Pulling It All Together: EADM 820 Module

I am so glad that I got the chance to take EC&I 834 while developing EADM 820 online. It was the perfect opportunity to have support while working on another side of the online course development process. I am used to being the one on the outside, looking in, and making suggestions about content that isn’t particularly personal to me. This time, it was personal. This time, it was my content. This time, I will be co-teaching the course. So while I do have someone to talk with and bounce ideas around with, it has been good to be challenged in what I have accepted as best practices and pushed to continually re-evaluate the course as I am designing it.


progress flickr photo by Todd Austin (Designer) shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Progress
Over the semester I have blogged about the process of putting the course online. Steve Wihak (my co-developer and colleague at Flexible Learning Division) and I are both the types of people who mull things over and let our brains do a lot of the work in the background, so this course has been in progress for about a year. Only my module was shared for review but we have spent a lot of time considering how everything will intertwine. We had meetings with Larry Steeves and Pamela Osmond-Johnson from Educational Administration at U of R to ensure our course would fit with the program and to see what concepts they had in mind. Many of our decisions were made already because of that, like using UR Courses. Others we adjusted based on the timing of the course. After Alec shared a hand-drawn animation sample and a how to, I decided that was going to be my option. I tested out iMovie to see if I wanted to put my animation together using that (preferably on my iPad) but ended up deciding to go with Windows Movie Maker instead because 1) the iPad version of iMovie is pretty limited and 2) I wanted to be able to work in the privacy of my own home or office and not work in the more public Mac lab in the Education building on campus. (No, I don’t own a Macbook. I used to. I have since developed an aversion for various reasons.) Movie Maker was a pain and certainly took longer than iMovie probably would, bu it worked. I wanted something quite simple anyway, without green screens or playing with audio filters, so it did what I needed. Here are the additional posts I wrote about my process:


profile flickr photo by Dylanfm shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Course Profile
My course profile contains additional explanations about design decisions that Steve Wihak and I made about the course. Here is a slightly edited version for public viewing (the original version is posted in my couse):

Catalogue description:

The course will examine planning and administration for technology based learning and teaching. Emphasis will be on planning, organizational and social issues rather than technical implementation.

Background:

This course is part of the Education Administration program at the University of Regina. Although the course previously existed, the issues in the field have changed fairly drastically since it was last taught online and, as such, it needed to be redone from scratch. The focus now is much more on be prepared to adapt to issues as things continue to change rather than developing a more static technology plan. As both Steve and I come from a critical theory background, and we know that at least some of the focus in EADM is moving in that direction, we wanted to lay that as part of the foundation for students to use in evaluating the intersection of technology and leadership. Together, Steve and I are able to provide an interesting and hopefully balanced approach to the issues, coming at edtech from differing perspectives: I am a tech lover who is happy to play with things and try new things with a background in critical theory especially as it applies to technology although I have no background in the K-12 system; Steve has a background in critical theory, administration and leadership in K-12 and is an intentional late adopter of technology for specific reasons which will come out in the course. It allows us to try to balance the views we present and play to our strengths. We were hired by Educational Administration to develop the course fully online with the expectation that it would be part of that program and, as such, needed to fit with both the expectations of the program and with other existing online courses within the program.

The Students:

Although the course is part of the EADM program, we anticipate our students will range in focus from any of the graduate Education programs. As such, our students will already have a degree, most likely in education, and the majority of the students will be working in the K-12 system. We were directed to point our focus there although having a background in taking a Masters in Education while working in higher education, I have tried to keep the possibilities open enough that anyone could benefit from the course. Having taken classes with these students, I know they have busy lives, many have families and additional commitments. One of the goals we have is to keep the course flexible to allow both for student lives and student interests. Some students may have an interest in administration in the K-12 system, others may be looking for an available and relevant course, and some may take it because it is online and allows them to take a class while having other commitments.

The majority of the students will be white, middle class, and may come from rural backgrounds. A distinct percentage will come from Regina but there will likely be students from across the southern half of the province and could also be students from the north or even external to Saskatchewan. There may be some indigenous students and some international students. There will likely be a balance of men and women in the course given the higher numbers of men taking EADM courses than some other fields in Education or the undergraduate student demographics.

Course Format:

As noted, this course is intentionally being developed for fully online. This enables students from outside Regina and the immediate surrounding area to take this course as well as making it possible for students to take the course if they are travelling during the course offering. This fits with the work that EADM and other graduate programs in Education are doing to make graduate degrees available to students in their communities, as they continue to serve those places across our province and beyond.

Steve and I have been faced with the challenges that come with teaching a three-week intensive course (July 4-25). The time frame was out of our hands and, as such, we have made quite a few decisions based on that restriction. Although synchronous activities would be good, and we still plan to offer a few times to meet online synchronously in an optional way, we have decided to make the course asynchronous. There is not much flexibility we can offer in three weeks but we can allow students to choose when they want to do the work each day. If the morning works better, they can work in the morning. If 11:00pm works better, they can work then. We have already heard from a number of students interested in the course and looking to see if they would be able to take it given various time restrictions they will be under during the offering which has reinforced our decision to keep it as flexible as possible.

