Saturday, September 17, 2011


Anytime I have a chance to play volleyball, it's a good thing. It comes as no surprise then that another of the best classes I ever took was volleyball. Priority registration was ultra helpful in getting me into this ever popular class.

As I think about this class, I'm reminded of a comment made by someone several months ago on an online story about Western Governors University, my current employer. At the time, they were working to launch WGU Washington, so the news was covering the discussion. In supporting the establishment of WGU Washington, this commenter pointed out that he didn't think it was his responsibility as a taxpayer to subsidize young adults' self discovery. That is a whole discussion in and of itself and one of which I could argue either side (possibly three different sides).

As an institution of adult education, WGU focuses on getting down to business and providing students with what will really help them advance their careers. These are generally older, more mature students who don't need personal enrichment as much as they need advanced skills and credentials. Institutions serving traditional college-aged students have some responsibility, I believe, to help them be well-rounded members of society. Part of that would be encouraging physical activity that will reduce their physical well-roundedness.

Yes, I am now pondering how we could create a physical education program at an online school. I can see a log of hours spent practicing at the local gym, video of running through certain drills, and submission of results from a tournament the student participates in for a culminating experience.

An important part of the class I took was dedicated time for drilling and skill development. Just running out there and playing any sport is not an effective way of doing things (not to say it can't be fun). By taking the time to practice specific skills, when it comes times to use those skills in a game situation, you'll perform properly without having to think about it and with less likelihood of hurting yourself.

The middle of a game is not the best time to try something you've never done before. In low pressure environments like pick-up games with friends, it's a safe place to fail and try new things, and may in fact be encouraged by the group, but it's still not an effective way of perfecting a skill. Of course, outside of sports that's good advice for professional activities like giving presentations or using software to analyze data. Having an environment where it is safe to fail within your team but where everyone is well prepared and polished when working with outside stakeholders provides opportunities both to learn and to successfully perform at a high level. Yes, I'm still trying to justify the online volleyball course.

So let's have it. What are some other ideas for awesome online courses in subjects that don't initially seem like they would fit an online model?

No comments: