The greatest surprise this far when running my Googling the Earth online course is the amount of 'proofreading' it requires. In the end it is not enough that you come up with an idea, sell it, prepare the material and hand it over. One also has to make sure that it is correct, since the lovely people in the e-learning department do not know the subject matter. In the end, the person who has created the material knows the order it has to be presented for a maximum learning effect and how different parts (podcast, audio PowerPoint, web pages, exercises and links) link and build up into a learning experience.
I have realised that I have probably included too much content into the course. This is quite normal for an academic archaeologist; you just think the amount of basics people have to grasp in order to be able to process certain new topics. However, the learners probably do not have too many hours per week for studying, so I hope I have not prepared too much to be ploughed through. On the other hand, one had to prepare for a situation where you have a novice in landscape archaeology who wants to use different online resources and give them enough of the context in order to be able to carry out and understand the exercises.
Designing the exercises was also a little daunting, since some of the course participants are really active in their part-time study or have membership of different fieldworker or archaeology groups. If they are really computersavvy, they can do exercises really quickly. There may also be some topics they consider knowing enough and they skim the content and choose the exercises they have been looking for. This makes it a difficult balancing act.
The most unpleasant thing is checking the sound tracks. I am not used to listen to my own voice and I am sure one picks oneself all those awkward pauses, hesitations and scrambled words to the maximum effect. Luckily, there are the bullet points to read for the students and in places it sounds OK. It is a pity I did not have the instruction book for the audio recorder, so I did not try forwarding or rewinding the tape. Next time I will do more retakes!
Even if we do have a discussion forum, I do not have direct contact with the students when they are doing the exercises. Thus, any sticky points will come out only later – and only if they comment on them. In this type of course they do most of the work themselves. Luckily, they will send me a very short mini project of their work at the end, so I will know if they found it useful and learnt new skills. If so, I will be content.