In May of this year I started an Architectural Visualization course with CGSociety (http://www.cgsociety.org/). This beginner / intermediate course is delivered online to students interested in learning architectural visualization with 3ds Max and mental ray. The class closes this July 13th, and is has been a long ride, what with preparing all my classes and keeping up with student work. It has been interesting to me to see this type of format of online course, as I have had several experiences with delivering online (or distance) learning before.
There are so many forms of online learning, that the mind does truly boggle. when you include distance learning and what is referred to as blended learning the methods of creating a course increase exponentially. Used to be, get a classroom, get an instructor, bring in students, conduct class. Simple, but often extremely expensive.
I've always contended that the best form of learning happens, when you have that problem while you work. You lean back in your chair and ask your buddy sitting next to you, "hey, Amer, how do you do that thingy with the gizmo?" and get a quick explanation. You try it, maybe show it to your bud again, get a thumbs up, maybe a few tweaks etc. What happened there? Just-in-time learning? A teachable moment? Direct knowledge transfer from master to apprentice? Coaching? People teaching each other? Answer: probably all of the above...
I figure the more learning online can approach the above ideal learning scenarios the better. One of the things I really like about the CGSociety course has been the ability of students to ask me questions directly, they occasionally send me files which they are having problems with and I'll try to deconstruct and fix them, letting them know how I did it.
By far the best thing about the class has been the interaction between the students. Each student gets a work thread every week, where they post images of things they are doing. Everyone else can see their work, my responses, and post comments as well. These threads are so active that sometimes there are 5-6 posts before I even get to see the original student's post. Students at intermediate levels are brings a vast amount of knowledge to the course. Many are expert in other software, and want to learn 3ds Max. It humbles me to see all the knowledge in my class. All the better for the students though, it is like there are 10 teachers instead of just one.
I heard it once said tht the best university is one which has a library and a coffee shop. Well I guess CGSociety has accomplished just that. Cheers to them.When the course wraps up I'll see if I can get some of my students work posted