Marie-Hélène Budworth

Associate Professor of Human Resource Management, specializing in learning, development & motivation.

Marie-Hélène Budworth

Where have I been?

June 2nd, 2011 · No Comments · Uncategorized

As you can see, I took an unexpected hiatus from Blogging.  My apologies to anyone who noticed! 

I signed on to teach 3 online courses that began in April.  All three courses were in  condensed summer sessions.  There were 450 students enrolled across three sections.  Needless to say, it was and continues to be (as the courses are not over) overwhelming.  It is all that I can do to keep my inbox at a manageable level.  So here is what I have learned so far about online teaching.

  1. Ideally online courses should have small enrolment numbers.  Interactive spaces online such as discussion boards and chats become overwhelming when there are large numbers of people in the online environment.  This is a problem not only for the instructor but also a challenge for students.  Becoming engaged with others can be difficult – where do I join the conversation?  Where do I start reading?  I tried to mitigate this by creating Wiki groups for one of the courses.  These were intended to be small study groups where students could share their notes and learn from one another.  The challenge here was that students were working at different paces so some Wikis were more active than others.  Some Wikis had one or two students doing all of the work. 


  1. There will be technical issues.  I tried to use a really friendly and easy to access format for the course.  To a large extent I needed to use a platform supported by the university – Moodle.  But behind that platform, I could decide how I streamed video and the format I used to share files.  Despite my best attempts to create an easy to use, intuitive interface, students ran into technical difficulties.  Some of this was due to compatibility issues with computers or browsers and for some students, it had to do with the fact that my idea of ‘intuitive’ did not match their idea of ‘intuitive.’  It is an important reminder that design is important but it can never address all questions.  In future, I might take additional steps to assist people in getting started.  For example, I might put together a video tour of the online environment using ‘screencapture’ software that allows me to walk students through the first module. 


  1. Online learning requires a great deal of self-management.  This is not news to me, but these courses have been a good reminder that students differ greatly in their ability to self-manage.  Learning in general requires abilities beyond general intelligence.  In the learning literature we call the skills related to organizing learning and directing attention – metacogntiive skills.  Self-management in online learning presents a new challenge to students who have spent most of their careers learning in traditional classrooms.  There is no class schedule to dictate the pace of learning.  The modules are mounted and students are responsible for ‘keeping up.’  It is easy to underestimate the time required to view lectures, read the assigned material, and participate in the collaborative activities.  I had more than a few students email me a few weeks into the course indicating that they did not know where to find the course website.  This was a bad sign.  In order to be successful, the learner needs to have well developed metacognitive skills. 

I continue to learn from this experience. It continues to be overwhelming!  However, it is nearing the end and I am able to come up for air periodically.  I will be back to blogging more regularly.  See you soon. 


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