Tag Archives: Course Design

'Dolly mixture' courses

Dolly Mixture courses

This week I had a great chat with @nancyrubin and @CliveBuckley after I re-tweeted Nancy:

Are Courses Outdated? MIT Considers Offering ‘Modules’ Instead

My thoughts on courses and training, as I mentioned above, as just this: courses tend to fit the organisational structure of the issuing body and don’t always fit the ‘need’ of the learner. You join (example) a specific school or faculty to start and complete your degree in Business Management or Economics or Sociology. But what if the specific subjects you really want to study are only loosely based around the course structure that the institution wants to teach? Continue reading

Planning Your Online Course

Planning an Online Course

Whilst searching for some resources on planning and designing online courses I came across this excellent brainstorming ‘sketchnote’ (I’ll write more about these another time) from Giulia Forsythe called ‘planning your online course’.

Planning Your Online Course

Take some time to look at this in detail, there’s a lot here for you (click to enlarge it).

Image source: Planning your online course (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Myth of Average: Todd Rose at TEDxSonomaCounty

Designing for the average student [video]

In this TEDx talk Todd Rose compares the difficulties and issues encountered by the US Air Force in the 1950’2 and 1960′s in a severe drop in performance in it’s fighter pilots to the drop in performance in today’s education. The comparison is the design of the cockpit / classroom.

YouTube: Todd Rose, the myth of average

Guess what .. the Air Force found out the hard way that there is no such thing as the ‘average’ pilot. Todd argues that isn’t it about time that education and policy makers figured out that there is no such thing as an ‘average’ students, and that we should be more flexible in how we design learning. Continue reading

EDCMOOC

Digital Artefact for #edcmooc Wk.5

EDCMOOCHere we are, the final week, well done everyone, we made it!

A ‘Digitial Artefact’ you say? What’s that then? I was not sure when the MOOC started what a digital artefact was, but now understand it’s just another term, albeit slightly pompous, for a blog post, a video, an image, a collection of audio/visual elements that make are collected together in one ‘presentation’ mode.

And what is this artefact to do: The artefact will be critically peer-assessed on elements and themes of the course:

  1. The artefact addresses one or more themes for the course
  2. The artefact suggests that the author understands at least one key concept from the course
  3. The artefact has something to say about digital education
  4. The choice of media is appropriate for the message
  5. The artefact stimulates a reaction in you, as its audience, e.g. emotion, thinking, action

I decided to bring together some thoughts around the MOOCs theme in a Prezi, see below:   Continue reading

EDCMOOC

Reflection on the ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’ MOOC, Wk.4 #edcmooc

EDCMOOCWeek four and we are so nearly at the end of the five week Coursera / University of Edinburgh MOOC: ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’. From ‘being human’ (last week) to ‘redefining the human’ we will be introduced to the perspective that the “notion that the human’ is a social category which is made, not a biological or philosophical matter-of-fact”, apparently!

Videos are again the staple of the weekly resources, and the discussion boards are full of analysis, sympathy, and criticism with the themes and characters within. However, there is far more criticism than in previous weeks – have we now arrived at a stage where we, the students, are either more confident in opinion or we are just more comfortable with the subject?

  • Robbie is not human, but can demonstrate human-esque experiences (loneliness, happiness, faith, etc.). The big question here is why we continue to treat ‘Robbie’ as non-human when he has all the traits and characteristics of an entity that is human – he has a life-span, he is self-aware, he understands the importance of his existence, he ‘dreamed’, and the importance of his impending demise, he knows what is is to be lonely. Are these not human characteristics? While you may argue that he was made not grown … aren’t we all made, at conception? He became “self-aware” .. well, children become more and more aware of themselves at different ages. Is this not what happened to Robbie, albeit in a different way. Yes, he is not organic, but is that the only condition to being classed as ‘human’ that Robbie does not fulfill?Robbie clearly has human characteristics, but how many were programmed and how many were developed, learned, or ‘evolved’? Is that the true definition of human, the ability to evolve, is it more than just organic material?

Robbie – A Short Film from Neil Harvey on Vimeo.

EDCMOOC

Reflection on the ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’ MOOC, Wk.3 #edcmooc

EDCMOOCWeek three and into ‘block 2′ of the five week Coursera / University of Edinburgh MOOC: ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’. Are we leaving the bliss of utopia behind, or will be building on the fear of a controlling and dystopian ‘master’ as we become ‘human’?

“What does it mean to be human within a digital culture, and what does that mean for education?”

