Week 2 Goal

All right! We’re back at it! Great job on your work deciding where your course is going and what your students will be learning. Now we’re going to work on understanding the school’s schedule, your schedule of assignments, and what you expect students to be doing when. You’re probably thinking, “Assignments? I don’t even know what assignments I CAN do, much less when they’re due!” And that’s what we’ll be working on this week. Let’s talk about the different approaches people use to build their courses. Let’s talk about the use of research to help students remember information longer. And let’s talk about being successful instructors getting what we want from our students. What you will need:

  • The worksheets you completed in Week 1.
  • A school calendar showing your school holidays and days off.
  • Your personal calendar.
  • An empty calendar.

I acknowledge that part of this is about how I build courses. It’s hard for me to see the term without using a physical calendar to block off days. If you can see the term in your head and don’t need the physical calendar, that’s cool. But if this is your first time leading a class — regardless of delivery style — I highly encourage you to build from this process.

Step 3: Waypoints

Your calendars are ready, your worksheets are in front of you, and now you’re ready for Step 3: Waypoints What are waypoints? Waypoints are the parts of the road trip that create the memories.  In Step 2, you listed your topics for your course from beginning to end. In that exercise, I used the term “buffer” — those “buffer” statements are the same as your waypoints.  Once you have listed your waypoints, compare them to the goals of your class from Step 2. Each waypoint does not need to link to all the goals, but they need to connect at least one of them. Record which goals they meet using abbreviated terms like G1 for Goal 1, G4 for Goal 4, and so on. Do you have waypoints that don’t link to the goals? No problem. Just circle or highlight the waypoint, so you don’t forget it.

Right now, you have a lot of useful data! Let’s use the goal count to make a frequency chart. List  out your total number of goals and count how often you see your waypoints hitting a goal. With this information, it is time for a reflection moment:

  • Have I met all of my goals?
    • If yes, good! 
    • If no, does that goal need to be addressed?
  • Do all of my waypoints have at least one goal?
    • If yes, good!
    • If no, should I make a new goal?
      • You don’t have to create a new goal, but it is worth asking the question.
  • Are these waypoints the correct waypoints?
    • If yes, good!
    • If no, what is the new waypoint?
      • Maybe one waypoint needs to be spread across two weeks.

I don’t know if you know this or not, but this is amazing work you are doing here. You have defined what your class is about, created tangible and measurable goals for your students, and aligned those goals throughout your course. This is absolutely a solid foundation. Great work! Again, let’s take a break at this point. Let’s allow those thoughts to breathe. And while they’re sitting on their own, let’s talk about how your class can operate over the term.

The following information is about the benefits of using a course management system, and research in metacognition and gamification. Read the information. Monday I will post the follow-up to the reading on designing your course.

Benefits of a Course Management System

I like Course Management Systems (CMS) and how they can expand my ability to offer personalized instruction. Before you think about what your students are going to do, let’s talk about what a CMS is and how your students will work. Let’s use the abilities of the CMS to design your course. A CMS is the technology you are using to deliver your course. It includes tools such as the teacher’s lesson plan, grade book, curriculum guide, and more. Common CMS software is Blackboard, D2L Brightspace, Google Classroom, and Canvas, among others. Here are the reasons why I like using a CMS:

  • The gradebook feature in the CMS is a computer. It can calculate how your assignments work. Some instructors want to weight assignments and assignment types — you can create your weighting, set it up in the gradebook, and the CMS does the math for you. 
  • You can create and store rubrics, and then use those rubrics to score assignments. The student receives feedback with the rubric, scoring the lesson at the same time.
  • A CMS collects and uses multiple modes of media. You can accept assignments from students in various ways. Yes, students can type directly in the CMS and upload documents, but you can do more with it too. Imagine being an art teacher and asking students to give you an image of their work in the online environment. Or maybe for an engineering project, you ask students to send CAD drawings that allow you to 3D print the assignment.

