Friday, March 21, 2014

My Million-Dollar Content Development Process :-)

This is a report on my content development plan based on having created 3 course units so far; as I keep creating units I will probably make some modifications, backtracking to make sure all the units are consistent, and then in August I'll make a checklist to do a final proofreading of all the units in place then (12 minimum; hopefully 24). To put this in context, see my Course Redesign Plan.

Tools. Simple simple simple. Free free free. I am developing the units using Blogger as my web publishing tool. To manage the workflow, I am using GoogleDocs (both docs and spreadsheets), and I also use a simple text document for other editing. Those are all my tools!

Total time required: Each unit takes appx. 12 hours to develop (see details below). So, total time for the 24 units I hope to develop for my course: appx. 300 hours.

Thoughts about time. That sounds like a lot of time, and it is a lot of time admittedly, but much of this is the same work I would be doing to prepare the stories for a lecture, for example, if I were the kind of faculty member who lectured. Of those 12 hours per unit, 8 hours involve the planning and research and writing that I would have to do anyway to prepare the lectures and/or a study guide for the stories if they were in a textbook. So, of the 12 hours per weekly unit of prep time, call it 8 hours of regular prep time, plus 4 hours dedicated to making the materials available on the Internet for my students (so they don't have to buy a textbook), as well as to anyone else with an interest in the material.

A million dollars per year, ha ha. I do not feel bad spending that extra 4 hours per unit to do the web publishing given the benefit to the students; the last time I went through this process, I got a website with 28 reading units that has been used for 24 semesters by appx. 50 students per semester - so that's around 1200 students. I would say that spending an extra 100 hours of my time to make a "textbook" freely available to 1200 students is a good use of my time indeed. If it saved each student $60 (just a guess as to what I might spend on a textbook), that is a total savings of $72,000, in exchange for just 100 extra hours of my time to put the readings and notes online. And let's do some more math just for fun, ha ha - if I were indeed making $720 per hour, then that would mean I would be making (drumroll please...) over one million dollars per year.

Pardon me while I ROFLOL. :-)

Meanwhile, here are the nitty-gritty details of the workflow and time required:

1. SOURCE. First, I select a public domain source with a good plain text transcription that I can copy-and-paste. Ideally, there will also be illustrations for some/all of the stories. I prefer to find my sources at Sacred Texts and/or Project Gutenberg. I have literally HUNDREDS of books I could consider using at this point. Narrowing down the choices was hard, but I have plans in place for the first 36 units (12 minimum before Fall 2014).
Time required: none.

2. CREATE BOOK POST. I create a book page post at the blog which contains basic bibliography, along with links to available online editions: Sacred Texts, Sur La Lune, Gutenberg, Internet Archive, LibriVox, Amazon Kindle (if free or cheap). I include the complete table of contents, plus some kind of book cover or other image. This post will be updated in step #5 below.
Sample Book Post: Indian Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs.
Time required: 15 minutes.

3. UPDATE SPREADSHEET. I read through the source and do word counts for each story, putting story titles and word counts into a Google Docs spreadsheet. Then, I target the stories to include based on quality of story and length (ideally stories 1000 words or shorter; no longer than 2000 words), for a total of appx. 15,000 words per unit.
Time required: 1 hour.

4. CREATE UNIT PAGE. I create a Unit Page blog post for the book. On the first run, this unit page is just be a copy of the Book Post, but I update the post in steps #5, #6, and #12 below.
Sample Unit Page: English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs.
Time required: 15 minutes.

5. CREATE STORY PAGES. I create separate blog posts for the targeted stories. The first run contains just the book title (linking back to the book post) and basic bibliography, story title, image, text of the story, and the word count. More materials get added in step #10 and step #11 below. I read through the stories, making sure these are the ones to include; it is harder to replace stories beyond this point. As I create the posts, I add links from the Book Page's table of contents. This goes faster if every story already has an illustration; if takes longer if I have to find a publicdomain/CC image to use.
Sample Story Page: Mr. Miacca.
Time required: appx. 2 hours.

6. UPDATE UNIT PAGE. Next I update the Unit page to contain a brief introduction to the book, along with any other general information (just a few paragraphs at most, nothing elaborate). Then, I copy over the table of contents (with links) from the Book Page, deleting any stories not being used.
Sample Unit Page: Tibetan Folk Tales.
Time required: 30 minutes.

7. CREATE READING DIARY. Now I create a Reading Diary template using the spreadsheet to generate the HTML and uploading the template to GoogleDocs as a shared HTML document (since the students will also use this template). Then I create a blog post in my own reading diary using the template. This blog post will be used in #10 below, and the template will be needed again for #12 below.
Sample Template: Welsh Fairy Tales diary template.
Time required: 15 minutes.

8. CREATE TEXT FILE. I create a plain text document in which to collect story annotations as I read through the stories - basic glosses of unusual words, links to useful reference materials, etc. (just a few sentences for each story at most; nothing elaborate). I also use this text document to collect the connections among the stories: connect each story to two other stories in the collection based on themes, motifs, etc. I use the story titles and prompts so that I will make sure to accomplish all the tasks required as I work. This text document will be used in #10 and #11 below.
Time required: 15 minutes.

9. CREATE STORYTELLING POST. I create a Storytelling Ideas post using the HTML links from the spreadsheet so that there is a link to each story title and a bulleted list with two blank items for each story. This post will be used in #10 below, and it will also be part of a student assignment link from the course website later on.
Time required: 15 minutes.

10. UPDATE STORY PAGES. Now, I read through the story, adding annotations to the story pages, while also creating a story entry in the Reading Diary post, and update the Storytelling Ideas post for each story also.
Sample Story Page with Annotations: St. Collen.
Sample Diary: Welsh Fairy Tales Reading Diary.
Sample Storytelling Ideas Posts: Storytelling Ideas - Tibetan Folk Tales.
Time required: Varies based on how much research I do for each story. I'll call it 6 hours, but it might take more, depending on the topic.

11. UPDATE STORY PAGES. Then text document should now contain only the explore links. I use the spreadsheet to replace the titles of the stories with HTML link codes, and then I go through the story posts, pasting in the Explore links for each story.
Sample Page with Explore links: The Red Dragon of Wales.
Time required: 30 minutes.

12. UPDATE UNIT PAGE. For the final update to the Unit page, I add the Reading Assignment section with links to the Reading Diary I wrote and the Reading Diary template. Using the ?max-results=N variable, I divide the reading up so that it appears on two separate blog pages, linked to as Session One and Session Two.
Sample Unit Page: English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs.
Time required: 15 minutes.

As I've mentioned before, I'm labeling posts on this topic as Course Content Redesign for anyone who wants to watch how this unfolds!

And here is a proverb poster that expresses my philosophy of content building: from one small seed (blog post) there can grow a great tree.

(Details at the Proverb Laboratory.)

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