I’d’ve had to miss the dance

It’s not over ’til it’s over, but I can see ETEC 565 slowly setting on the horizon….

The first offering of any new course is at times a frustrating experience. There are always things that you thought you’d put in the materials (rather than in your own head), some activities work better than others, and there is always the cohort effect.  With 3 sections and around 70 students, all three of these things have come into play–big time. One thing I’ve tried to avoid saying is “b-b-b-b-but it’s a new course”. I think I have a couple of times though. Maybe twice.

For those in 565 who follow this blog (which is my work blog, not just for ETEC 565A: 1 bonus point to everyone who can name the social theorist from whose work the blog title is drawn), consider this entry a bonus. For those who see some value in it, I’d love to maintain contact as colleagues. I don’t emphasize that during classes–come on, get real, I am your instructor and there are power differentials–but I also don’t view you folks as “newbies” or “novices” or anything other than professionals. In this case, professionals who’ve elected to pursue graduate study.

So here are some of the ways I’ve managed the course and the rationale behind them. I don’t expect you’ll agree with all of them; that’s not the point. But none of the things I’ve required from you was for my convenience or meanness. Some, however, were based on a realistic and fair expectation that I be able to manage my time.

Et maintenant, on commence…

The central question in designing 565A was deceptively simple: if we were considering hiring someone who had a post-graduate qualification in educational technology, what are the core competencies we would expect them to possess?  From this question we identified:

  1. Systematic selection of technologies, informed by evidence and scholarship
  2. A basic hands-on understanding of any commonly used technology
  3. The ability to integrate these into purposeful educational design/curriculum development

Selection

With respect to #1, the scenarios upon which most of the discussions were based covered this; so too did the proposal for your LMS site and components of most of the e-portfolio assignments. Across the units, we integrated scenarios related to web design, LMS migration, digital video production, and  professional development. The contexts included  elementary education, secondary education, higher education, adult and community education. Sometimes the question required an answer; other times a question (or 3). But what they were all designed to was to foment discussion, link the readings to practice, and encourage you all to become a learning community. I purposely stayed out of these discussion unless there was a bit of a tangent, or to add a probing foll0w-up. But these weren’t designed to have me facilitate them: they were designed to allow you all to participate. Across 3 sections over 95% of you did so–consistently, substantively, and intelligently. And often entertainginly!

Application

In terms of technical competencies we would expect such a person who have hands-on experience with:

  • Core LMS functionality
  • Digital media: certainly digital images, but ideally digital audio and/or video
  • Synchronous and asynchronous communication tools
  • Web 2.0 technologies
  • Strong project management skills

It’s rather obvious, then, how we developed the modules, units and course e-portfolio. Incrementally, we tried to create a process and space where these could be explored in a purposeful, semi-structured manner.

The eLearning tool kit was where you could to a significant extent determine which competencies were priorities for you: their activities were purposefully excluded from your assignments to keep stakes and anxiety low for those who find learning new technologies daunting. Really we wanted folks to come away from a tool kit activity thinking “hey, that’s wasn’t bad at all!” At least.

For the sake of fairness and transparency, though, the assignments did have more specific requirements–and almost always required you to move beyond the skills covered in the tool kit activities. The screencasts and live classroooms were offered as value-added. Striking a balance between offering a reasonable amount of support and requiring learners to take–and keep–responsibility for their learning isn’t easy and is never perfectly done. But in terms of how we hoped these things would unfold, we received very few surprises.

Design

Finally, as the course comes to a close you have to complete any outstanding LMS site components and reflect on your overall experience. Everything we’ve offered you here–literature, skills, a learning community–are all supposed to support your educational design work. The value of any of these things as a stand-alone can be quite high…but their cumulative value, when applied to purposeful curriculum or programme development work, can be enormous.

Me

As for my own practice, I learned a number of things. First, while things like assessment rubrics are helpful, it’s important to message that offering these things up front does not mean all work should be approached in a fill-in-the-blanks manner. As well, requiring work to be submitted in very specific ways is both fair and necessary in managing assessment: had more folks followed directions, my goal of a one week turn-around (so far so good) would’ve been much more easily attained. And, while the front end workload of designing a course that not only comprehensively addresses these principles but also implements/reflect them is huge, the payoff for everyone is even bigger.

Oh, and that teaching 3 sections, managing your full-time job and taking 3 courses (tuition waiver; thought it might be fun) is just nutty.

Thanks. It’s been an honor–and almost always a blast!

About John P Egan

Learning technology professional.
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