This course is scheduled to be designed in the summer and taught and evaluated in Fall 2006.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"Alternative" Unit Plans

One of the main problems which I have had is with the UDL principle which recommends that students be given alternative ways to fulfill requirements but that still demonstrate that they have met the objectives of the course/assignment.

I found a course designed by Dr. Engelhardt's out of Texas A & M Univ. Corpus Christi. The college has a FYWP which is designed around learning communities. The Engelhardt course is designed around civic duties and responsibilities. What I have done is adapted it to the topic which we are concentrating which is Learning and College.

I think that as I have designed the course, my concept of the topic and where it is going has really gotten focused.

What I like about the course and the program is that the students produce a multi-media presentation as one of their portfolios. I thought that was neat idea but wondered if is was still within the scope of the course objectives and requirements. This late in the semester, I cannot change the requirements.

So I looked at the design carefully, I think that it will fit with what I have set up as the objectives and the requirements. The students will be required to produce two or three (not sure yet) pieces which come from the pieces which they have written throughout the term. They will need to focus on a topic, an audience, a purpose, etc. The pieces which they work on will have to be different but meeting the same specifications of topic, audience, purpose. I think this will allow the students to think critically about what they have written, to connect the different ideas which they have been writing about.

The requirement for the Unit is an essay. So their essay will be a reflective piece in which they explain what their rationale is for those pieces and why they think they would be effective. The reflective piece will be graded as a major component of the portfolio 4.

In Unit 2, I am using a powerpoint presentation which presents an argument about the causes for lack of achievement of some populations. The ppt fits in with the topic of college success: causes and effects. I also wanted to show them that argumenative pieces are not necessarily written in essay form and that the research they turn to does not necessarily have to be written in essay format. I will also incorporate some multi-media type of text for the next unit.

I have never tried something like this in a Comp I course so I'm excited to try it and see how students respond to it.

I tried something similar in a Tech Writing class in the spring and was extremely satisfied with what the students produced.

This unit will also allow me to use that UDL principle which I have been having problems incorporating into the activities required for class.

Unit 4

Writing(s) out of the classroom

Using the research and writing you have done in Units 2 and 3, you will now produce several pieces of writing that are meant to go out of the classroom, writing that is meant to encourage / persuade readers to ACT. You can think of this assignment as an action plan, with examples of texts; as a campaign, with different kinds of texts; as a multi media presentation.

This is the creative arm of Units 2 and 3, where you translate the research and solutions from your research essay into materials for public preview. You will produce two pieces of collateral/visual/aural material--brochures, posters, power point presentations, documentaries, puppet shows, advertising jingles, building models....your imagination is the limit--which you will then exhibit. You can think of this assignment as an action plan, as an advertising campaign and/or as a multi media presentation.

Your goal is to translate your academic work into writing that reaches a popular audience and to augment the work you've done and are doing in Units 2 and 3 with visuals/audios/others (any other sensory stuff) that will gain your audience's attention and give them *more* to think about.

For this assignment you will produce at least three different pieces, choosing different genre, different modes (fiction / non-fiction), or different media. Each piece will be addressing the same issue or problem, and each piece will be attempting to persuade readers to act.

Your reflective overview will, among other things, tell me what audience these presentations are likely to reach, how you could make sure your audience is exposed to your material, and what you hope will be the effects of this connection between your material and your audience (what might be the consequences of them reading/seeing your work?)

For the final, students in our classroom will view the presentations and choose two presentations to evaluate for audience/purpose/forum. These evaluations must be turned in with your 4th portfolio.

Week 8—Rethinking Written work
Discussion—most important ideas
Students write research proposal
Video—consider audience, purpose, ideas
Weekly Report

Week9—Synthesis and Critical Thinking
Revisions—Concentrate on Audience/purpose/forum
Revisions Video
Weekly report

Unit 3

Multiple solutions, choices, consequences

Based on the work you have done for Unit 2, write an essay in which you explore different solutions to the problem you identified. Consider how the framing of the problem affects the possible solutions. Consider the consequences of the various solutions and consider how readers might choose among the possible solutions. Offer one solution--or combination of solutions--that you think is most likely to persuade people to act on the problem.

You will continue to take account of perspectives of the sources you work with. Why do they propose this particular solution? What's in it for them? You will use an additional five to six sources in your essay.

After considering various solutions from three different perspectives you will offer one of your own (it might be a combination of solutions included in your essay) that you think is most likely to persuade people to act on the problem. You will analyze why this solution is the best one, taking into consideration the consequences of the various solutions you discuss and how readers might respond to them. Your objective is to persuade your readers that this is an important issue and encourage them to ACT (by that I mean get involved, pay attention, help the cause if necessary).