Assessment:

For assessment, we are doing everything we can to give the students the freedom to do work that is authentic and meaningful.

The major project which will encompass two assignments will be quite wide open for students. The intent is that they should adapt it to their own setting and also their own interests and skills. It can be done individually or can be done in a small group of 2-3 students at most. Again, the intent is to allow students some freedom in how best to accomplish their goals and to mimic the reality in which they work. Sometimes it works best to work as a team to accomplish something and other times it is easier to do some work yourself. Many students my unit hears from hate groupwork, especially online, and we prefer to give choice. This is also an acknowledgement of the timing of the course. Some students just may not be able to meet with a group while others may find that far more convenient. The scope of the finished project will depend upon the number of students involved.

While we might try to encourage or require the use of more technologies if the course were over a longer period of time, for this first offering we are leaving the options open. Support will be limited to Steve and myself for any technologies beyond UR Courses and after having watched students new to various social media platforms and other technologies deal with the learning curve, we are cautious about losing too much of the three weeks to developing comfort with the mode of delivery as opposed to dealing with the content. Students who have comfort with technology or who want to try technologies are encouraged to do so for their project but not required. The final product has to include certain areas of content but the type of product is up to students. Again, the intent is to take the pressure off of how to produce to give students energy to deal with content, to think things through, to gather information.

With that in mind, students will be responsible for designing their own assessment rubric that needs to take into account the required content but also the type of product they chose. They will be required to use that rubric to evaluate their output. Students will also be expected to share at least some of their product with other students (depending on format) although again time does not easily allow for peer feedback.

The rest of the assessment will be broken between discussion forums and an analysis of their own changes in terms of leadership. The discussion forums will allow students to share ideas, interact with other students, and benefit from the diversity and experience of others in the class. The choice of discussion forums is again, partly to keep the technical requirements fairly easy while giving a chance to explore issues together. We may use the internal blog tool for some pieces, if there are questions that would work better that way. To keep the management of such things minimal in a short course, we would encourage students to post to a blog on UR Courses but they are welcome to also post the content to a personal blog. In a future offering if the course was not limited to three weeks, we might look at opening that. The other reason for using forums is that the other online EADM courses all use forums and solely use UR Courses. We have been asked to keep our course at least somewhat consistent with those courses so a change to another format would be a future project. The assessment of that piece will be on the quality of the participation much more than the quantity. Some students may choose to be very active, some may choose to say less, but either option is fine if they are contributing to the conversation and thinking about the questions we offer as prompts. The prompts themselves will be fairly open and should lead into the larger projects. The analysis of changes in leadership is a chance for self-reflection. This will not be shared with others as the hope is for introspection rather than a focus on the way the reflection is presented.

Concerns:

For our course, given our students, we anticipate that language will not be a huge concern. Our content will be presented in a mix of videos and text and we will have transcripts for at least some of the videos available upon request. The videos will be rewatchable. They will also be of relatively short length (hopefully 5-10 minutes). The majority of the content will be text discussions with other students which does give some time to consider responses, read over translations, or use any useful assistive technology.

Bandwith concerns are going to primarily be dealt with by using shorter videos with more responsive quality. The videos will be posted to YouTube which responds to bandwith concerns by lowering the quality of the stream. It is also available through mobile devices which means that most of the content will be accessible on a computer or a mobile device.

For cultural considerations, part of the course is to push students to think about such issues so we are trying to use different ways to approach thinking about issues and also leave room for a variety of approaches. The hope is to include an interview from an indigenous perspective if not this offering, then in another offering. The intent is to avoid providing all the information but give direction for areas in which to think or investigate and have students bring the perspectives that are useful, giving us the space to challenge those perspectives or help suggest alternate ways to think about things as needed.

Although my unit will have a hand-drawn animation, other units will have video interviews and there will be some text to make certain pieces of content easier to change for future offerings like discussion questions and particular examples. The intent is to use a variety of multimedia modes of sharing information and presenting frameworks for thinking. We will be using different metaphors intentionally throughout the course and so changing up the style of multimedia presentation will fit with the metaphors we use. This is also to take advantage of the graphics and multimedia support we will have for the remainder of the units. Because this course was a funded development, we have access to graphics and multimedia specialists who can assist us in developing some of the pieces that we need for the remainder of the course.

The articles we are using will all be available through Fair Dealing or with minimal cost to students. The intent is to find a variety of sources and give students exposure to different types of writing as well as different perspectives on the topics. Again, the condensed nature of the course and restrictions we were provided by the program have had some impact on our decisions when we keep in mind the reality of doing all the reading and work for a full course in three weeks.


