Experiencing Free/Open Source Courses

     I participated in an open source course on recognizing and employing different parts of a sentence.  This lesson discussed how to identify independent and dependent clauses, how to spot prepositions and prepositional phrases, how to find infinitives and infinitive phrases, and how to distinguish between participle phrases and gerund phrases.  
    This course had a definition of each general term (for example, clauses) followed by a definition of the types of clauses (independent and dependent), with multiple examples of each type, and explanations of why they fall into that category.  There is also a list of common words that represent that part of a sentence.  After the explanation, examples, and word list, there is a review section for students to practice identifying independent and dependent clauses.  Based on the results of the review questions, they can move on to the next term in the lesson, or go back and reread the lesson content.  
    This is different from face to face learning because all of the material is read and practiced independently.  There is no discussion on learning and no place to ask questions about confusing content.  Students are responsible for reading the content and understanding it on their own.  They are responsible for answering the practice questions, and for going back and reviewing the content that they do not understand.  
    I would not say that this course offers an incredibly rich learning experience, but there are aspects that are useful for learning.  The definitions and examples with explanations allow students to see the terms in practice, and understand how they are used to form a sentence.  Also, the list of key terms gives students a guide of where to find each part of a sentence in their own reading and writing.  Practice questions provide immediate feedback on whether or not students understand the material.
    There are clear components of educational theories found in this lesson.  Marzano, behaviorism, constructivism, cognitivism, repetition, and drill and practice are theories of learning and education that are present in this lesson.  
    There are a number of benefits and challenges to online learning in K-12 education.  Some of the benefits include a flexible schedule for students, the ability to take courses not offered through their school, the ability to learn at their own pace, a more-efficient form of learning, and the idea that students are more in control of their own learning.  Some of the challenges to online learning include the lack of face to face connections and the reliance on students to be relatively independent and self-sufficient.
    In general, open source courses and online learning are not for everyone, but they are a great option for some students.  It is important that families, students, and teachers know about these options, and are aware of all of the learning opportunities available to them.  

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