The 12 Days of Course Development

magic, doves, sky, ring

What is Instructional Design?

When Christine B. shared with us Aesthetic principles for instructional design, it was like walking in a magic forest with fairy tales hopping from tree branches. Could we have said it better ourselves?

The instructional designer “sometimes acts in a role similar to that of the Greek chorus, commenting on the dramatic developments from a privileged standpoint.” 

And sometimes he/she “functions as a companion character  who is confidant to the protagonist and who might also act as provocateur or mirror, as Sam does during Frodo’s quest in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.”

“Instructional designers are also in the business of creating “refined and intensified forms of experience.”

In the spirit of the magic, and as a final blog post for this year (!), we are offering a collective effort at the season’s cheer and whatnot, with an aside note that some of us can even sing and/or play music!

The 12 Days of Course Development

sung to the tune of The 12 Days of Christmas

On the first day of course-dev my ID said to me –
“Make a timeline for your deliverabllllllles!”

On the second day of course-dev my ID said to me –
“Use Bloom’s for the course objectiiiiiiiiives.”

On the third day of course-dev my ID said to me –
“Let’s double-check those objectiiiiiiiiives.”

On the fourth day of course-dev my ID said to me –
“Align assignments with the course objectiiiiiiiiives!”

On the fifth day of course-dev my ID said to me –
“DON’T USE Comic Saaaaans!”

On the sixth day of course-dev my ID said to me –
“Build rubrics to assess student performaaaaaaance!”

On the seventh day of course-dev my ID said to me –
(Deep breath): “Curate readings and multimedia for your students from the library and the weeeeeeeeeb!”

On the eighth day of course-dev my ID said to me –
(Deep breath; ⅔ the way there!): “Check for new editions and obsolete information in the resources you proviiiiiiiiide!”

On the ninth day of course-dev my ID said to me –
Record some new lectuuuuuuures!”

On the tenth day of course-dev my ID said to me –
(Cough…hack…wheez): “Make materials accessible to all students with transcripts and image descriptiooooooooons!

On the eleventh day of course-dev my ID said to me –
“Check the course one last tiiiiiiiiiime!”

On the twelfth day of course-dev my ID said to me –
“Congratulations! The course is ready to laaaaaaauuuunch!”

Happy Holidays!

References:

Parrish, P. E. (2009). Aesthetic principles for instructional design. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 57(4), 511-528. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/218022948?accountid=12756

The Twelve Days of Christmas, an English Christmas carol

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What Happens in Those Writing Support Appointments Anyway?

The paper you’re reading has lost you: the commas are out of control, the word choices are weird, and that last paragraph doesn’t seem to have a point. It can be hard to know if lack of time was the culprit or if the student has not yet mastered the writing skills needed to express their ideas at the graduate level. Either way, a referral to online writing support is something you may have already done after struggling through a confusing piece of writing. Sometimes the paper comes back greatly improved; other times you may have wondered what exactly was discussed in that appointment.

Students contact us for a variety of reasons. Often it is because an instructor has suggested or required it, but some students are aware their writing skills aren’t that strong and their papers would benefit from some feedback. Even very capable writers can learn from having an objective reader check for clarity, so writing support doesn’t have to be remedial.

Once a student does reach out to us, what happens?

We set up an online web conferencing appointment and ask them to send their assignment description, draft, and specific areas of concern ahead of time. We read the draft, note suggestions, and then meet with the student to have conversation about their paper. By replacing the previous method of providing written feedback and sending the paper back, these conversations have allowed deeper explanations and hands-on practice of revision (making major improvements, especially focusing/ developing ideas) and editing (fixing mechanics).

Most students, and sometimes instructors too, want to focus on mechanics because those errors are the most easily identified and can be addressed with specific corrections. However, a better starting point for improving thinking and writing is working on answering several questions. Does the paper address the prompt? Does it have a thesis? Do paragraphs have topic sentences and supporting evidence? Are transitions used to show the idea relationships? Once these higher order of concerns are tackled, the grammar, formatting, and citation issues are next in line.

