My Experience with Free/Open Source Courses

     I always love Kahn Academy for it’s educational resources.  It has a wealth of videos aimed at educating viewers math, science, economics and finance, humanities, programming, and other topics of interest.  Since I am planning to take the Mathematics placement test to attain my secondary math endorsement and I haven’t actively done math problems since college over 23 years ago, the course I chose to take for this experience was an online course on functions. 

     I was able to watch several short videos explaining the difference between equations and functions, relations and function, and many other features of a functions.  They went through several examples of defining a function.  At the end of the first part of the lesson the online course checked for understanding by having me answer several function questions requiring 5 correct answers in a row before moving onto the next topic.

            This course was designed to start with the basic understanding of a function and then slowly build on this understanding.  Building on prior learning and understanding before moving on to the next level is very similar to the traditional learning environment.  I also like that the lessons are broken down into small lesson videos so I could go back and review a portion that I struggled to understand.

            A bulletin board system was used during this lesson to explain and show examples of problems we were trying to solve.  For math this was especially important because seeing the problem is very important.  The instructor also had questions uploaded onto the bulletin board for easy access and then he used different colored pen tools to help identify the value of x when solving the functions.  This is similar to face-to-face learning in the sense that the instructor is giving a lesson and students are following along.  They also had a short “checking for understanding” section that assesses the level of mastery.   There are also a few differences.  I was able to pause the lesson when needed and restart right where I left off.  There was a lack of teacher-student interaction because this was a taped lesson and didn’t have the ability to chat with the instructor. 

            While there was a lack of teacher-student interaction I still feel the course offered a rich learning experience.  I was able to quickly learn about functions as the class was scaffolded starting with simple questions and problems building on the prior knowledge in the next video.  The instructor also did a good job using different collared pens to highlight the important parts of the problem for visual queues when solving the question.

            Because this is class was not a real-time course but recorded earlier and then uploaded it did not provide the opportunity to ask questions during the lessons.  While I didn’t feel the need to ask questions I also know that other students may have issues with learning some topics this way.  Because of the style this is a Behaviorism lesson.  It encompasses a teacher-led approach, breaks down the learning into small tasks, and has several examples that are similar to drills.  Your understanding is measured through their assessments and the ability to get five questions in a row that includes skills and abilities being enhanced through practice. 

            For some students who have a strong math background they may be able to watch these videos and understand the concepts without further learning, however for most students I would suggest these courses as a refresher or enhancement to a class that they are currently enrolled.  I know the issue our school struggles with is access to technology to use resources like this in their classes.  In an online setting I could see how this could be a huge resources students could use to enhance their understanding of topics being taught in an online environment. 

            In conclusion, I enjoyed taking the course on functions and refreshed my understanding of this math concept for future testing and endorsements I hope to attain.  While I am not a math teacher, I can see using these resources to enhance the traditional classroom and online environments giving students another option to learn these concepts.  I will be using the videos found on Kahn Academy to prepare myself for the Mathematics place test in the near future.

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Comment by Theresa Allen on February 24, 2014 at 9:37pm

Melissa,

I really like Khan Academy as well, although I'm not as familiar with it as I could be.  I need to share the e-courses with our math teachers as well as having them set up classes for their students to do some of their own online learning.  This is a good place to get review and even to move onto other concepts.

Comment by Janelle Shumaker on February 24, 2014 at 10:04pm

Melissa, 

I think you hit the nail on the head in saying that maybe these courses would be better as "refresher or enhancement" courses.  I think that many times online classes would not work for a majority of students because there isn't much initial teaching to help guide the students.  I know that some students can learn independently, but for the most part students still need teaching and classroom discussions to take place.  However, I do like your idea to use courses like these as refreshers, even for yourself with the place test.  

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