Week 6—Solution Proposal
Discussion—what do you think are some solutions to the problems discussed in the previous essay
Students research using databases and internet (2 additional articles)
Students write research proposal
Weekly Report

Week 7—Synthesis and Critical Thinking
Draft outline of essay
rough draft/peer reviews
Revisions—Concentrate on ___________________
Revisions Video
Portfolio selections
Final draft
Weekly report

Unit 2

College Success: Complex causes and effects

As part of Unit 1, you identified your learning style, the impact they have had on you as a student and evaluated the strategies which you use.

In this unit, we will turn to the causes and effects of college success. In consultation with your teacher and classmates, you will choose one aspect of the issue and write an essay in which you explore the various causes and effects of the problem. This will require you to conduct research on the problem and to account for multiple perspectives (3 or more), for the different ways that writers frame and present the causes and effects of the problem.

Week 3—Research and Research Proposal
provide initial readings
Discussion—what do you think are the causes and effects of college success
Students research using databases and internet
Video—Research and Internet
Video—How to research using online databases
Students write research proposal
Weekly Report

Week 4—Research/documentation and Critical Thinking
student write biblio
student write annotated biblio article--summary/evaluation/application
video instructions for annotated biblio
Cause and effect lecture (video?)
Synthesizing Ideas (video?)
Drafting outline (video?)
Draft outline of essay
Weekly report

Week 5--Collaboration/Reading/Discussion
rough draft
peer reviews
Revisions—Concentrate on ___________________
Revisions Video
Portfolio selections
Final draft
Weekly report

Problems and Frustrations

I am going to begin with the different problems and frustrations which I have been experiencing with the course design.

Most of the problems which the students have been having are concerning technology. Unfortunately, students are not too adept at changing their computer setting so that everything works exactly as it should with Vista. Even when different strategies are suggested, students seem not to be able to "fix" their computers so that they minimize their problems

I know some students do not have much control. They have checked out laptops from school and they need to submit a work order to get anything changed or installed on the computers. The work orders take about 2 weeks to get completed. This delay is a real frustration for students.

Many are wising up and using the "technology issues" as reasons to not meet deadlines. I have been flexible with those students who I know are consistenly having the same issues because of their computers. But there is not way to make one student accountable and not another. Also, because the students share the computers in the lab, I have no idea who exactly is using the "broken" computer.

It is making life much harder for me. I have to keep track of where students turn in assignments. I have asked students to use email as a backup when something happens with the system. It is not being used as much this week as it has in the previous two but it still makes it confusing for me and for the students to keep track of where they submitted their materials.

I'm hoping a couple more weeks and most of these problems will be solved.

The problems that the high school students are having with the computers really makes me worry that the students in the full online class will have similar difficulties. The DE director said that the course has the technology specifications listed, so students should be held accountable. Still, the situation makes me worry.

Having the two sites, the external content site and the Vista submission site, has also caused complication. I decided to keep instructions on the external site but in an effort to keep it simple, I wonder if the instructions should not be migrated back into Vista. I worry though that if I do that, then the external site will become useless. It was useful when the system was not working, but repeating information in the sites seems inefficient and confusing for students.

I have decided to keep most of the content in the external site and point the students to the relevant pages for each particular activity. I will try that for this unit and see how it works out.

After looking at the organization of assignments in the Vista site, I had to reconsider how I pointed to those assignments in the external site. I decided on a numerical list and similar titles to guide the student from one activity to another.

The high school students seem to getting used to the rhythm of the course. Because we meet everyday, designing the course has been quite a feat. I have to work at redesigning both the Vista and the external site so that both are consistent and up-to-date. As I decide on the specific format, this part of the workload should decrease.

All these design and logistical issues have left me little time to concentrate on the development of the videos for instruction. I am keenly aware that I do much of the instruction via video for the high school classes and am considering how that instruction will be translated for the full online class.

I am maintaining a log of the lessons which I present to the students, both those that are planned and those which arise from student confusion. I realize that much of the instruction will be difficult to translate to the distance students. The main difficulty, of course, comes from the time-intensive activity needed to create the instruction in text, video or audio format.

Also, since I have no control over whether a student actually views an instructional video, I am not sure how valuable those that I have produced have been to the students.

I sent out an email asking for feedback but received very little since it was not a requirement. I am creating a survey in vista and all students will have to complete it. Since it will be done during class and I think students will feel self-conscious, I am not sure how valid the information will be. Still, I am sure I will get some preliminary information about the videos from the survey.

My online class began yesterday and I am worried that not all students have logged in to the class. I have sent multiple emails giving them information about the course login page and external course site. Of course, they may have gone to the external site but I have no way to keep track of that. The only thing I can keep track of is if they log in to the Vista site.

I know it is a little early to get worried. One student commented that she is not used to working in an online class which has deadlines. I am not sure exactly what she means since all of the classes which I have found do use deadlines. I did email the students today asking them if they had questions or problems and reinterating the login information. I figure the next step will be to telephone them if they have not loggin in within the next couple of days. Have to seek some feedback on this one.

