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What's new at Rio Salado? Weekly courses, of course!
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I was quoted in an article yesterday (Oct 29, 2007) in the Arizona Republic, "At one college, new semesters start each week," by Anne Ryman. The article related to courses being started every week at Rio Salado College. Seems this is a new trend.

Per this article: "On Monday, Rio Salado College, part of Maricopa Community Colleges, began offering more start dates on hundreds of courses than any other public college in the nation, Rio Salado officials said. The college offers 50 start dates a year on 373 general-education courses. Rio Salado can begin so many courses each week mainly because it is an online school; classrooms aren't needed. But the move represents the broader trend in higher education of finding increasingly creative ways to tailor class times and term dates to individual students' needs."

See article at:

Now there are questions about this:

1. What happens to creativity and innovation when different sections of a course begin each week? Won't instructors become burned out? Will they see there section as not unique but just another course?
2. Will this lower collaboration opportunities across sections of the course?
3. What happens when students take incompletes and they begin to pile up?
4. Will other colleges and universities follow the lead of Rio Salado?
5. Will instructors be more colleagial in such a situation or less so?
6. How will these courses be evaluated and who will look at the evaluation?
7. What population besides working adults will appreciate and perhaps demand more such course offerings?
8. What happens when this is extended and courses are offered (or started) every day or every hour instead of every week or month?
9. What is Rio Salado automating when doing this? What can the system or computer handle in terms of feedback and course administration?
10. What is the quality of these courses?

Many questions remain here. However, this new delivery format offers working adults and others with complex schedules more flexibility to learn. And that is why we are doing this right? To help people to learn. Hence, it is vital that places such as Rio Salado experiment with their forms of course delivery. However, it is also important that they experiment with their evaluation approaches. And they must share their results.

We are just at the dawn of this type of experimentation. In 10 years, the normal college timetables will likely look so much different than today! Those who completed college a decade or 2 ago (or 3 or 4) will no longer be able to relate to those in higher education today; the choices are simply too enormous to fathom. Each student will have a unique path and set of learning experiences. Preprescribed learning is being replaced by personalized learning. This initative from Rio Salado can be seen from either direction depending on how they implement it.
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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 9:49 PM  
  • At 5:22 PM, Blogger Dan said…

    I can't believe you don't have any comments on this yet! :)

    I see this as the precursor to a larger movement. With large networks of learners, it's not necessary to have these rigid start and stop times (though I do see a benefit for timed courses...I'd never finish otherwise). With a large network, you will always have people either in the same course at the same time or people willing to interact and work with those in the course. You see this dynamic in all successful online communities.

    The biggest problem with this model at Rio Salado is the absence of an available network. We are not at a point yet in which this can be done well by a small organization. Possibly larger organizations, such as Open University could pull this off. More likely, you will need to have large partnerships with many universities to pull this off.

    Without these extensive learning networks, these unbounded courses are little more than the classic self-study courses with huge dropout rates. This is noted by many in the article's comments section in relation to University of Phoenix's programs. Without some sort of grouping, it will be difficult (if not impossible) for instructors to keep up engagement with the students. This will likely result in over-dependence on interaction with the content and not people working with the content.

    I'm not saying that it can't be pulled off, but, at the same time, I can't imagine how it could be done well.

    Sorry, I didn't directly address many of your questions, but I'll leave that to others :)

    Enjoying following your blog Curt. Keep it up.


  • At 10:50 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Thanks for being the first to respond here Dan and really give me good stuff to ponder. I uderstand what you mean by having an online support community and that only larger organizations or consortia of them will be able to pull this off effectively. Are you teaching at Rio Salado? I see you said "we are not at the point yet." I hope to visit you in Korea sometime in 2008.

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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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Click here for information about my recent book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

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