When Fatimah Wirth decided to teach a massive open online course about how to run a virtual classroom successfully, she did not expect it to turn into a case study for the opposite.
But after a series of design flaws and technical glitches turned Ms. Wirth’s MOOC, “Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application,” into an Internet punch line, the instructional designer and her colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology decided on Saturday to suspend the course.
The course got off to a bad start; one student reported that the first e-mail he got from the instructor “was not an introduction to the course per se, nor instructions for getting started, but rather an apology for the technical glitches that were, unbeknownst to me, already occurring.”
Ms. Wirth had tried to use Google Docs to help the course’s 40,000 enrolled students to organize themselves into groups. But that method soon became derailed when various authors began editing the documents. Things continued downhill from there; some students also had problems downloading certain course materials that had been added to the syllabus at the last minute. When the confusion continued, Georgia Tech decided to call a timeout.
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