Writing tutors make it clear to students we are not proofreaders and editors.  Instead, we help them identify the sentence error patterns in the first part of the paper: this is a comma splice, and here are a few ways to fix it; these word choices could be more academic; this type of citation needs a signal phrase for better source integration. After practicing a few corrections with them, we ask students to apply what they’ve learned to the rest of the draft on their own.

Usually they do; sometimes they may not. Most, however, are pleasantly surprised at how helpful it is to talk through the basics of writing a good paper and better understand the difference between revising and editing. They are learning the vocabulary needed to discuss good writing and how to use the writing process more effectively. Hopefully, on your end as an instructor, you see are seeing the positive results as well!

Lori Rand is an Online Writing Specialist for the Student Academic Success Center.

Think pen and paper are obsolete? Think again.

startup-593327_1920

In distance education, many students type lecture notes on their computers, rather than writing on paper. After all, students use laptops to watch lectures, answer assessment questions, and participate in class discussions. It’s only natural to use the same device for taking notes, too, right?

Not so fast.

Last year, Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer, researchers from Princeton University and the University of California, studied how the two note-taking methods affect student assessment performance. The results? In short, they found that taking notes on a laptop can “negatively affect performance on educational assessments.”

If you’re reading this, perhaps you’re already nodding your head in agreement: Of course computers can harm learning—think of all those tempting and distracting online games and Facebook memes! But what’s really fascinating about Mueller and Oppenheimer’s experiments is that they relied on computers that were disconnected from the Internet. Without even a working web browser, students were free to focus on the lecture content. Nevertheless, those who took longhand notes consistently outperformed their high-tech peers when tested for conceptual recall. But why?

Mueller and Oppenheimer found that, when people type notes, they tend to write as much as possible, almost to transcribe every word. Those who take notes by hand are forced to summarize main points, and that process strengthens their understanding. Even when Mueller and Oppenheimer specifically told participants not to take verbatim notes, they still wrote far more words than longhand note-takers. The old quality-over-quantity standard strikes again.

So, how does this apply to distance education? Online instructors might encourage their students to grab a pen and sit back, away from their computers, to watch a full-screen lecture video. At first, students probably won’t like being separated from their keyboards and trackpads. But who knows? Maybe they’ll be pleasantly surprised when they see their next quiz scores.


Source:

Mueller, P. A., and D. M. Oppenheimer. “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking.” Psychological Science 25.6 (2014): 1159-168. Web.

Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK)

In the world of curriculum development and student assessment, there are many models that inform our work. Each model supports the design of relevant, engaging, and rigorous learning experiences. While Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy has served as the “go to” framework since the 1950s, it’s Norman L. Webb’s Depth of Knowledge system that has caught the attention of K-12 educators since the late 90s. His work continues to grow in popularity in higher education instruction as well.

What is Depth of Knowledge?

In short, Depth of Knowledge (DOK) is a framework for classifying content complexity in relation to the level and kind of mental demand that’s put on a learner to answer a question, solve a problem or to create a product. This work takes a different approach to learning frameworks than Bloom’s Taxonomy. Bloom’s work focuses on student action, the “what” of learning. DOK focuses more on the “how”.

Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Levels provide a vocabulary and a frame of reference when thinking about students and how they engage with the content. DOK offers a common language to understand “rigor,” or cognitive demand, in assessments, as well as curricular units, lessons, and tasks. Webb developed four DOK levels that grow in cognitive complexity and provide educators a lens on creating more cognitively engaging and challenging tasks.

