Nondirective Teaching for an Online Course

Last week I described my approach to designing my online courses for the summer. I explained how I try to think about each course beginning with a blank slate, and then letting intuition be my guide. In the end, however, I left my course structures a bit vague. Since then, I have continued to think about how I wanted each course to go, and feel like I have reached a resolution.

I'm sharing this because there isn't a whole lot out there (on the internet or in books) about how to facilitate meaningful learning in a nondirective way in an online course. I think this is something that Carl Rogers might have done, were he teaching today. 

For each course (general psychology and lifespan development), my students will have to complete 8 activities. I have designed somewhere around 15 possible activities for each of the following categories. Students can pick any 8 to complete:

  1. Personal Development (Sample Activities on my RESOURCES page)
  2. Self Assessment (Sample Activities on my RESOURCES page)
  3. Social Interaction with others in class (including professor)
  4. Pursuing an interest in psychology/development
  5. Conducting an original research project
Students will be asked to submit midterm status updates (for the midterm grade) and end-of-term status updates for the final grade.

I like this because it creates a wide open arena for students to pursue a variety of possible interests and goals. But it is done in a structured way, so students don't feel put out to pasture. Many of the activities have come from previous student recommendations on how to succeed in school, how to be happier, etc., which I think is really cool.

Here is the welcome video where I summarize the course structure, and which I am sharing with my General Psychology class. In it I am being myself. I did not get dolled up, and I did not make my dog leave the room (she's on the couch behind me). I speak informally, as though I were a real human person with interests and desires and goals that sometimes have nothing to do with being a professor.

As the summer term rolls on, I will post updates with real opinions about how I feel its going (and, if shared, student opinions).


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