This week is introduced from the perspective that “we tend not to question, in our everyday lives, where the boundaries of ‘the human’ lie”.  As with previous weeks we have a few videos to watch and criticise analyse as well as a few papers and web resources to read in order to define or answer what it means to be human in the future.

  • The advert from Toyota has had a lot of discussion in the Coursera forum but I have a more cynical approach to it – stop trying to intellectualise something that is pure marketing. Do you really think Toyota is trying to make some kind of moral message on the future of technology, or just trying to replicate other successful advertising or cinematic sequences? The end of the advert is very reminiscent of the end of The Truman Show, where Truman (aka Jim Carrey) has a choice to stay in the world he now knows is fake, yet safe, or leave to an unknown but world that allows freedom of choice and experience. Isn’t this also what education is becoming … isn’t this why we’re also doing this MOOC, for the freedom of choice?
  • The second advert, this time one of the adverts in the series from BT (UK) which is supposed to represent “authentic” human contact, taking a cheap shot at the Instant Messaging and Facebook generation in an effort to show how a simple phone call is the real thing. No, a conversation in person is the real thing, a phone call is the next best thing. If we take this scenario into the real world, into my day to day work, then I would rather walk along the corridor to someone’s office and talk to them properly than a phone call or email. In an online learning environment this is obviously not possible, and neither is a phone call (one tutor to ‘x’ number of students, that could be a lot of calls) – this is why Instant Messaging or discussion boards and/or conference calls (Skype?) are popular, and will remain so.

Continue reading

EDCMOOC

Reflection on the ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’ MOOC, Wk.1 #edcmooc

EDCMOOCHere are some notes, links, conversations, thoughts, and reflections on the first week of the University of Edinburgh / Cousera ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’ MOOC. This reflection will form part of the work required by the MOOC as well as reflections on the processes and Coursera system itself.

Initial thoughts on the course and/or platform (supplemental to my earlier post):

  • Agree to abide by an ‘honour code’ – much like a learning contract that some places use with students, does anyone have any indication that this works (or not)?
  • There is so much hype around this MOOC, why? Is it because it’s the first in the UK by Coursera AND a UK HEI?
  • There is so much going on, on all the platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Coursera discuss boards, etc.) that, even day after the official start, it’s very overwhelming and I am thinking “what have I let myself in for?” Is this why so many people don’t finish (or even start)?
  • So far I’ve done the whole MOOC on the iPad, including this post using the WordPress app. It’s not easy as the formatting in the post needs fine tuning and this can really only be done (still on the iPad: links, image alignment, etc.) through the admin web interface.
  • One discussion board per week/topic … for up to 40,000 students? I think this needs further management to make it something that can work with and for the students. Even after the first day the number of posts was intimidating, who knows what it’ll be like in a week or so.
  • Don’t confuse the learners with inappropriate or unnecessary language or jargon. This will only make them feel even more alienated and removed from the objectives of the course and cause unnecessary worry and stress. If you want us to produce a blog post, video, presentation, etc. then ask us to do this .. I have never used the term ‘digital artifact’ and probably wont start now either.

Now for my reflection on week one of the course itself:

  • Thankfully the terms ‘utopian’ and ‘dystopian’ are explained – this was causing me concern as I had no idea what I supposed to understand by this until now, in relation to education and technology: ‘utopian’ (creating highly desirable social, educational, or cultural effects) or ‘dystopian’ (creating extremely negative effects for society, education or culture).
  • Continue reading

#durbbu

Blackboard Users Conference #durbbu: MOOC Pedagogy

Durham Blackboard Users ConferenceDay two of the Durham Blackboard started with an extremely useful insight into the roadmap Blackboard is taking with their product(s), as well as Blackboard’s own opinion on the conference theme: “Make Do or Spend?”. However, the Conference’s second keynote is from Jeremy Knox from the University of Edinburgh and was on “MOOC pedagogy: the challenges of developing for Coursera”.

What challenges, dilemmas, and opportunities do MOOCs offer:

  • cMOOC (connectivist) and xMOOC (Udacity / Coursera / edX – Institutional led): what is the value to the distinction between each?
  • MOOC tutoring & support is ‘light touch’ approach with low study hours per week, with certificates for completion and not credit.
  • Udacity is more corporate association developing MOOCs (for-profit, independent of institutions). Continue reading

Essentials of Online Course Design

Book Review: “Essentials of Online Course Design”

Essentials of Online Course DesignThe book “Essentials of Online Course Design” from Majorie Vai and Kristen Sosulski is one I have heard about from a few people recently, and one I felt would be worth reading, and at a reasonable £22 from Routledge it’s a fair investment … not to mention the accompanying companion website.

