Free Open Source Review – Open Yale Courses

Free Open Source Review – Open Yale Courses

For this week’s assignment I am tasked with selecting a free open course website and writing a review on the planning and design of the open course, compare and contrast the recommendations for online instruction as determined by our course textbook, and whether or not the designer implemented course activities that maximize active learning for students. For this assignment I choose to review Open Yale Course, RLST 152: Intro to the New Testament History and Literature.

Before I provide an analysis on the Open Yale Course, I will enlighten you on what exactly the Open Yale Courses provide. “Open Yale Courses (OYC) provides lectures and other materials from selected Yale College courses to the public free of charge via the Internet. The courses span the full range of liberal arts disciplines, including humanities, social sciences, and physical and biological sciences” (OYC, 2014). OYC were created to provide people around the world free access to a variety of course topics taught at Yale University. The courses are not designed to provide the means to obtain a degree, certificate, or course credit, but rather to educate life-long learners, graduating high school students, or anyone who may be considering attending Yale University. OYC’s main outlet to teach is through recorded lectures from the classroom posted on YouTube. In addition to the online lecture, OYC also provides a detailed syllabus, suggested readings, information on additional books to buy, and a response survey.

RLST 152: Intro to the New Testament History and Literature is comprised of (26) Lecture videos that range from twenty-eight minutes to over an hour long depending on specific topic. Each lecture has a downloadable “Section Topics” handout via a PDF file. The course has not been carefully pre-planned and designed to meet the standards of distance learning according to Simonson et al. (2012), “The instructional environment should be viewed as a system, a relationship among all the components of that system – the instructor, the learners, the material, and the technology (pg. 151). The main OYC page is organized in a manner that allows for easy access to all Open Courses available through OYC. Once the learner selects the course he/she would like to view, the main course page opens up to another well-organized course home page. The top menu bar provides links to the syllabus, all lesson lectures, books to buy, and a post course survey. Additionally, the course main page provides a course overview and information on the professor teaching the course. The syllabus for this particular course is short but detailed enough to provide the learner with a detailed course description, course expectations, texts required, and a grading scale. There is no schedule or approximate due dates for the course papers (I believe this to be the case because there is no actual beginning and ending time frame for the course). On top of that, there are no particular assignment details other than minimum length requirement and a short topic requirement. Lastly, there are no details on how to turn in assignments to the professor. Simonson et al., (2012) state, “Detailed assignment instructions are imperative. Each component of an instructor’s grading scheme should have its own document easily locatable within the course website” (pg. 134). It is apparent the course content layout was designed well, but not all pre-planning phases were implemented. In my opinion, the OYC was created by using actual Face-to-Face class requirements and Yale just uploaded a Face-to-Face classroom lecture which does not fall within a proper distance learning environment. “The term shovelware has evolved to describe this practice: Shovel the course onto the web and say you are teaching online, but don’t think about it much. Online activities for students should have specific pedagogical or course management purpose” (Simonson et al., 2012).

According to the course text, Simonson et al. (2012), recommend having unit-module-topic guidelines, assessment guidelines such as a written paper or quiz, content guidelines such as audio recordings or video supplied on CD or DVD, and instruction/teaching guidelines such as a weekly reading or threaded discussions. Unfortunately the OYC RLST 152: Intro to the New Testament History and Literature course does not do a good job in following the recommended distance learning guidelines. As stated previously, the course reviewed offered (26) lecture videos recorded directly from the face-to-face classroom, no discussion or weekly readings, or module breakdown. However, the course did recommend books to read related to the topic covered. In addition the course did not implement any activities in order to maximize active learning for the students. What would have been useful and full of knowledge is a “new testament” game or quick question activity to accomplish after each recorded video lesson.

In conclusion, the OYC RLST 152: Intro to the New Testament History and Literature course falls more in line with an “what to expect” if a student would want to review a typical Yale University lecture course. This course does provide a wealth of knowledge on the topic and can be viewed as a distance education course, just without the interaction, discussions, online assignments, grading, digital assignment dropbox, and communication with the instructor. Again, the OYC course fails to meet recommended guidelines stated by Simonson et al., “These recommended guidelines are intended to provide ways to organize courses and be guiding principles that will make courses with equal numbers of semester credits equivalent in terms of comprehensiveness of content coverage, even if these courses are offered in different programs, cover different topics, and are delivered using different media” (2012, pg. 180).

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson
Open Yale Courses. (2014). About. Retrieved from


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