Over the years FunDza has been asked by various organisations for online support in reading programmes using our appealing content. We first designed customised online courses for different groups such as the Year Beyond programme. Recently we have started creating and running open online courses for all of our readers to access.
There are now always three open courses available for readers to do, each one staying online for three months, thus a new course is added per month.
Some of the courses are based on existing FunDza content, with the collection of about 10 comprehensions based on stories, blogs, poems on the FunDza site. These are selected around a particular theme, such as challenging prejudice.
The questions are mostly multiple choice. It has been an interesting challenge to get a range of question types into this format, including those requiring higher order analytical thinking. Questions are designed to not only test understanding, but also to help readers develop comprehension. Once they have completed a comprehension, users get their results, and they get the explanations for each answer.
We have started adding an open question to each comprehension so that users are generating some text themselves. These aren’t ‘marked’, but we do capture the responses so we get a feeling for our readers’ insights and abilities in their written work.
An interesting development is that we have started creating texts to feed the courses, instead of only using what was already available on the site. For instance, we commissioned Liz Sparg, a textbook writer, to compile over 50 explanations and quizzes on English language use, grammar and punctuation. These language-based open courses have proved very popular, with over 136 people completing our latest ‘All about punctuation’ course. We have also developed other ‘curriculum-specific’ courses, such as about how to write different kinds of essays, and how to prepare for the transactional writing exam.
People who complete our courses get electronic certificates of completion, and, if they got over 75 %, of excellence as well. Many of our readers have responded with great delight at their award!
Other non-fiction articles and blogs have been commissioned to be part of particular courses, and some of these articles have in turn become very popular on our site generally, even after the course has been completed and removed from the site.
The last quiz in each course is a survey of our readers about their feelings about the course. So far feedback has been very positive. Many readers said that they would like to have a course on being workwise, so that has been the latest course we have developed. We are still experimenting with content to see what has the most appeal.
We can see that the use of our online courses is increasing: 14 people finished our first course, but now on average over 100 people complete each course. We are hoping that as more teachers and trainers discover these free resources, they will reach more and more users.