The following discusses the real world experience of Jenine Cordon who was a student at Penn State World Campus during her employment at the University of Idaho:
My courses are upper division and the students are typically professionals who have day jobs. Thus, this program attracts people who really want to learn (i.e., it’s not cheap, and it’s not easy). That being said, I have honestly never had such a good learning experience while working in a group – in person or online. The reason for this is the following:
- It has been made clear what was expected of all the students at any given time. We have detailed lesson schedules that describe what the leader for that week is to do, and what the other students will be responsible for.
- Students review and edit each others work, going back and forth until it’s right. Our grade depends on each other doing well, so we’re encourage to teach each other. In fact, that’s one of the best ways to get folks interacting… have them do some research, and bring back to the class what they’ve learned.
- The class is about learning (not cost efficient production), so everyone actually does much of the same work, we review each others work within a discussion thread and file dropbox. We then work to agree on the combination of results we want to submit each week. Our conversation is reviewable by the instructor, so they know who’s done what.
- Admittedly, there are times when it’s faster to have a synchronous conversation. We use Skype, and one team member takes notes to submit a general summary of what was discussed to the threaded discussion area so that instructors can track that as well.
- The instructors are VERY involved in reviewing our discussions, piping in when it seems appropriate. And honestly, this is a key factor to why the Penn State Program wins national level awards… the instructors are available to their students every single day. If they’re going to be traveling, they let us know. They don’t have to show up and teach a lecture, but they do answer discussions and emails within 24 hours, and typically within hours. This is a lot of work, but it is what makes their program professional and recommendable.