Content and Data Collection

I’ve spent part of my summer planning and designing a first year seminar course that was a prime candidate for a flipped classroom model. The course meets once a week for 50 minutes, and we have tons of content to cover. I have a feeling it’s going to go by quickly.

My personal teaching philosophy also calls for incorporating reflection and community building into the class, which takes up time as well. Knowing this, and with my background, the obvious solution was to provide some of the direct instruction in the online environment in order to free up some time for the more interpersonal aspects of the experience during our face to face time.

Of course, my next challenge was to figure out a way to track whether the content I put online was actually valuable and worthwhile. As an instructional designer, faculty always question whether or not students actually complete online readings and work through online course content, fearing that they will just blow it off. My response has typically been to turn the question around and ask them how they know whether students are paying attention during lecture instead of daydreaming about their weekend plans. If nothing else, I feel that the online environment at least offers a chance for us to try to collect data on what students interact with and try to correlate it with their success in the course.

After some brainstorming, planning, and some technical effort, I’ve found a way to try to begin collecting data for online content. With Learning Locker, I’ll be pulling xAPI statements from my course content, which lives in ELMSLN, a Drupal-based, education-focused content management system. I’ve been able to embed questions about various multimedia aspects that appear in the content, as well as questions for the students about whether they feel the content was relevant to the learning objectives of the lesson. I’m interested to see what I’ll get. While I don’t think I’ll be able to make too many judgements upfront about course content, I am looking forward to the spring semester when I can look at all the data as a whole.

After figuring out solutions to these first challenges of time constraints and tracking, my last challenge was to figure out exactly what the online content should look like. In the beginning, I thought this would be really easy for me. I’ve looked at tons of online courses and I’ve studied the field for a handful of years now. I know the best practices and I know the pitfalls. But I’m still struggling, the day before the semester begins, to really make a decision I feel confident in. I still have about 8 hours of daylight to work with on this, but what I suspect will happen is I’ll reach a point where I’ll need to just sign off and let the content I’ve put out there be and hope for the best. Nothing is perfect the first time around, and that’s something I need to live with, prepare for, and know that I’ll improve on for next time.