When helping instructors build courses, I want to know what things they like doing in their class. I recommend working with the CMS to make that happen and finding third-party technologies that can further push the idea. More important than tools is the thought behind the means to achieve what you want.

Research in Metacognition and Course Design 

Metacognition is the study of how a person thinks; as a friend once told me, “it’s the study of thinking about thinking.” Course design is the practice of thinking about when, where, and how students consume information to learn a topic. Combining these two things makes for an invigorating and refreshing class.

I’ve been interested in the research of metacognition for quite some time. While working at Eastern Kentucky University, I was able to work with instructors to incorporate research-based ideas into their classes. From that work, I made two resources and contributed to an academic paper:

Key metacognition research concepts I use in course design are:

  • Microtesting — The use of small, frequent tests to build understanding.
  • Effortful Learning — A physical act of finding and recording information. 
  • Reflection — Asking the learner what has changed after a span of learned content.
  • Interleaving — Use of multiple sources of new information at similar times. 
  • Growth Mindset — Encouragement of one’s ability to do something.

When combining metacognition with a CMS, you will create highly engaging courses that meet the individual’s needs. Your students remember and use the content beyond your classroom. Elements to create and use in your class are:

  • Wrappers — The use of pre- and post-testing asks students to predict and reflect on their predictions. This primes the student for what will come. The reflection exercise afterward is used to allow the student to confirm what they understood correctly, and — more importantly — explain why they were wrong about something.
  • Microtesting — Use low-stakes testing (not titled as a test or quiz), weekly or bi-weekly, to help focus a student’s attention.
  • Interleaving — Two research-based ideas: 
    • Testing Pools — Use testing pools to keep students recalling content over the term. A testing pool allows you to create many questions and then use a set number (i.e., Pool B has a total of 15 questions from which you use 10). Combining older and new testing pools (i.e., the quiz is now made of Pool C using 15 of 23 questions made, and Pool B using 5 of 15) creates a tool enhanced to help student retention of information. Learners are being tested on new information while having to recall previously learned information.
    • Essay Prompts — Use of the same question, or series of questions over the life of a course. If your curriculum has a primary takeaway, you can turn that learning goal into a prompt. Include that prompt at the end of each unit. The student’s understanding of the question will change over the duration of the course.
  • Growth Mindset: Use positive language to tell students what you want. I like something along the lines of “take the quiz as many times as you need. Write down the quiz questions. Work to get 100%.”
  • Effortful Learning: Encourage students to write questions down and find the answer. Use the Feedback feature to tell students where to find the answer — not the correct answer. Encourage students to write down questions as they work on the quiz. If they get an answer wrong, they will need to research it to find the correct answer.

Note: from the above list Microtesting, Interleaving, Growth Mindset, and Effortful Learning can all be used together in one assignment.

Gamification and Course Design

Gamification and gaming are not the same; I am not going to talk about turning your course into a game. Gamification is using elements from gaming to help students succeed in your curriculum. 

Examples of gamification in use with instruction are in a graphic showing a learner’s completion rate, use of flashcards and tracking personal best scores (like the testing pools above), or branched scenarios asking the learner to make decisions without fear of an outcome. All of these are great examples of using gamification in your course.

A concept I have not seen used, but that research suggests would be highly successful, is to allow students to choose what types of assignments they want to complete. You, the instructor, would set tasks, expectations, and points. The student would complete assignments they want to build towards a total score at the end of the course. 

For this to work, success must be defined (i.e., X points to get an A, Y points to get a B, Z points to get a C, etc.). Students would then choose the assignments that make the most sense to them to get the points they wanted to pass with what grade.

Inside of a traditional hand-scored class, I think this design would be hard to implement. But because you are transferring your course to an online framework, the computer will keep track of the scores. Students will know what you expect of their work because of the communication you have given. And scoring is available to the student throughout the term because of the CMS.

Again, research suggests that students’ choice in their class allows for more buy-in across learners producing more substantial participation and learning gains.

And breathe. Digest the information. I will add information about Course Design Models, Planning the Week, and delivering resources Monday.

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