Sunday, January 5, 2014

What I've learned about course design

Recently, as part of a continuing education certification, I was required to (re)design a face-to-face course for delivery as a blended course.  Same content, same student classification (MBA candidates) would think this would be easy, right?  Just substituting some online delivery for some of the classes; it's a piece of cake.

Here's what I learned in the process:

  1. I'm a collector and a hoarder of educational "stuff."  This includes but is not limited to textbooks, popular books, scholarly articles, news articles, assignments used by others (with their permission), ideas I've read about, get the picture.
  2. As a result of my collect-and-hoard habit, I have far more content for any given semester than I can ever use.  Which means I need to prioritize and make difficult choices.
  3. I don't like eliminating any of my precious hoard, all of which is gold(en) and some of which has to be platinum.  This would be true of most academics, despite my tongue-in-check self-characterization.
  4. None of that is about the students.  None. At all.  
  5. Starting with the students and what they should know or be able to do because of my course (outcomes)--the starting point for all design--is far harder, 
  6. The process of course design has an elegant simplicity, once I get past the hard part of articulating student outcomes, and provides an organizing schema that makes sense to me and, far more importantly, to my students.
  7. It's easy to do this backwards.  (Worth repeating.)
  8. Assessment can be a learning opportunity, not just a testing or evaluating checkpoint.
  9. Less is ultimately more.  (With credit to Robert Browning's lovely "Andrea del Sarto.")
  10. The better designed my course is, the more I am able to be spontaneous, timely, and embrace the delightfully unexpected.

One of the quiet truths of academia is that most professors are never taught to design any of the courses they teach. They teach as they were taught...or as they wish to learn.  See numbers 1-4 above.

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