Courses Flow: Reflection on Creating a Content Module

Designing a unit of study in moodle was a challenging exercise because I found myself questioning the value of every element and attribute that I introduced in the unit. Having started with a well-defined objective of making peer and community interaction the strongest element of the course provided me with a criterion for assessing the value of each element and attribute. However, the community and peer interaction that I wanted to build would remain a hypothetical construct until learners actually engaged with the course. The design and post-design reflection helped me re-evaluate some of my pre-conceived notions about online and face-to-face courses. The following reflection is an overview of the objectives I set out to achieve and how my perspective evolved over the process of design.

At some point in our lives we learned a new word or we started thinking of a word that was already in our vocabulary in a new way. For many of us, this acquisition or redefinition happened in our teens, around the time we started making choices about what studies we will pursue in school. We have thought about this term in the same way since then. The term in question is course and we all know that means a unit of study that helps us earn a credential or credit leading to a credential or prepares me for an exam or series of exams that will help me earn a credential. In some cases it can mean a codified body of knowledge that enables me to learn without any associated credit or credential. A course, in this definition, is a well defined unit of study that exists as a shell before I enrol in it and I acquire it by completing the requirements, as evidenced by the common usage of the term in the statement: I took that course or I finished that course or I completed that course. Webster’s dictionary defines the word course as the act or action of moving in a path from point to point or the path over which something moves or extends. I like these definitions. These definitions remind me of the origins of the word course. These definitions recognize that a course is about movement and extension (or growth) and they stand in contrast to our common understanding of a course as a static shell that exists as a stock variable (to borrow a term from economics). As a stock variable, a course is an accumulated body of knowledge that I can acquire by completing some requirements. Stock variables stand in contrast to flow variables which add or subtract from the value of the accumulated stock by flowing in and out of a stock variable. Over the past few weeks, I realized that the common definition of the word course treats it like a stock variable and what I wanted to create with the peer and community interaction was the flow defined as a movement and extension. However, I also had to fulfill the requirements for an assignment.

I knew that there were certain things that I had to do in order to in order to meet the requirements for the assignment:

  • Create a module with a beginning middle and end.
  • Create a digital story to embed into module.
  • Create an assessment in the form of a quiz.
  • Create groups and assign them discussion tasks.
  • Create a GUI with some navigation elements.

And there were other things that I wanted to do:

  • Create an inclusive, highly interactive, workshop style course that incorporated community and peer interaction for moving the learners through a path from point to point.
  • Build a peer to peer feedback and assessment model.
  • Create a support mechanism that was flexible

The required aspects of the course design were less challenging than what I wanted to achieve. I relied on the moodle community website to resolve technical issues and many of the readings from ETEC565 to guide pedagogy. However, the more interesting challenges occurred in achieving what I wanted to achieve and I learned the following lessons:

  • Although I strived to create an inclusive community I did not make any considerations for accessibility because time and resources were limited. Similarly, I did not make any explicit considerations to promote diversity and operated under the assumption that the prevalent paradigms of design were inclusive.
  • In building a learning community, you don’t know until you know. Doing too much can be a liability because participants may be crowded out of taking ownership and playing leadership roles in the community. However, doing too little felt like a risk because I was afraid that learners will not take the initiative to play leadership roles or that they would play leadership roles to steer the course in directions that I did not want.
  • It is difficult to make peace with the fact that seeing the learning as a course that consists of movement and expansion means that I was engaged in a process of co-design and co-development with students. Even after all that work I had only created a shell and it was not until the session started and students began interaction with content, peers etc. that the design would take place.
  • It is very was easy to overcomplicate assessment. I found myself considering complex models that resembled Rube Goldberg machines and had to fight the urge to overcomplicate things.
    Segregation of Duties is necessary. Even though I was supposedly a subject matter expert, one can’t be an SME in both course development and the content. Independent review is required. I reached out to colleagues to review and provide course development expertise.
  • Managing groups is a difficult task because one can never foresee the interactions that will occur and there is always a bit of a risk that it might not work the way you envisioned.
  • High quality open educational resources are a myth

At the end of the design process I was eager to open the doors and let students in. I wanted to test whether the course would flow and if it would flow in the directions that I would like. I think that appreciating the ebb and flow of interaction and learning is one aspect of course design that took on greater prominence for me by the end of the design process and I would like expand my understanding of interactions in order to extend my understanding of this aspect of learning.

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