  • DOK is NOT a taxonomy
  • ALL levels are important and are not linear levels
  • Each level has it’s own value
  • DOK is NOT about difficulty but is about cognitive demand
  • DOK is NOT based on verbs (like Bloom) but on the CONTEXT in which the verb is used and the depth of thinking required

Dr. Webb presents an overview of DOK

A Brief look at Webb’s Depth of Knowledge Levels

LEVEL 1 – Recall/Reproduction

    • DOK 1: A question you can answer by looking it up.
    • Every field requires a recall of facts, information or procedures.
    • Processing information on a low level.
    • We want students to be able to do things automatically. This is true in every field.
    • RECALL takes up about 30% of the curriculum, depending on what grade one’s in.

LEVEL 2 – Skill/Concept

    • DOK 2: A question or prompt that is routine but requires putting together more than one idea.
    • Use information or conceptual knowledge, two or more steps, etc.
    • If you think about level of complexity, connecting ideas, linking ideas, comparing and contrasting facts and information comes next.
    • SKILL covers about another 40% of the curriculum.

LEVEL 3 – Strategic Thinking

    • DOK 3: A prompt that requires a justified or supported response for one’s response, idea, opinion, or critique
    • Requires reasoning, developing a plan or a sequence of steps. There is some complexity and more than one possible answer.
    • This grew out of the notion of non-routine problem solving
    • Wanting students to do something they have never seen before, to apply what they know to something new leads to strategic thinking.
    • Students are reasoning, taking things apart and putting them back together again or creating something new
    • STRATEGIC THINKING covers about another 20% of the curriculum.

LEVEL 4 – Extended Thinking

    • DOK 4: Typically a project or research assignment, often a culminating work, often interaction with others is included or required — typically takes more time to respond to prompt
    • Requires investigation, time to think and process multiple conditions of the problem.
    • High cognitive demand and complex reasoning is expected.
    • This grew out of “wanting students to change the world.”
    • TIME is required to plan and execute– be it to research, explore, discover, create, etc.
    • EXTENDED THINKING covers about another 10% of the curriculum.

Some resources for applying DOK:

Learning Styles: How we engage with the world

If you have been following this blog, just a few months ago, we wrote about common learning styles and what effect they have on learners and teaching methods and practices, and that to a large extent these are not well-evidenced in either science or practice, but for some reason have a wide acceptance.

Today, we are tackling a different take on learning styles – rather learning preferences in ways we interact with the world along the continuum of how we do things (processing) and how we perceive things (think or feel, the perception continuum) as developed by Kolb and further modified by others.

I started doing research on reflective practice – one of many topics I am interested in! – and it eventually led me (should I say took me all the way back) to this source, which I found quite tangible. Reflective practice is an important process (practice) in professional and personal growth which starts with describing and identifying the problem, naming feelings associated with this, thinking through why a particular event took place, and finally developing a plan for dealing with a similar situation in the future or preventing it from happening in the first place, in a nutshell.

Then I ended up with Kolb’s learning styles (or preferences if you wish) and the continuums and the learning cycle, which all theorize learning in attempt to explain and leverage the process.

HOW IS THIS RELEVANT?

I believe that course design benefits from balancing a number of modes of student engagement and flexibility and student choice in the products they are required to submit as evidence of learning and mastery of concepts. Applying both Kolb’s learning styles/preferences and the modified learning cycle to a course, one can evaluate what sort of activities a particular course favors, if any, and if there are adequate (optimal) opportunities for engagement for all types of preferences.

If your course includes group work, are there also opportunities for students to reflect and process readings and thoughts? If your course is mostly based on readings and reflection, are there opportunities for students to take action in the real world and interact with other individuals in some capacity?

What are your thoughts about any learning styles, catering to various learning styles and this particular take on learning styles/preferences?

Sending email messages to students from a Blackboard course

We all have our workflow preferences and places that we check to stay connected. Some prefer using Course Messages (which in our configuration won’t send the message to a student’s email, unfortunately), and others prefer using actual email service.

There may be a practice compromise to accommodate both the need for convenience such as emailing a student (or a number of students) without leaving the course, and using email as a system, so that both students and instructors will get alerts when they receive messages.

