Open courses allow students to acquire new knowledge without enrolling in a program or paying tuition. MIT has an entire site dedicated to providing open courses in just about every subject. Having an engineering background I immediately found myself clicking on engineering, mechanical engineering, and finding the course I will be evaluating, Design and Manufacturing 1.

Pre-plan and Design

Although the course appears to introductory, when looking at the lecure notes and activities it quickly becomes apparent that there is a considerable amount of prior knowledge that students need to be successful. “… it is essential to know the nature of the audience.” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009) Given that there are so many other courses available in these open sites it would be helpful to make a list of prior knowledge or skills that students would need. If there is a course available to help students gain this knowledge they could be hyperlinked to that course.

The layout of the course starts with displaying sections for review; course competition videos, selected lecture notes, projects and examples, assignments and solutions, and exams and solutions. These options lead me to believe that this course was not designed specifically for the online environment, but rather it is part of a web-facilitated course or a hybrid course. The section for selected lecture notes lets me know that there is a lecture portion to the course and I may not be able to grasp all of the content because there may be gaps in the learning.

Does the Course Follow Recommendations for Online Instruction

“… courses previously taught in tradtitional classrooms may need to be retooled.” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009) The course did not have a readily available syllabus or outline to help the learner understand where the learning activites were going to take them. Providing this information can help students decipher and focus on the important parts of each learning activity. Without a syllabus too much student effort can be expended on irrellevant information. A syllabus would also show the specific learning objectives.

Looking through the learning activities it did encourage interactivity with the content matter, but not with other learner or an instructor. (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009) Students were asked through assignements to demonstrate their understanding by using a 3d modeling program to create their solutions. Students could then check their solutions against the answers, which also provided explanations for each step.

To determine the quality of online learning courses it is essential to ask two questions; Is this approach going to work?, and How can I make this better? (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009) I do believe that an individual with the appropriate prior knowledge would be able to meet the learning objectives, but the second question is where the online course falls short.

Active Learning

“… the goals and objectives will influence the selection of media.” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009) It does not appear that a lot of thought was put into what type of media would be most useful for content presentation. Written works with supporting images were the primary means for instruction. Given that the learning activities and formal assessments were all based on using a 3d modeling program to show understanding of concepts, it seems appropriate that a screencast of this program solving a similar problem would be very useful for student review.


MIT (2009) Design and Manufacturing 1 as taught in Spring 2009

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.