Unit 1--Redone

Unit 1

Week 1--Intro to Course/Introduce Yourself

  • syllabus (text and video intro)
  • Class documents (class structure, units, portfolio, weekly reports)
  • Introduce Yourself memo--will also serve as diagnostic
  • provide initial readings
  • Weekly Report

Week 2--Reading and Research

  • Discussion--how does the article affect the way you think about yourself?
  • Discussion assessment criteria—live instruction
  • Learning Styles Diagnostics—web based
  • students research for one article
  • student write annotated biblio for their chosen article--summary/recommendation
  • video instructions for annotated biblio
  • students read summaries of articles peers selected/choose two articles based on summaries to read and comment on/what similar and/or different ideas do these articles provide
  • begin essay 1
  • Peer review guidelines--text
  • students do two peer reviews
  • MLA format text/video instructions (live instruction on camera)
  • Review Thesis/Topic Sentence—video?
  • Review Introduction/Conclusion Strategies—video?
  • Weekly report/Reflect on Week 2 activities and learning

Week 3--Collaboration/Peer Review/Revision

  • Essay Due
  • Revisions/live instruction
  • Revisions
  • Varied Sentence structure
    Word Choice/Repetition
    Informal/formal language
    Weak sentence beginnings
    Consistent POV
    Number rules
    Parenthetical Citations
    Works Cited
  • Weekly report/Reflect on Week 3

Saturday, September 02, 2006

What's Working...Maybe?

After completing the first unit with the system mostly working, I have to document those design details which I like (now are they effective? that's for another class... ;)
  • Scaffolding lessons--lessons especially those dealing with MLA formatting and the rhetorical expectations for an essay seem to benefit from scaffolding. I have been doing this for a while, so I'm not sure that it is something that I am adding new from what I have learned from UDL principles, but I think that they are effective. Using the scaffolding in a systematic and consistent way may be able to give me some evidence as to if it works or not.

Currently, I am using the scaffolding both for MLA and for the essay process. I am concerned that most students will think that the activities are just work designed to keep them busy. To counter that, I am using the peer feedback so they can see how their peers are doing with the lessons, to offer corrections to their peers and so that students can self-correct when they see errors. I think that it is working. I gave them a short one source annotated bibliography quiz to test that assertion. They practiced and peer reviewed last week. This week they had to do it on their own.

The scaffolding of the essay process also seems to be having some effect on the student writing. I have read research which says that students are going to concentrate on only what is required, rather than worrying about the process (have to find that article again) and everything that they already know they should do to produce good writing. So I am including the different parts of the process as part of the scaffolding. Many of them mentioned in their introductions that when they write, they just sit at the computer and "let it come out." So I let them do that when we began last week.

We started with an essay answering the question/prompt which was given about their learning strategies. Then we followed that with research, both a learning styles inventory, an academic article and some research (one internet article). After summarizing their findings, they were asked to rewrite or begin again, using more specific prompting questions. We discussed purpose and audience and incorporating their research findings into their essays. We covered thesis and topic sentences, beginnings and endings. They turned in the draft. Then we did some peer reveiw. Most students did not submit lengthly comments but the suggestions they gave did give their peers something to revise. Then they turned in their essay. Finally, we focused on a revision exercise. We looked at sentence structure, pov, informal/formal language, word choice/repetition, weak sentence beginnings. Then they revised and turned in their essay again.

I also decided to keep the idea of the mini-portfolio for each unit. I am having the students reflect on their work each week in the weekly reports and I am having them select two pieces which they think are representative of their learning and discuss how those pieces show their learning and growth.

One thing that I have not had much opportunity to do is to give individual feedback. I have decided that I have designed the activities so that the students get feedback from each other, I look at their posts and give them feedback which is relevant to most of them on camera. I know that I will not be able to do that in the online course but so far it has been working well with the students. Many of them are becoming much more responsible with the feedback which they give their peers and I have to give them more specific "requirements" for the discussion; otherwise, they will just write "it was good."

The scaffolding is also reflected in the titles for each of the sections of the unit. We begin with "what you know" then move to "research", then to "share new Knowledge" then to "incorporate old and new" and finally to the "mini-portfolio" which is finalizing, selection and reflection. Each part of the writing process is incorporated into one of the sections. I am also trying to make the sections as "recursive" as possible so they can hopefully internalize that concept about writing.

I am working on a survey to assess the videos. I am not sure how effective they have been up to this point.

One thing that I did not include in my planning of the design of the course is the goal-setting. I am thinking that when I teach it again, I will incorporate that into the beginning and connect it with the weekly reports. How effective is student being about setting goals which they meet? I also think that by the end of the course they may be setting goals which include the process rather than just getting the assignment completed. I wonder if the goal setting can show that the scaffolding of the process works to help the student internalize the process. Big question mark here. This is something which I want to work on maybe in the Spring delivery of this course.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Course Site(s) Design

Deciding how to best use the technology I have available has been difficult.

