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POT Cert Week 5: the online syllabus

Chapter 5: Creating an Effective Online Syllabus somehow failed to ‘grab me’ . Unlike previous chapters, it failed to make much of an impression on me. I don’t think I can rightly say why that is either. Maybe it’s because  I haven’t actually taught online (yet) and haven’t designed my course to a sufficient stage as to be thinking about the nuts and bolts of the syllabus. That’s not to say that the information wasn’t useful, it’s just that I don’t think I’m in a position to say exactly what information was most useful, or indeed what information might be considered ‘questionable’.

However, reading the chapter has caused me to ponder how I might best ensure and/or establish that learners have actually read the given texts within the course. In my experience discussions often fall flat because insufficient numbers have actually read the material. This is an aspect that I’m keen to make crystal clear within the syllabus. Does anyone have any advice on this?

You might have already guessed that I took away from the chapter the importance of being clear from the outset in your instructions and your expectations for the course. It can be said that the syllabus sets the tone for the course, and if it’s not well structured and the ‘geography’ of the online environment not clearly explained, a lot of precious time and energy will be wasted in the weeks to come. Here, I liked Ko and Rossen’s idea of producing a narrated guide to quickly help orientate the learners and to alleviate any anticipated difficulties (p.121).

The recording of The Interactive Syllabus highlighted the importance of taking account of the amount of clicking a learner will have to do in order to arrive at the required location and gave practical instruction on how how to design this in. It was very useful.

I’m interested to hear how others found this chapter and what they took away from it.

POT Cert Week 4: designing authentic learning with ‘real’ people – a portfolio approach

Continuing to develop the topic of course design, this week’s POT Cert task was to read in Ko and Rossen the second part of Chapter 3: Course Design and Development and to consider which elements of course design you’d want to build into your course.

The chapter explained that this crucial stage involves ” the actual creation of a syllabus, class schedule, content, exams as well as activities the class will follow” (p.63), and that these activities can be divided up into the following categories

  • instructor generated content and presentation
  • discussion/interaction/communications
  • group-oriented work and student-centred content
  • research
  • assessment

It was also re-iterated that course goals and objectives should already be drafted before proceeding with your course assembly.

With regards to my objectives, Jim Julius, commenting on my post last week, advised me to think through the kinds of assessments I might use in order to clarify a deeper set of objectives for my learners. As I’m taking a holistic view of digital literacies within my course, which not only promotes amongst  learners critical engagement with the topic but personal reflection on their own digital literacy practices, I’m minded to design my course with a portfolio method of assessment. I like this idea because a portfolio can demonstrate not only knowledge but skills and attitudes too, and it seems to resonate with the “life skills” approach that I’d be happy to take. The key to this method of assessment though appears to be “planning an adequate variety of activities” (p.85) from which the learners can assemble a portfolio of their work.

So now the question is what array of activities will best constructively align with my objectives and this method of assessment? At this stage my answer is  fairly generic, ‘any that promotes active learning and learner autonomy’. It’s a work in progress.

However, as the course is aiming to be fully online the element that I’m determined to build in and develop throughout is the sense of authentic learning with ‘real’ people. So I must work hard to develop not just activities for assessment but ways to develop the high degree of  familiarity, trust and interaction necessary so that meaningful discussion and effective group work can take place. It is noted that ” group organisation and working procedures take longer to develop in the online environment” (p.77).  Thankfully, there are some useful ideas for developing this aspect of course design; namely, a personalised introduction to the course or instructor via audio or video, ice-breaking activities, paired chats, exchange of private email and the availability of a “learners’ lounge” (a discussion area specifically set aside for casual conversation).

POT Cert Week 3: a ‘clean’ approach to course design

Course Design

Ko and Rossen’s emphasis in Chapter 3: Course Design and Development seems to fall heavily on that of  ‘course conversion’. They say, “teaching exclusively online, [..] involves recasting your entire class in an online shape” (p.46). Well, I’m not “recasting”, I’m hoping to design a class from scratch that’s to be delivered online. I’m planning therefore to take what I’d call a ‘clean’ approach, this way I anticipate truly discovering the “opportunities afforded by the new online environment” (p.12).

You know, I think I’m going to really keep this idea of  ‘clean’ in mind as I develop my online learning space. Because, (picking up on Todd’s tutorial about constraints of the physical classroom) in order to manage resources and execute effective facilitation of learning, I think it’s really important to keep an uncluttered ‘classroom’, free from old handouts, out dated posters or notices and unnecessary furniture or equipment etc. It not only helps get the job done, but what’s more it sends out the message that you care and that you’re on top of your game.

My guiding force, pedagogical goals and objectives

Within the Where the Hell Do I Start?” tutorial, I found the idea of  identifying a guiding force for the course very helpful, especially as I’m starting from scratch and don’t really a have a syllabus. Consequently, I’ve chosen a recently published textbook, Understanding Digital Literacies – A Practical Introduction, as my ‘guiding force’ for this project. Now I can articulate the goals of my emergent course and tentatively identify its objectives before moving on to explore the best methods and approaches to make my pedagogy happen (online).

Here’s an idea of how I’m getting on:

Goal(s): to provide learners with both the theoretical and analytical tools needed in order to start exploring the many new digital literacy practices that have been afforded by recent developments in digital technology, and to encourage them to reflect on and critically evaluate their own digital literacy practices.

Objectives: (i) demonstrate an understanding that the concept of digital literacies (as opposed to ‘literacy’) is not just the ability to encode and decode meaning, rather it is the ability to do certain things, to show that you are a certain kind of person and to relate to other people in a certain way.

(ii) recognize that literacies are always situated and context-specific

(ii) recognize that an aspect of digital literacies involves understanding the affordances and constraints of individual digital tools

(iii) appraise a selection of digital technologies in terms of their affordances and constraints