LACK OF CUSTOMIZABILITY
Further, as the TA, I want to help guide students to the material that is most important for our syllabus. With CourseMate I have zero customizability options. I create a code, email it to the students, then sit back and check their “engagement” with the Engagement Tracker. I personally find tools like crossword puzzles and flashcards a bit juvenile and irrelevant because I am not making quizzes that require rote memorization. I do however find their “Internet Exercises”, “Web Links”, and “Primary Source Assignments” useful. I’d prefer to be able to disable less important functions in order to highlight the more useful ones so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.
LACK OF LEVERAGING THE ONLINE ENVIRONMENT
One point of contrast is the excellent online curriculum www.hippocampus.org. Their site is also primarily static, and has little to no social interaction as well. Nevertheless, the difference between the two is vast. Hippocampus’ focus on providing a visually striking online textbook course is excellently executed. It’s US History course (http://www.hippocampus.org/History%20%26%20Government) integrates presentations with audio and text in an intuitive and striking way. They provide online presentations with striking images and audio voiceovers that walk you through their texts beautifully and engagingly. If you want to get students engaged with course material in a static environment, Hippocampus does really well. CourseMate should take note.