Sunday, 24 July 2011

Designing and Teaching an Online Course

The title of this post is the title of a consultancy one-day session I ran on 22nd July. Once I'd convinced the client that such a course would be good for their trainers as they looked to develop blended and purely online learning, I relaxed thinking that running it would be simply about bringing everything together from my working practices. This is largely what I did but it was harder than I thought.

To suggest that you can teach everything there is to know about designing and teaching an online course is ridiculous. What to leave out and what to focus on is the challenge. I decided to present via prezi again so that I could create a coherent structure to help participant get a broad picture of events. Using images and much, much more zooming gave me a better quality outcome than previously but it there's still a way to go with my proper use of this canvas presentation tool. The fruits of my labour can be found here: http://prezi.com/4t29bt5r_s7m/designing-and-teaching-an-online-course/. I also did a powerpoint backup with all the same words. This was valuable on the day when I changed the order around somewhat. I've not achieved a neat and tidy framework yet which really justifies the use of prezi quite to the extent I wanted. However, I still think there was added value doing it this way.

The main sections were:

- Strategic decision to make before the design process
- Structural points
- Scaffolding frameworks
- Discussions
- Blogs
- Wikis
- E-portfolios
- Webinars
I organised the bulk of the day around the above 5 communication/collaboration tools. which are common to most VLEs. It wasn't about usability but providing them with example activity types which were context free. For each tool I composed about 12 and presented them on individual small bits of paper. I then had them marry up each activity to a phase in the scaffolding process of the Salmon model as a small group activity (I nearly went with Walmsley's Best practice model). I thought it useful to give them this as a launchpad for discussion or to provide some structure if discussion was struggling. It proved successful in that for the later ones they were less interested in marrying up with scaffolding phases and more interested in talking about the tool and it's possible uses. This is what I wanted and it worked well. I have already agreed with the client that next time we will have the bits of paper laminated and more neatly presented.

In addition to the above, I did a slot on e-facilitation where I presented some actual examples of facilitation in asynchronous discussion and got them to critique. I've done this before and it's worked well both times.

I had a few other subject up my sleeve but only got a chance to do the ones on mindmapping, social bookmarking and glogster. For the latter two it was simply mentioning and showing them. For mindmapping I gave out some guidance and had a discussion but not using the same format as the other tools discussed.

At the end, I had them have a go at structuring a session or course and give them a context they were all familiar with. None of the groups really stuck to this brief but there discussions were still on topic and there was some good good feedback.

Overall, I'm pleased with how things went. But there are bits to work on:

- I wanted a freeness to the discussions around each tool and this is what I got but I should perhaps think about more specific topics to feed back on. I might also abandon the marrying to Salmon stages and get them to do something else in their small groups.
- Everything needs more time. I felt like I was constantly rushing and that's even after I culled a couple of sections.
- Although this deliberately wasn't a hands on practice type workshop, I need to include some look and feel stuff on the tools which some won't have encountered before. For example, I assumed too much with wikis and ended up showing a couple of working examples when it became clear they didn't really know what a wiki was.

If you look at the prezi be aware that like powerpoint each phrase is a launchpad for me to talk around it, I wouldn't recommend presenting from this without knowing the meaning behind everything.