3 Dec 2008

The tools are in. Are teachers?

In adult education, online tools are a great benefit to the teaching process. They provide many new possibilities. These have in common that they detach the physical presence from the continuing learning experience.

Unlike daytime education, many continuing learners have their classes in the evening. This makes for a difficult marriage of spare time - or daily chores - and class attendance.

When we started a project to engage more women in evening courses in informatics, one of the ideas was to start the course after 8 p.m., since women then had the opportunity to put the children to bed.

Some might think this as anti-feminist, but most women in the committee agreed it was a good idea. The reality is, after all, that women spend much more time working for the household. To take this into account is a good strategy to gain women's attendance to traditionally more difficult subjects, such as informatics.

Of course, many men also have difficulties coping with modern agenda management, so the idea was to allow everybody to start later, not just the women. Training analyst-programmers in continuing education is a challenge to anyone.

Why didn't we go through with the project?

First of all, there was a lot of resistance from teachers. The thing is, we wanted to start classes later and end sooner. But the time not spent in class would be spent online. We'd set up a platform with assignments and a forum so that the classes would only take place every two weeks. When there wasn't a physical class, an online exercise session would take place. The week of the class, an assignment as a follow-up to the online exercises would be posted, the result then submitted to be discussed in class.

This way, the course takers gained time for their assignments - which are traditionally done solitary or in pairs in class - since they could work from home. The forum would allow interaction with teachers and other students and the physical classes could remedy any deficiencies in knowledge, as well as provide the knowledge transfer. This last aspect is quite limited for analyst-programmers, since most is learnt by practising.

It is still a model I fully support. We couldn't get the necessary backing for the experiment, but I hope it will happen in the future, for there is much to be gained from such a blended approach.

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