Credibility in Online Courses

I've been thinking about my relationship to writing lately and how I want to do it more.  While on my walk today I realized that I do complete a great deal of writing within my graduate coursework that no one other than my classmates get to read.

So I've decided to start posting some of my reflections from some of my courses up here for all to read, share and comment on.  Hopefully some will find them interesting. :)

Prompt: Some argue that online classes are not as "credible" as face to face classes. Others argue that online classes are every bit as "credible" as those taught face to face. What do you think?

My response to this question would be very tentative. I appreciate that the question is worded with "credible" in quotations marks - because that's where I'll start my answer.

The first thing I'd ask is: What is the meaning of credible? How are we trying to measure credibility? Does credibility mean the same thing to each involved party (i.e. instructors, learners, institutions)? What instrument(s) or tool(s) are we going to use to measure credibility - and how are they authenticated?

The answers to the above questions would help clarify exactly what those who question the credibility of online learning are, in fact, questioning.
This framework being known, then, let's look at a few ways to approach "credible".

Does credibility mean...

  • student attendance? (In online settings, this can mean interaction with the material uploaded by the instructor, viewing web lectures, completing course readings, i.e. engagement)

  • quality/credibility of the instructor?

  • student learning? (note that this is different than "achievement")

  • student achievement? (grades)

  • "good" content? (how the heck do we judge that?!)


These are just a few that first come to mind.

Then there are those that would make the argument that online learning is not as "credible" as face-to-face learning - simply because it's online, new, different, and unknown.

I think we have to back up a bit and reframe again. What is a "credible" learning experience/course? Have the questioner answer this question - and you'll very quickly be able to see whether or not the online course or face-to-face course makes the cut.

I think it's important to bring home the discussion that it's still teaching and learning we're talking about when it comes to the online vs. traditional classroom.

Bad teaching is bad teaching. Bad courses are bad courses. I think that online courses are awesome and amazing - and I think that face-to-face courses are the same. Some folks are going to thrive online - others are not. But "credibility" isn't as easy as checking yes or no on a checklist.

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Originally posted on August 29, 2010 per the requirements of EAC 539: Teaching in the Online Environment at NC State University in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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