Recently, the administration has indicated that that since the 24 seat cap is only a "guideline" higher enrollments should be allowed before opening a new section of a course. It turns out that there has already been precedent set with some classes in other divisions allowing up to 50 students!
I am very upset about the whole matter since for me to properly attend to my online students and analyze the programming work that they do, I have a very difficult time once that number gets past about 15 students.
I am curious and I also need some ammunition to fight this trend. For those of you who teach college courses, what are your enrollments limits for online courses?
I would really appreciate any information anyone can provide. Thanks! Paul Norrod
Perhaps you should think about "changing your chip" from "lecture-based teaching" to "online learning".
My personal experience includes designing, teaching and being Chief of Studies of an adaptive course for more than 200 students from 5 countries, based on collaborative activities in forums. There were just 3 teachers, including me. We also used any other learning resources such as automatic tests, personal projects, good contents, working with real applications, etc. No problems at all. It was done in WebCT, but could be done in Moodle too. The key is INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN: to design good courses and train teachers to teach online. It is my work. It is still working. Students in the Master level are paying about 6,000 euros (about the same ammount in US dollars) for the course (which can be done in 1 year, but lasts for 2).
You can see it here (in Spanish):
I helped to develop another course that had about 3,000 students at a time. It is this one (in Spanish also):
There is a "rule of thumb": "The more students in the course, the less work you have to do per student". Just use good collaborative activities, tools and contents.
It is not so amazing. Right here, in "Using Moodle" course we are more than 1,500 people from all over the World doing a collaborative work and learning a lot each day. Very similar to a good online course.
I came across this post of yours from 2004 about class size and course structure to be able to handle over 1000 students. I'm in the middle of designing a course for a large number of students, leaders of community-based organizations in Colombia, and was wondering if you could help me with any resources or share any of your course structure maps. Any thing you can send would be very helpful. Thanks. Phillip Rincon email@example.com
Hmmm. Having never taught (or should it be directed, facilitated) an on-line course before a class of 50 sounds ok.
Ive been a high school classroom teacher (like many of us) for over 10 years and have real (as opposed to virtual) classes of 36 grade (11 physics students). Was it ideal? NO! Did I manage, YES!
I would love to hear from those that have done an exclusive on-line class as to their experiences with both student numbers and time required.
I agree with previous contributors that the ideal class size depends on many factors. I teach mainly short basic (fact-based) on-line courses (1,5 to 3 EU credits). For those courses I have found that 16 active students is an ideal number. That implies that usually group sizes are the normal 20 - 24 of average polytechnic classes (in Finland). In my experience the active nucleus draws the less eager students along. In my experience, if the number of enrolled students falls below 12 the course will lose momentum.
My school has the laudable policy that on-line course are paid on the same basis as contact classes (i.e. based on the number of students and the kind of course; writing, lecturing or discussion). And it is only fair, for in my on-line courses I have found that I spend an equal amount of time on teaching as in the corresponding contact courses (The time is just spent on diferent activities). This is an important element in ensuring the success of eLearning, for many teachers will not consider teaching on-line if they will be paid less for it than for contact classes.
Theoretically there is no limit to the number of students that can be enrolled in one course and if the bulk of the course activities consist of on-line discussions, self-test exercises, automatic tests and peer-evaluated assignments/group work one teacher can manage, provided (s)he has the proper moderating and supervising skills. In certain situations extra teachers (or student assistants) will be required in order to ensure that there is enough coverage of student activities.
