Open, Session-based (Synchronous) course: Introduction to Astronomy
Taught by Professor Ronen Plesser, January-February 2016
As the first Duke Extend course opened and marketed widely to the public, Introduction to Astronomy enrolled more than 4,100 students. The following feedback was collected in a mid-course survey of students.
What Students said about Introduction to Astronomy:
How would you rate your experience creating a Duke Extend account and enrolling in the course?
Students generally reported a good or excellent experience creating a Duke Extend account and enrolling in the course.
How intuitive was it for you to use Duke Extend?
Most students reported that the platform was mostly or entirely intuitive to use.
Once the course began, did you experience any problems accessing the course?
Most students did not experience problems with Duke Extend.
Students who did experience problems explained that these problems included:
- Issues with the video player when used at different speeds (the videos for this course were hosted via YouTube)
- Difficulty returning to the course site after signing out (finding course site)
- Dropped connection (unclear if these are user-facing or server-side connection issues)
Did you engage in course discussions?
What was the discussion experience like?
- Several students reported the experience was “good,” “very good,” and “helpful.”
- “Fine, high caliber of intelligence in forum.“
- “My experience was very positive.”
- “Clunky, frustrating […] the TA who answered was pleasant.”
- “CTAs especially Genady have been exemplar or very helpful. Sometimes others are less cordial in communication. Some legitimate posts (not necessarily by me) are not acknowledged or responded to.”
- “The TAs and the other course students are very good at asking for and offering advice. I find the discussions very valuable. If I am struggling with a concept or problem I can ask and also ask follow up questions.”
- “I feel there’s less forum participation by students than when I did this course on Coursera (2013), especially regarding homework help but also, for example, recent astronomical discoveries. Community TAs and staff are very helpful, like last time.”
Did you take Introduction to Astronomy on Coursera, and do you remember what this course experience was like?
More than a third of respondents took Introduction to Astronomy on Coursera.
Overall, how satisfied were you with Duke Extend?
The majority of students were satisfied overall with the course experience using Duke Extend.
What faculty or staff said about the course:
Ronen Plesser, Professor of Physics, Mathematics, and Education, course faculty
The new platform works. We could probably do a better job of fine tuning the way we use it to optimize the student experience.
I still think this is a powerful tool for studying pedagogy and would like to think of ways to use it constructively.
Semi-Closed, Session-based (Synchronous) course Focusing on Duke Alumni audience:
9/11 and its Aftermath
Taught by David Schanzer, October-November 2016
9/11 and Its Aftermath was the first course taught on the Duke Extend platform. The course staff faced some challenges ensuring a smooth registration and enrollment experience using OneLink. Users were directed to create an account with or without OneLink, whereas Duke Alumni preferred that users should log in with a OneLink ID.
After changes were made to the course description page, and users were directed to create a OneLink account prior to accessing a special course registration link (which automatically registered and enrolled OneLink users), far fewer account registration issues were reported.
Registration and Enrollment
People expressed confusion about the registration process, especially with the link between OneLink and Duke Extend.
Over half the people commented that it took several tries before they were able to gain access to the course and they found the registration process difficult. Several people said they gave up without ever succeeding or by the time they registered, the course was well underway. Twenty-three percent of survey respondents were never able to log in.
A typical comment was, “Registration was confusing, required a phone call and having somebody walk through the process. Even the person who helped understood that the process was confusing and cumbersome. Definitely THE MOST confusing account creation and enrollment process I’ve encountered.”
The unlabeled box in the visualization about represents the 6% of people who said the Duke Extend platform was “a little bit intuitive” to use. Only 4 people commented on the user experience of the platform and the negative comments focused on the problems people had logging in, not actually navigating the platform.
On-Going Access Problems
As with the user experience question, most people who had problems with on-going access to the course were having problems with the login process. There were no other substantive comments in this area.
The majority of people did not use the discussion forums. Those who did generally found it to be a positive experience. No criticisms were noted.
As shown, just over half the survey respondents were very satisfied overall with their experience. Those who were not satisfied were very likely responding to problems creating an account and logging in to the platform. Navigating the platform was not a problem.
The one area for improvement would be to send out weekly reminder emails and an email notification when the course begins. A couple people noted being very disappointed they did not get such a notification and therefore did not know the course had started.
What faculty / staff said about the course:
Jenn Chambers, Duke Alumni Association, course facilitator
“I don’t believe we had any downtime, or at least there weren’t any reports from our course with David Schanzer.
I think the interface of the actual platform was intuitive, and we did have a few reports that people thought it was easy to navigate. The complaints we had about the site were actually related to the login process.
We were able to schedule everything out and it seemed to be rather smooth. We did a class a week, releasing on Mondays. I think we had an initial question on where to post the Intro video for the course so that it wasn’t behind a login, but other than that everything seemed to go well.
We’ve done a course through Coursera and one through Duke Extend now. I haven’t had any negative feedback on my side with either platform in terms of functionality, but the log in process for both courses for alumni has been challenging.
I do anticipate doing additional programs for alumni exclusive access, but we also know that alumni and other members of the Duke community are participating in other online courses. My only request is that we use something that allows for better tracking of who is participating in all of the courses. The value-add of these opportunities to our donors and alumni is something that should be considered, but we need to be able to tell who is taking the classes and how often. Neither Coursera or Duke Extend seem to have a solution for this yet and we’ve had to come up with clunky, work-around solutions. I feel like there may be other ways to improve this in the future, but the platform that we go with has to be flexible to allow for this as well.”
On-Demand Open Course Focused on Duke Community (Ongoing Availability): 3D Printing at Duke – Taught by Chip Bobbert
What staff said about the course:
Chip Bobbert, Duke OIT, course instructor
The platform infrastructure is great. Nice, lightweight, easy. Seems to meet everyone’s needs.
The platform didn’t [provide any barriers to starting the course on the planned schedule], it is very straightforward to use. The only barriers were related to the actual labor necessary [to create the course].
I like the system. I do want to note that creation of content is a significant amount of work that goes beyond the platform itself and I encourage programmatic thinking when it comes to this tool, not just considering it as an application.