Edited English Paper flickr photo by Wesley Fryer shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Feedback
I really have to thank the other students who were assigned to review my module. All the feedback I received was thoughtful and incredibly useful. It is especially useful as I know quite a few of the students in EC&I 834 will be taking EADM 820 so it was a perfect chance to pilot the course while it was still in development, something that is ideal for online courses but that often doesn’t happen in my unit due to time constraints. So thank you, whoever you are!

One of the major concerns was with the requirement that students design their own rubric for the major assignment. Steve and I discussed the issue and we agreed that it is important to us to keep that aspect. For us, the point is to have students set out what they intend to accomplish, what they think the best version of their project should look like, still being realistic. A video project would have different elements and concerns, like more time spent on video editing and visual presentation, than an essay, which might have a heavier focus on research, for example. For us to design a rubric that would properly cover the different types of projects we hope to receive would be incredibly difficult. More importantly, when it comes to leadership and technology, it is incredibly important to have a way to measure success. You can’t wait for someone to come along and decide to do a study on the use of iPads in your school, or banning devices. A leader needs to be able to evaluate what criteria are going to be involved, what the process is, and how success will be measured. With that in mind, we have revised the assessment structure slightly and included a little more explanation. We are still working on possible formats and wording as we know “rubric” has a very specific meaning but again, we are interested in how the students would set out assessment for their project. But we will be providing some examples of possible ways to lay that out.

We also really appreciated the feedback about whether the metaphors would be problematic for EAL learners. It was a completely accurate critique, that all the metaphors we chose were very Western. For a bit of background, we were directed to focus on students currently teaching or planning to be administrators in Saskatchewan, primarily in the southern half of the province. That was what we had in the back of our minds as we were planning the course although we certainly would like it to still feel relevant to students who are outside that category. We have decided to remove the metaphor for the Provincial level and are still in the process of determining if there is something we could replace it with, while remaining culturally sensitive, or if it is a chance for students to consider their own metaphors. I admit that the focus we have will, however, make this course less relevant for someone from another province or elsewhere in the world. We are anticipating that the content will serve the majority of the students we have but in a longer course we would be structuring in more freedom to read on other topics or share alternate focuses.

For my module specifically, there will be a transcript for the video. I have the file but was thinking through providing it in the course. The one concern with providing a text transcript is that there are students, like me, who might gravitate toward the text first and skip the video if possible. In the case of the video I made, I tried to make the visuals relevant and useful and I do think that it is worth watching the video. If I had been creating the unit as text-only, I would have designed it differently and probably written it somewhat differently also. Given the intensive nature of the course, however, I will try providing the transcript from the beginning and see what students think.

I am still debating a couple things regarding my video. The first is splitting my video at the example. I need to go back through it to see if it would still flow well enough if it was split at that point or if it would require additional changes. I generally recommend to instructors that 7-10 minutes is a good length so I had intended to keep it a little shorter. I do, however, still like to recommend reading the background readings before viewing the video. It is generally standard practice in many university courses that students are expected to do some reading to prepare for class so they are prepared to participate. I actually did debate switching the order, but felt that reading the article about banning devices before watching the video would be more useful and the other articles would give context to the video. I will keep mulling this over. For one thing, this unit will not be the first unit so students will have had some exposure to these types of readings in previous units. So there will be some context already for the readings.

There seemed to be a little concern about the workload for a three week course. When it comes right down to it, Steve and I did make a number of changes to what we would have done in a longer semester, but we strongly feel that a student choosing to take a three week course should be exposed to the same rigor and technically should be taking exactly the same course as someone taking that course in 13 weeks. The reality can’t quite match that, because there just aren’t enough hours in a day to allow the flexibility that students would have in a full semester. That being said, however, we needed to balance the content and assessment we would use in a six- or 13-week course with the time realities of a three-week intensive. Intensives are, well, intense. We are working hard to make the work and the learning worthwhile so students will want to stick with us, but we will try to keep re-evaluating to ensure we aren’t asking too much in a tight timeline. We did do the math for our timing expectations, based on the expectation of “contact hours” (hours in a classroom for face-to-face) and work outside of class time, and at 6 hours 4-6 days a week, that seemed acceptable to us. I have certainly had similar expectations in a six-week class at the graduate level.


THANK YOU !!! flickr photo by W i l l a r d shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

My work isn’t done, as this course is still a work in progress (and always will be, I hope!), but his is where my journey heads back to my office for a while to get everything else sorted and uploaded and polished and framed, all ready or July. But thank you for all the great sharing! It’s been fantastic seeing everyone’s work and having a community of creators to talk with! I look forward to learning with some of you in July and beyond! (For those in EC&I 834, access to the course will be removed by the end of this week except for Alec and Katia, so if anyone wants a last peek, have fun!)

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