In my experience there is a strong need to get away from the traditional approach (upon which WebCT seems to be based) of root-memorising texts and take a test (repeat x times). Polytechnic students need to be activated with small assignments for which they have to learn new information/knowledge and if they can learn it from each other, all the better. After all, they need to do the learning and learning by doing (and teaching others) is one of the most effective ways. This almost automatically requires a higher level of interactivity in the assignments/activities (See Blooms taxonomy of the cognitive dimension and Gilly Salmon's 5-step model of e-tivities (in E-moderating: The key to teaching and learning on-line (2000) or E-tivities, the key to active learning on-line (2002))
If done properly, the higher interactivity does not focus on teacher-student interactivity, but mostly on student-student and (not to forget) student-material interactivity, which saves time to the teacher. The teacher's (or teachers') role is more a guiding and advising one, activating the inactive and directing the overachievers. Some of the lecturing can be done by electronic anchored instruction (i.e. the study material is presented via a story line or by an avatar who does the "talking") which has proved to be quite effective in various schools that I know and which also saves time, once the time investment in creating the material (we use students in that process as well) has been written off. In other words, a properly designed and directed course can have well over the traditional number of students and still function satisfactorily.
Finally, remember that this is still a learning process for all of us too, because eLearning keeps on developing. Hope my five Eurocents were of some use to you.
I have taught an online introductory Java programming course for the past four years. My experience has been that classes with 10 or fewer learners tend to loose momentum, particularly in threaded discussions. Classes of 15-20 seem ideal. When you start to get up over 20, it tends to get unwieldy.
Baltimore City Community College limits their classes to 15.
If you look at Southern State's Community College Faculty Agreement, first time educators of online courses have a class size limit of 15. For experienced online educators it is 20 learners.
DeVry University - 25 students
CVC Profesional Development Centre describes 12 as being ideal.
Wow... wish my principal would cap my classes. The attention each student would receive would be much better than it is now.
It really "depends" on several factors including the subject the course, the activities traditionally used to meet the goals of the course and the configuration of the course: face-to-face with online resources, hybrid/blended face-to-face and online, fully online.
Over the years working with WebCT, the same issue has come up many times and I'm sure dicussions also occur with Blackboard users along with other CMS users. Attempts by administrators to set a single standard "cap" for every course becomes very unrealistic and will often insure failure of online courses. (Compensation is another related sticky area). From my observations, things eventually settle out to be very similar to traditional face-to-face courses. So courses like English composition with extensive writing are best with 15-20 students regardless of being online or offline while a course with primarily "lecture-based" subject matter can handle upwards of a 100 to 1000 students or more in either a lecture hall or online.
Probably the best you can aim for is a variable cap in the same manner as traditionally taught courses. I would recommend gathering information from course tracking and other resources to show how "a positive student learning experience" declines with increasing enrollment caps for your particular courses.
Also, look at other approaches to delivering to a large enrollment course. I found in my own online teaching that many of the techniques used in a traditional course did not translate well to online and required different approaches. The use of student groups where they do more "peer learning" is one example.
Our college created the 24 student limit 3 years ago based on a little bit of research. The problem is that that limit is only a guideline and is not a policy written into our P&P manual. Up until this semester, it has been honored, but recently (as indicated in my first post) we have had some courses with more than double the 24 limit.
As a faculty member, I obviously want to see that 24 student limit enforced. I can also, however, see the administration wanting to have some flexibility with that number for courses that warrant higher enrollments. It is a very touchy subject .
I would have a very real problem, though, if I would have to teach more than 24 students per course. The amount of time I spend on my online courses is very high. Teaching technical subjects (computer programming, database design) means that I have many, many students who "just don't get it" and need extensive help with the concepts. I spend a large amount of time responding to forum posts. I also have my students submit programming projects as part of their studies (about 1 per week). These take a very large amount of time to analyze, grade, and submit with constructive feedback.
I don't know if our 24 students per online class will hold or not for the courses taught in my subject area (I sure hope so). But even with 24 students per course, I struggle to find time to do much of anything else other than sit in front of my computer. Perhaps I need to change how I am running my courses so that they do not consume me. I think I will start a discussion in the "Teaching Strategies" forum for advice.
"Moodle for teachers: An introduction
Registrations open 19th August 2013
This free course is designed for anybody who wants to use the Moodle learning platform for teaching, whether it be in a school, a university, a company or just personal interest!
The four-week course is also a great opportunity to connect with the vibrant Moodle community dedicated to sharing resources, ideas and anything that could help inspire better teaching practices everywhere."
Some random thoughts on the way: "Moodle as a MOOC platform" https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=204799.