Friday, 18 July 2014

MOLE Content Categorized Course Composition

Image of Chapter 1 photographed from a book
Representation of Content (CC0)


When creating a course for delivery via a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), in our case Blackboard Learn (MOLE), there are a number of approaches you could consider taking. If you want to align with a particular theory or model for teaching then you have the flexibility within the VLE environment to enable your particular requirements.

Blackboard highlights five categories of course structures you can use as a fundamental base for creating courses, organizing content, sharing knowledge, and building communities. The categories focus on:

  •  Activity
  •  Communication
  • Content
  • Systems
  • Time
I want to draw out some areas in these categories that might be of particular interest. Firstly I’ll concentrate on the idea of Content based courses.


Content

By Lecture
In MOLE, you can ask your students to read your lectures, listen to a voice recording, view slide presentation, etc. You can add extra value to your lectures with videos or screencasts that you create or link to external multimedia sources. This course structure works well for large introductory courses where lectures are the primary delivery method.

By Chapter
The By Chapter course structure organizes your course following the chapters in the required textbook and can work well for some subjects.

By Module or Element
A module or element is an independent unit or lesson. They can be self-contained allowing students to access them in any order, thus they can be used for self-paced courses.

By Unit
The unit-based course structure organizes content into large, distinct sections. Each of these units would have a separate link from the course menu. You could allow students to follow a predefined order or select units in an order of their own choosing. This approach might work successfully for subjects with specific historical time periods, several distinct or conflicting models of thought, etc.

Tools & their uses

Primary Content Structuring
Content will be published in the content area. This will provide students with an easy-to-navigate and familiar environment; you can create folders for each lecture, chapter, element, or unit. By including similar content, for example objectives, readings, instructions, assignments, and your lectures in varying formats you provide consistency whilst sparking interest. If elements of your course are larger topics, create a folder for each element, with folders inside to break up content by unit or week. Provide students with a similar layout in each folder to help them navigate and find information easily. Create a Resources content area to share additional material. This allows interested students to access more, relevant material.

A Discussion Forum can be used to help your student with their learning in a number of ways. You can use it for formal assignments. This could be via weekly questions that you set on the topics recently covered. Forums can also be used for informal scaffolding through student-student and student-lecturer interactions; they are able to ask questions and other students can answer them with lecturer intervention if required. Lecturers can also pose reflective questions about particular topics to promote conversations and discussions. These could be used to draw out the most salient points for a topic.

There is also the Blackboard Mobile Learn app available (Android and iOS) for free to our students and staff, which can be used seamlessly with Discussion Forums, Blogs and Journal tools within Blackboard. This allows tutors the flexibility to engage students in class with questions and topics that they want covered.

To enable collaborative working to happen amongst your students you can create a link to the wikis tool. Here students can generate content relating to the particular lecture, element, or unit. You can envisage getting the students to create reading summaries and further readings to share with the cohort, links to other relevant material, topic questions that they can research, and so forth. You can observe the contribution made by each student as the changes are tracked. This allows you to monitor engagement with the process as well as the generated end product.

For smaller collaborative workspaces it is useful to create Groups so smaller numbers of students can work together. The composition and size of groups can be changed during the course. Tools can also be varied.

Blogs can be used to give the students ‘thinking space’ related to each lecture or book chapter. You could set specific questions for the students to answer in their blog post. Alternatively you might let them react freeform to your material. A wider conversation can develop if you allow students to comment on one another’s posts.

For each tool used you can make the menu item link more descriptive of the functioning of the tool that you are using rather than just using the name of that tool.

Examples:

Tool
Possible Linking Names
Blog
Personal Reflection; Thought Space; My Weekly Notes
Discussion Forum
Any Questions; Q&A; Discuss; Conversation
Wiki
Collaborate; Development Space
Groups
Small Workspace; Group Working; Study Group

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