Last week, I wrote about how I have been taking two online courses and lessons I was learning as part of being a student in that context. Previously, I wrote about what I learned from taking the Twitter Masterminds course. Today, I want to share with you a lesson I have learned from being a part of the Edorble Academy.
What is Edorble?
I’ve written about Edorble when it was in its very early, Beta, stages (it’s since moved out of Beta mode). You can read more about it and get access to it here. In short, Edorble is a 3D world intended for educational purposes. The world you create is private to your group. They have a number of tools you can use that allow students to do things like engage in group chats and give presentations. Check it out to see what it’s all about.
What is the Edorble Academy?
The Edorble Academy offers courses about such topics as educational technology, online teaching, and gamification. It’s a relatively new addition to Edorble and content is still being developed. I signed up for a free course that recently launched called, “3D +VR (virtual reality) Technology in the Classroom.” As with Twitter Masterminds, I signed up because it met some professional goals of mine. However, I also used it as an opportunity to take the student perspective and see what I could learn that I could apply to my own online teaching.
Lesson Learned: Thoughts on Structured Release of Content
The Edorble class differed from Twitter Masterminds (TM) in its approach to releasing content.
Where TM had all the content available to me immediately, Edorble’s class was intended to be four weeks long with content being released every Saturday morning. Like TM, Edorble has modules (they are just called sections), and each section has its own set of chapters. I can go back and forth between the sections. Once content is released it’s mine. The Edorble course had a more academic/school type feel to me. Probably because it was set up to be a four week course and so had a more semester like feel to me.
It was an interesting experience to contrast the TM approach of all content at once vs. Edorble’s release once a week for four weeks. TM probably has about the same amount of content as Edorble. Here are my thoughts:
- Edorble’s approach was initially less overwhelming. I didn’t run around sifting through all the content at light speed, but I did sift through all the content I received and then went back to dive into particular aspects more deeply. As with TM, after I had settled into the course I basically did the content in the order it was presented unless I could articulate why I shouldn’t. I continue to assume the instructor orders things in a particular manner (probably a reasonable assumption; I know it’s what I do)
- Being less overwhelming doesn’t make it better. It just makes it different. It’s simply something to notice. In both cases, I was overwhelmed to varying degrees but again, that’s not bad. It’s a good reminder that students likely experience this, it’s a normal emotion to experience, and it goes away as one becomes familiar with the content and structure.
- In a typical college course, the expectation is to release the majority of the content all at once. Think about it…I give my students a syllabus that has all readings and assignments on it with due dates and what not. It’s not everything, but it’s a substantial portion of what they will be doing. It’s helpful because it allows students to plan how they want to approach their work and structure their time. But my experiences in these two courses have raised questions for me about the degree I should be giving more or less content away right off the bat in an online course. I have zero answers, but I am thinking about it.
Where I’m At With All This
As I write this, I am still working on identifying readings and just getting the basics done for my course. But I have plenty of time (sort of. I am moving across the country soon!). I plan to keep thinking about how content will be released in my course. I’m also still thinking about the idea that syllabi are written in a linear manner (understandable) and so as students we read and interact with them that way. This means that content, once it’s been “covered,” is often not returned to.
I’m thinking about this in two ways. First, I’m considering if there is a way to structure my syllabus so that it doesn’t promote linear engagement. Second, I’m considering if the standard structure is OK and that perhaps it’s more about how we ask and expect students to engage with it that promotes a linear engagement with it. For example, in my last post I discussed how my professional goals allowed me to pick and choose content. Those goals would take me back to content I had viewed in a previous module. Therefore, while the TM course was set up in a linear way, how I approached it allowed me to engage with it in a non-linear manner. How can I encourage this amongst my own students? I’ll get back to you.