Blackboard has emailing capabilities. While it email as a tool has been also disabled in our configuration, the workaround exists and instructors can choose to send an email directly from the course when using the Grade Center.

Here is how.

STEP 1: Visit Grade Center

In both Edit On and Edit Off views you have access to the “Email” button. Select a student you want to address, or several at once, and use the email options to send your message.

grade center view

STEP 2: Select your recipients.

You can add more if you wish on the next screen.

email from Grade Center

STEP 3: Edit your message, add recipients (optional), add attachments (optional)

edit and send your message

Remember that this email will be sent to you as well (the sender). The student then can reply directly back to you using email only. Consider this as an option.

ACTEM Conference Sneak Peek: Scoop.it

We’re off tomorrow to Bangor, ME, to present at the annual ACTEM Conference. I am presenting with the lovely Susan Barrett Hyde on the subject of web tools for scaffolded assignments. I hope to subdivide the general scope of the presentation into several blog posts to tide me over into 2016, and I thought I’d start things off with one of the tools I found myself using quite a bit, two or so years ago.

Scoop.it topic

The tool is Scoop.it, and its angle is that it provides users with an attractive, full-featured-yet-easy, magazine-style (mouthful!) curation space. Much like Pinterest, users subscribe to one another and good curators are rewarded with likes and new subscribers. The difference between Pinterest and Scoop.it is that the “pins” of the former emphasize the visual elements of what is pinned and de-emphasize any textual observations made by the curator, whereas the “scoops” in Scoop.it deemphasize the visual elements of the scooped article in order to draw attention to any observations, rebuttals, admissions or additions made by the curator. Additionally, attribution chains of scooped and re-scooped articles are clearer to follow, rendering in Scoop.it a more scholarly environment than what I’ve found in any of the other curation tools I’ve tried over the years.

The topic that I curated for about a year grew pretty significantly in readership over that period–I had about 3,800 viewers, before my interest ran dry and I left the topic for another. At the height of “Narrative Tech,” I was subscribed to all the other transmedia and narrative technology buffs in Scoop.it, and each of us was pulling from our own customized RSS and Google Alert feeds for the pool of possibly interesting (likely not) articles on our subject of interest. We held conversations in the comments fields below each others’ scoops and began conversations with our own insights rendered upon our own scoops. I learned a ton about narrative technology and transmedia storytelling from the experience, and developed a resource network that far exceeded that which I’d started with.

scoop.it 2

Topics appear as magazines, and many Scoop.it users run their topics like standalone blogs. Note above the extent of my thoughts on that one scoop, especially in comparison to the relative brevity of the article’s excerpt.

The reason I will be showing teachers Scoop.it at ACTEM tomorrow is twofold. One, it is a brilliant research tool that can quickly explode the number of sources you enter with. Two, it adroitly displays the give-take nature of research, which is far too often taught entirely as a state of absorbed spectatorship. Scoop.it is like a bookmarking tool that immediately requires the researcher to share his/her thoughts on the scooped resource, sometimes and sometimes not stirring a response from someone else interested in the topic. Scoop.it can be an excellent tool to introduce early in a writing class where students are encouraged to research the same subject for the entire semester. Early on in the process of learning Scoop.it, the experience is teaching students about what it means to make and share observations in the midst of researching and building a network of relevant resources. By the end of the course, their pool of resources is established, complete with (hopefully) connections to other researchers in the field.

scoop.it 3

Foundational to Scoop.it and its integration into the classroom is its ease of use. With the bookmarklet, it is simple to find an online resource and then…well, scoop it. The pop up dialogue window immediately allows the user to pen his or her observations, and it’s as easy as checking and unchecking boxes to control where else in the social network sphere where the scoop will be immediately shared. It is easy enough, I’ve found, for faculty and students to pick up rather quickly.

Collaboration in Online Courses: Group Work

putting together a jigsaw

We often use group work in our online courses, and success varies among courses, projects, and students.

