Sunday, June 1, 2014

Course Redesign Update, June 1: Number-Crunching and an Anti-Video Rant

I was out of town when the last "number-crunching" Sunday rolled around, but I'm ready to crunch some numbers today. I am EXACTLY on schedule, which is good to know! It is not great (I would love to be a little bit ahead of schedule), but given that the schedule is a really heavy one, just having stuck to it for the month of May is really encouraging, and I am feeling VERY confident that I can get done by August 1 what I want/hope to get done.

So, here is where I find myself on June 1 (I'm tracking a lot of other items, but there are the key items for Fall semester purposes):

reading units posted: 51
reading units with pictures: 34
reading units fully proofed: 25
reading units with audio: 13
reading units fully commented: 10

stories posted: 957
stories with pictures: 648
stories that are proofed: 562
stories with audio: 216
stories with commentary: 221

My goal is to have 100 units (appx. 2000 stories) posted by August 1, with as many of those units fully illustrated and proofed. I also hope to have 24 units with completed commentary. There are also a lot of small tasks I have to do in terms of polishing up the units to get them ready for students to use (reading diary templates, storytelling ideas, etc.), but a lot of that I can do as the semester goes by, provided I stay four weeks or so ahead of the students.

Since I have all the content identified, I'm confident I can achieve these goals. So far, I am having SO MUCH FUN doing this, too — each morning when I sit down at the computer, I am eager to get started, and I've been putting in pretty much a full day every day. The days alternate because of the 50-new-posts-per-day limit at Blogger; every other day I add new units, and then on the alternating days I focus on proofing and adding images. When I'm watching TV in the evenings, I can do more-or-less mechanical stuff, like adding the navigation links or writing up the bibliography posts for the books I'm using as sources.

Last week, I read some sobering information about how the millions of dollars that schools are spending to develop video resources for MOOCs and other online courses, thanks to this great blog post by Debbie Morrison. I have to say that reading those numbers really discouraged me because I get zero support from my university for the work I am doing this summer. The cheapest video production cost for a MOOC was $39,000 (with more typical numbers in the hundreds of thousands of dollars)... I sure would not object if the university wanted to throw $39,000 my way for all the work I am doing this summer, ha ha ha. Unlikely, of course: I am not paid for summers, and $39,000 just happens to be appx. the annual salary I make to begin with (well, I make $45,876.20).

Luckily, though, this work is TOTALLY pleasurable for me... and I doubt the same can be said of making videos. Aside from the sheer pleasure of it (which I admit is a totally personal thing), there are a lot of reasons why I far prefer text+image to video as an online learning resource; here are just a few of them:

1. text+image is FASTER to produce than video

2. text+image is CHEAPER to produce than video

3. text+image is easy for ONE PERSON to do; video almost inevitably requires a team approach with the time-lag and lack of spontaneity that is part of a by-committee approach

4. text+image is ACCESSIBLE across platforms, devices, users; video presents a number of accessibility challenges (transcripts, platforms, bandwidth, etc.)

5. text+image can be EASILY REVISED and improved; video is almost impossible to revise and improve once you are done with the first edit

6. text+image encourages students to FOCUS on what they are reading/seeing; video almost invites students to multitask (listen to video while watching something else; at least, I find myself often guilty of that, esp. when the video is just a talking head)

7. text+image gives students a chance to SLOW DOWN and think about what they are reading/seeing; video moves along at its own relentless pace (sure, you can go backwards/forwards, but the overall pace is still predetermined)

8. text+image is LINKABLE, searchable, discoverable; video in general has very poor linkability (no internal linking), and as a result poor searchability and discoverability

9. text+image is something the students and I have IN COMMON because it is the same medium in which my students work; even if I had millions of dollars for creating video, my students cannot (and should not have to be) video creators

10. closely related to #9: text+image emphasizes reading and writing SKILLS, the two most important skills I want my students to practice and improve; video is about listening, often passive listening, a skill that is not central to my classes and a skill I hardly think my students need to practice since it is the main skill they use in other college classes already, with or without video

There ends my anti-video rant for the day.

And now... back to work! I focused on adding images to my Adam and Eve unit today, and I think I might have time to add images to the Noah unit also!

Here's one of my favorite images from Adam and Eve - it's Domenichino's "Rebuke of Adam and Eve." Even without words, the artist shows that God is upset with Adam, Adam is blaming Eve, and Eve is blaming the serpent. The animals, meanwhile, living at peace in the Garden of Eden, are clearly not impressed by what the humans are doing. Read the story: Adam and Eve - The Punishment.

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