So this is what I came up with. I designed a blended course where instructors would work together to build a course as a team. It is a three-week course that covers the aspects of course design. The first week is course organization, navigation and content creation. Week two looks at assessment. Then the final week is spent on communication and collaboration. Participants were giving the role of an instructional designer on a team building a fictional course. They were provided information about course durations, student demographics and course learning objectives.
Each week the team was provided a list of objectives to complete on the course. Week one was to design a course navigation structure and course outline for content, then to begin collecting or creating content within the course structure. To help with the tasks at hand the instructors were provided tips and suggestions, both pedagogical and technical in nature. Every instructor had the opportunity to receive additional tips and suggestions by completing knowledge challenges on the features and functions of the LMS. Challenges were designed in three levels of difficulty, with more difficulty challenges earning more points and thus opening more tips and hints. There was also an opportunity to randomly earn bonus points by taking the challenges. Each instructor would work independently with the planning part of the task then the group would come together and finalize their plan and actually build that part of the course in the LMS.
There were some decisions I made based my research into game theory and my previous experiences. Fist the course material would not be on a subject the instructors were familiar with. The idea was to get them away from their preconceived notions of how to teach that subject and be open to looking at other parts of the LMS. The course topic was basket weaving. Second, challenge points earned by team members would be combined to create a team total, in an attempt to foster competition. Along these lines, instructors were able to take the challenges at any level as often and as many times as they would like to better their score.
I looked at obstacles I have faced in my current training. Faculty were resistant to looking at new features, saying that would not work in my discipline or what I have works well enough. I also had faculty continue to struggle with finding support resources. It also felt from a support role faculty were getting the how to steps of the LMS, but not the why they should do something. Also from the feedback I got from students many faculty were missing key best practices and pedagogical principles of the online tools they were working with.
So I dug into game theory and found some tips that I found very helpful. The first was the idea of a role. If I could get the faculty to step outside the role of instructor and have them look at the course design process as an instructional designer they might just see the course and learning objectives in a new way. They would not be limited by their current set of LMS tools. I also though the idea of designing for someone else would help them get past those barriers. Other things I know I needed to address was the idea of levels of experience the ability to allow for mastery, an element of chance or randomness, a level of interactivity, the ability to earn rewards and to provide realistic feedback that is instructional. I know if people fail, they want to know why.
As the kick off to the new semester is starting to slow down I am reflecting on how things went. It occurred to me that, for the first time in 12 years here at the college, I was asked to present on our learning management system to new students taking our “Becoming A Successful Student” course. I put together a sample course with generic course material, made sure to cover all of the topics the faculty member had asked me to present on.
It was only when the faculty teaching the course (a new faculty himself) started generalizing the contents and lay out of his course to other courses, that I had to correct him. I explained to him and his students that instructors are free to not use the system and if they do they are free to use it any way they wish.
I wish more than anything the VP of Ed Affairs, the deans and the faculty could have seen the conversation that took place after that. I spent the next 20 minutes pulling up examples of other instructor’s courses. The idea was to demonstrate to the students the typical features used by most our faculty. Each using a different way of organizing their course material and the unlimited number of menu buttons. I could see the student’s eyes glazing over as they realized, even from course to course finding grades and the syllabus could vary.
Can someone just say, these are the things that ALL faculty must do with their LMS course shell AND they must do it this way. We cannot expect our student to be learning the course content if they are spending the first week trying to figure out how the content is organized.