Overall, our ultimate goal is organic learning, fostering an online community of learners and stimulating active participation in it. This, however, is not always achieved with a stellar consistency.

Reflecting on our use of groups in courses, a few issues become apparent. Recognizing and addressing these issues is an important part of the course design process.

This article examines some of the things you commonly find in a course with groups and group project, and some factors that can either make or break or improve the user experience, and offers suggestions on what to include in order to ensure collaboration opportunities and go beyond basic cooperation.

https://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/how-to-make-group-work-collaborative-in-online-courses-four-strategies/ 

While a facilitator plays an enormous role in student overall experience, the key is to design tasks that are truly collaborative, meaning the students will benefit more from doing the activity as a group than doing it alone. A complex task that requires everyone to contribute to a group project is often the way to ensure success.

Shadow Curriculum

All tasks assume that we have a certain prerequisites or skills, without necessarily explicitly stating these. Sometimes, the skills are easy to pick up, other times, a barrier to entry is too much for an individual to engage in an assignment, thus causing enormous frustration. Some frustration is good and healthy, and encourages learning (at least, constructivists believe so!).

In the same breath, we assume that our students have skills necessary for successful group work. In some instances, it is true and they do. In other instances, they have skills to compensate the lack of asynchronous group work skills. Since our students come mostly from a brick and mortar post-secondary degree background, it’s also likely they don’t have these skills (to collaborate in the asynchronous online environment) and as a result, additional communication and scaffolding need to take place.

In a course, students should have guidance concerning how to work in an asynchronous team to help them build those skills. In addition, there should already exist numerous opportunities in a course for community building. One gets to exercise ever more creativity when a course is only 8 weeks long. It will also help our cause to indicate that a course which has group projects will require more frequent communication from the get-go – and such an expectation upfront will help inform a student’s schedule for the term.

Frequent communication with groupmates may happen in a number of ways. It may be a shared Google Document, with comments and a chat built in. It may also be synchronous Skype or Google Hangouts sessions (or any other tool that provides similar services). It may be scheduled or ad hoc – where it helps to see who is currently online and available. It also may be weekly “office hours” with the instructor during which students can address their questions – for example, if the instructor has a “room” (or whatever the nomenclature is in a particular environment/LMS) and makes it available to students for use as “a study room” – very similar to study rooms in brick and mortar buildings.

At all times, this implies that students both have sufficient knowledge and skills to use such tools, and that the tools are readily available to them.

This sort of “shadow curriculum” has to be addressed during the course, in order to facilitate more productive group work.

Identifying Problems and Realistic Solutions

This paper identifies the most common problems and possible solutions to those when it comes to group work, and is a quick read.

As always, building in a contingency plan – in case, a groupmate is MIA or drops out or is somewhat apathetic about the group assignment; or skill level is not as expected; or the project needs revising on the spot to accommodate whatever may come up, – has to be part of the design process as well, and is essential when the term timeline is already intense.

Video Annotations and Discussions

faces with a play button as in video

In our courses, we sometimes use videos as a prompt to start a discussion. The video is most likely to be included in the viewing section (aka Multimedia or Watch this), and possibly a link would be included in the prompt itself. It’s also possible to streamline the discussion flow by removing the permission to create a new thread on the student part. As creative as we can get when we push against Blackboard limitations, the result is not often optimal. I am going to show a couple of options where the interface is way friendlier.

VideoAnt

This is a good social tool for annotating videos. You may use it with your own video from YouTube or use other people’s videos. It’s clean, may create a conversation among viewers (signing in with an existing account, such as Google user, required for responses and adding notes, but not for viewing). Create as many as you want. (Optional viewing)

Vialogues

Another similar service is provided by Vialogues. Here, too you can have a discussion (text discussion) of whatever is happening on the screen, plus the discussion can be guided by preset comments/annotations for others to react to in the context of the video.