensus is that we spend any where from 12 to 15+ hours a week per course (the program says you should expect to spent 12) versus the on campus students whom claim to spend only 3-6 hours. This is a big difference and it is hard to say what the “cause” is, but I believe that it is the discussion board that takes up most of our time.
In an on campus class discussion is limited to the class period and only a few individuals get to speak on the topic. In the online program there is no “class time” and everyone has the opportunity (and is encouraged to) participate in discussions… this amounts to several hours of reading about 12 (or so) people’s opinions, rebuttals and comments!

Anyhow, I think I am getting almost as much from being a part of the program as I am from the assigned materials. It is interesting to see how the already well planned program is fleshing out and evolving now that it is finally active.

For any of you that may be considering the program I think it is safe to say that the first round of students will be more than happy to offer advice about how to manage the workload, organization, etc. and I’m also confident that we will come to conclusions as to what works for the flow of discussion and the bonding of the community. What will be really neat is when the second round of students come in and add/change what we have done to fit to their needs.

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