Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Course Redesign Update: May 6

So, as promised, I am going to try to use this blog as a space for reporting on my course redesign efforts this summer. Since the courses are online, digital tools are obvious a big part of how that redesign is possible!

At the moment, I am focusing on the content redesign in my Myth-Folklore class, which is a pretty massive undertaking, but so much fun. My goal over the next year or so is to create a new kind of website, one driven by Blogger for now, where my students will have a much wider range of reading choices than they do now. In my current static website, I am really stuck with the content I put up ten years ago. It's been a good website, giving the students two reading options each week, but I will now be able to do much better than that, thanks to the explosion of public domain content online in the past ten years as well as the flexible content solution provided by Blogger.

So, my goal is to have 72 reading units ready by August 1. By "ready," I mean ready for students to use, even though those units will not be complete; I hope to have completed 24 of those units by August 1, with another 24 completed by May 2015, and the final set of 24 completed by August 2015. You can see that overall plan here: Course Content Redesign.

To be "ready," a unit needs to be posted for the students to read. This means a book post indicating the source of the reading materials, a unit post that provides a table of contents for the reading materials, and then a series of individual story posts that contain the actual reading. The pages should all have been proofread once and, ideally, there should be an illustration on teach page. Here's an example of a unit that is "ready" for students to read:
Myth-Folklore Book: Myths and Legends of Alaska
Myth-Folklore Unit: Alaskan Legends
The Raven Myth: Raven's Creation
(There are 27 of these story pages in the unit; each unit contains appx. 15,000 words, and anything from 10-30 individual story pages.)

Meanwhile, a completed unit has notes that I have added to each story page, along an Introduction on the unit page, plus two important supplementary pages: my own Reading Diary for the unit (students likewise will be preparing their own reading diaries), and a list of Storytelling Ideas (students can tell whatever kind of story they want; the ideas are just there to help prevent writer's block if students are not skilled yet at finding their own storytelling approach). Here is an example of a completed unit:
Myth-Folklore Unit: Tibetan Folk Tales

So, here is my process for this summer and how I hope to have 72 units ready and 24 units completed by August 1:

1. Public Domain Sources. I've already got the public domain sources identified for all 72 units with the stories tentatively picked out (although in some cases I have to narrow down the selection of stories I have chosen from each source). All the sources are in very good shape already except for 4 which are coming from pretty raw OCR and will require a lot of proofreading from me.

2. Ready Units. I create the basic unit skeleton (book post, unit post, story posts), being careful not to exceed Blogger's 50-posts-per-day limit. I can do one unit a day, more or less. I have already created 28 units this way. It's easy to see how many; the Unit posts are labeled as such in Blogger, which gives me an instant count in the label view, and you can browse through all those posts using this link:
Myth-Folklore Reading Units

3. Add Images. Then I usually do a pass through the unit where I add images; sometimes I proofread at the same time, but sometimes I just add images and then do a separate pass for proofreading later. Especially if the original source was illustrated, I tend to add the images separately from proofreading. Here, for example, is a unit that has illustrations for all the stories but which has not been proofread yet:
Myth-Folklore Unit: Jataka Tales (Babbitt)

4. Proofread. Then I do a pass of proofreading, and sometimes I add notes at that time. Sometimes, though, I just proofread. Here is an example of a unit which has been proofread but which does not have notes yet:
Myth-Folklore Unit: Alaska Legends

5. Add Notes. The next stage is to add notes. The notes are not lengthy — just a few sentences, or perhaps a couple of short paragraphs at most, often with links to other online resources. Here is an example of a unit with notes:
Myth-Folklore Unit: Ovid's Metamorphoses, I
Here is one of the story pages that shows how the notes work:
Ovid's Metamorphoses: Deucalion and Pyrrha

6. Write Introduction. Next, I need to add an Introduction to the unit. Again, the Introduction to a unit is not something long; instead, the idea is to give the most basic background, along with some links for additional reading. The key is to provide the information that is essential for reading and understanding the stories to come. Here is an example of an Introduction:
Myth-Folklore Unit: Aesop's Fables (1)

7. Add Assignment Materials. Finally, to finish the unit, I add the materials related to the actual reading and writing assignment that the students complete for each unit. For the reading, they make their own Reading Diary blog post, using a template that I have created for them to use; I also share my own Reading Diary if they are curious to see my notes. Then, I supply them with a Storytelling Ideas list; they are by no means limited to this list, but it is a way to get them to consider possibilities for every one of the unit's pages and also to prevent any possible writer's block if they don't already have a storytelling idea of their own. Here are what those materials look like:
Myth-Folklore Unit: Tibetan Folk Tales 
Reading Diary Template
my own Reading Diary
Storytelling Ideas

And that's all, folks . . . !

Right now, I have 3 units that are complete, which is to say: proofread, with pictures, with notes, with Introduction, along with the reading and writing assignment materials. I really like the way that the process of completing a unit is something gradual, step by step. That allows me to work on a variety of different units at once, which thus allows me to find connections between one unit and another, connections which I can use to reinforce my students' learning and, hopefully, to heighten their sense of curiosity.

I am optimistic that I can complete 24 units and have 72 units ready by August 1, but it's okay if I do not reach that goal. At a minimum, I need to have just 12 units done and 24 units ready to rest easy, since I can also keep working on the units while the semester is ongoing. So, whatever the summer brings, I am ready... but I am hoping it brings me lots of long sunny days with time for stories, stories, and more stories!

For the rest of today, for example, I plan to proofread and write up notes on stories of the Women Saints from the Golden Legend! Whoo-hoo!

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