Death to the Digital Dropbox

“As online learning continues to grow each year, so do the number of new media and Web 2.0 technologies faculty have at their disposal, yet the majority of online courses remain heavily text-based. Online learning often mirrors the traditional classroom, with a focus on read and write (and at times discuss) — sometimes with good reason. First, we all find ourselves relying on our previous experience when trying something new. Second, many methods used in traditional classroom environments can be effective in an online learning environment. And third, over the past few years teaching online has become an increasingly complicated process, requiring both a specialized pedagogy and a technological aptitude possessed by few faculty. Given this, when confronted with the task of designing an online course (especially one taught previously in a face-to-face classroom environment), it is completely natural for faculty to replicate many, if not all, of the classroom activities in the online environment. We believe this is why so many online courses consist of little more than readings, online lectures in the form of PowerPoint presentations, and some online asynchronous discussions sprinkled throughout the semester.

Perhaps one of the most often used, but seldom talked about, vestiges of the past carried over from traditional face-to-face courses into the online environment is the digital dropbox — or more specifically, the practice of having students submit their work privately. The digital dropbox is essentially a tool incorporated into most learning management systems that enables faculty to designate a virtual inbox where students can privately submit their assignments and later retrieve them (presumably with a grade and some type of feedback). While there might be a specific time when it pedagogically makes sense to have students turn in their work to a digital dropbox viewable only by the instructor and the student, we have found that mostof the time it makes little sense to do so. In this article we argue for use of a public performance model and explain why.”

Read the rest of the article here.

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