The book is described as a “fresh, thoughtfully designed, step-by-step approach to online course development.” The core of the book is a set of standards that are based on ‘best’ practices (I prefer the term ‘good practice’ as ‘best practice’ implies there is no room for improvement) in the field of online learning and teaching. “Pedagogical, organizational and visual design principles are presented and modeled throughout the book and users will quickly learn from the guide’s hands-on approach. The course design process begins with the elements of a classroom syllabus which, after a series of guided steps, easily evolve into an online course outline” (this last bit was taken from the promotional text).

It is well structured with chapters organised in a nice ‘progressive’ way enabling you to build on previous concepts and content (not to mention contexts), with chapters like:

  • Engaging the Online Learner
  • Activities and Tools: Working Collaboratively and Independently
  • Assessment & Feedback
  • Building the course Foundation: Outcomes, Syllabus, and Course Outline
  • Creating the Course Structure: Online Lessons

The authors are at pains with this book to describe what works in an online learning and teaching environment without using the same tired, complicated, and often dense formats, and they have successfully simplified the processes required when applying a ‘standards-based’ approach enabling you to think more clearly on the “challenging task of rethinking your content for online study”. I know from experience that the recording of a face-to-face lecture does not work for online students: they just won’t sit for 45+ minutes to watch or listen to it. However, if you break down the recordings to an optimum 10-15 minute chunk they’re more manageable and digestible, therefore it should be recorded in this way and properly structured in the first place, with the online student in mind (the recordings are still valuable and applicable to campus-based students as well).

The companion website is also a valuable resource in its own right, but with the book targeting what and when you should use it the examples and references it contains should help you with the initial course build as well as being a good reference guide for course review and redesign.

Essentials of Online Course Design

So, what have I got from the book, either as something new or some existing knowledge or ideas reaffirmed?

  • Course design: careful consideration is needed when developing a course from scratch, especially to the structure you use and the technologies you implement – each element will need an introduction and explanation according to your target audience/student. If you think your student audience is likely to need more hand-holding when dealing with new technologies then get the appropriate support and/or resources in pace for them before they realise they need it.
  • Multimedia: images, video, and audio presentation/narration can improve the ‘clarity’ of presentation and understanding and can, where used appropriately, enhance the learning. Where they are used badly it can be an unwanted distraction, so use wisely.
  • Context – often overlooked in course design is the simple step of introducing yourself to your students. It’s not just about “this is me and this is how you can get in contact’, it’s also about giving the students the background as to why you are qualified to be leading them in this course/subject area. Tell them about your professional self, your research, your publications, what qualifications you bring to the subject speciality … only those that are relevant to the topic (not your full CV, they’re not that interested!).
  • Sign-post it and Use it – whatever you design, make sure you sign-post it, explain why you’re doing it, and use it yourself. If you have a discursive activity explain the ‘why’ as well as the ‘how’ and be the first person to post – introduce your expectations. Don’t forget to close the discussion as well, bringing the different strands of the activity into your conclusion and highlight concepts and individual contributions, not necessarily as good/bad examples, but just posts that led the discussion in certain directions.
  • Consistency – use the same font, font size, colours, etc., as well as the same type of headings in different places – if you swap and change throughout the course you’ll confuse and disorientate your students. You also need to consider the consistency of the jargon and style of your words, find your style and stick to it, it’ll be easier for the student to read.
  • Structure – what works in your classroom does not translate directly to the online world. Online resources for learning does not mean a ‘document repository’ of PDF and PPT files. If this is what you have and insist on using then at least provide a meaningful introduction to the file, what it contains/what it’s about, why the student needs it, and an activity for the student to engage in a a result of reading the file.
  • Orientation – thankfully this book does include orientation. Too many students are dumped in at the deep end with their online course with little explanation as to what or why they’re doing it (other than to ‘learn’ and ‘pass’) and hardly ever have the ‘intended learning outcome’ (ILO as I know it) explained. Include and explain the outcome and syllabus in relation to the assessment and any related knowledge needed for subsequent courses.
  • Learning Outcome – ever needed to write a learning outcome for your course and struggled? There’s an appendix to the book that covers this, and is a really useful guide including outcome vs. objective, rationale, and writing the outcome.

I know I can’t include all the best bits of the book, I’d have to reproduce a vast quantity of the book to do that, but I hope I’ve given you an idea why I like it and will be using it for reference in the future.

Have you read this book, do you agree with me and/or the authors? Please leave a comment below and join in the discussion.