As I get ready for the upcoming semester I can’t stop thinking if my course design and the theories I use to reach all of my students. So as I work on my courses I can’t help but wonder who are the students that so bravely decided to take my online course instead of an on-campus version of it. I look at their names men, women sophomores, juniors, seniors; English speaking students, non-English students, and the list goes on. Do I really care if they are seniors or non-native speakers? At the end of the day, no I don’t. What I actually want to know before the beginning of the semester is how they learn. Are they visual learners or do they learn just by reading a textbook. In a nutshel,l how do they retain knowledge?
Another thing I want to know is: Are they internet natives? This is an important question these days as technology has taken over our personal, professional, and academic lives. Being an internet native makes a difference in the way one learns. So in turn, it influences how a course is designed.
How old are they? Do they work? Both of these questions address experience outside of the classroom and the motivation to take a college course is so much different when you are in your 30s versus being in your early 20s.
Unfortunately, I don’t have all of the answers to my questions until a couple of weeks after the semester begins. So since I really don’t know much about my students when I am designing or redesigning a course I look at the feedback I received from the students during the previous semester. I also look at their performance as well as what assignments, video lectures, online discussions worked and what didn’t and change them accordingly.
As the students at my university are older that the average 20-year-old college student and the majority of them work the teaching philosophy that I espouse is Andragogy. It is a teaching theory developed for adult learners by Malcolm Knowles. According to Knowles Andragogy is the art and science to teaching adults. This theory is designed to engage adults to learn by:
- Letting adults know the reason they are learning something
- Using their experience as the basis for new learning
- Making adults responsible for their own learning
- Explaining the relevance and the practicality of what they are learning to their professional lives.
I teaching a business writing course and it super important to make students see that what they are learning in my course are skills that they will need when they graduate college if not sooner as many of my the students already work in the business world and need their bachelors degree to advance in their careers.
So I strongly believe that when designing the course understanding the types of students that will register for it is important to the success of the course as well as of how well the students learn and use the information that they learn. After all being a educator is about transferring what you know to somebody else so they can use it as well.