I decided
  • I am going to use the Composition I site to provide content and instructions
  • I will be using WebCt Vista for the Discussions, Quizzes, Assignment Submissions, Online Office Hours.

It took me a while to decide how I was going to arrange the course so that the use of the sites was consistent and as uncomplicated as possible. I also wanted to have a specific look and feel to my course site which I was not able to manage on the Vista site:

  • wanted to have the navigation bars (my own creation)
  • Wanted to use templates
  • wanted to have certain information visible to students at all times.

Also, I found myself having to teach the ITV classes delivered to the high schools and since those classes started early (one week before the regular semester), I have had to muddle through the bugs of the pilot. I can already feel that the students are getting frustrated. I can understand why someone would want to work with something over which they have control. We have experienced numerous problems

  • misunderstanding over who was going to enroll students; if they are not enrolled they do not get fed into Vista
  • the feed was not working properly so when courses were created, they were not picked up by the system
  • the feed was not working properly and not all students were being added to the courses even though they were officially registered (worst of all the person in charge of the feed was out on vacation the week when ITV classes began and one week before regular classes were set to begin)
  • some students are in the system but their password does not work properly and there is nothing that I can do to help them but send them to the helpdesk
  • I am delivering to two campuses at the same time but for tracking purposes the students are enrolled in two separate sections; Vista creates two sections for what is really one class; I had to figure out a workaround
  • Lab managers for the schools are not students therefore are not in the system; we had to figure out how to get them entered as users so they could be enrolled in the course; the rules for "visitors" hasn't been set yet, but had to go ahead because classes have started
  • when students reset passwords in the system to access Vista, the new password is sent to a account which most students don't know how to access and for which students need to know a password to enter; so they need a password to get their password
  • helpdesk personnel were not aware we were already using the system and were unprepared to help users who called for help
  • User computers which have pop-up blockers and certain java settings cannot access Vista so computer settings have to be changed and helpdesk currently only is open until 6 pm

Unfortunately, the students are getting frustrated with the technology even before we start with the actual content of the course. I am having to depend on the Composition site more and more. So I am thinking that I will even put instructions on the Composition site and then only use Vista to turn in assignments. I am not completely sure how long it will be before all the problems get ironed out. I imagine that others will not experience as many problems as we did this week since the design of my course depended heavily on having access to Vista during the first week which concentrated on explaining how the technology was going to work (and it didn't).

I included a question on a quiz which asked the students what they were most concerned with and several of them said they were worried that they technology, problems and confusions, was going to hinder their progress in the course.

I expect that we won't have as any problems after the pilot but it is a poor reflection on me, I think. For the students, a problem is always the instructor's fault.

Now that I am using the site (which was originally designed for an online course) for three different sections, I am having to figure out how to redesign so that students know what information is relevant to them. For about two minutes, I considered making a different site for the ITV students but then I decided to try to manage the different sections using one.

Since the online course will not start for another week, I guess I can still change my mind. The problem is that if I change the site, I will also have to change the different videos that I create for the students. Many of the videos will refer to the sites which we are using in class and if I use different sites for different classes that will be confusing for the students.

Also, I realized yesterday that to do research students will have to navigate yet one more site, the library site. The library site uses the netmail password for authentication which complicates things even further. I wondered if there is one way to incorporate all the sites into one. I spoke with Justin in IT and he said that MyLearning (Vista) and the library site can be managed through the TSTC portal. So I think I will direct students to the portal and not to the MyLearning site directly. That means I have to go back and change my introduction video to incorporate those changes. Because not all students in my online course are TSTC students (I have several VCT students), I have to make sure that those students can also have access to the portal. I should have an answer in the next day or two.

A major problem is that I keep changing things around as I realize the different types of technology that students have to use. I know that it will be difficult for the students if they have to remember how to access three to four different sites to be able to do the work for the course. But it is equally difficult for things to change from day to day. TSTC is currently working on having a single sign on but not all systems have been integrated yet. I never imagined that it would be this complex.

My only consolation is that it will be much easier for my faculty when they start using the system.

I am designing the instructional videos so that other faculty members can use them. I decided not to include the my talking head in the videos because of this. I also want to use certain sections of some of my videos for more general videos which other instructors can use.

In fact, the video for Updating MyLearning is one which can be used to show users how to add a channel to the portal. Currently, there is a user manual for the portal but it is over 300 pages long and most people don't even know it is available.

With all of this going on, it is difficult to keep track of what my intial intent for the course was.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Research and Content Development

I have concentrated most of my week in reading the next few chapters of the Baehr book.

I had already considered the following information:

Baehr argues that a web site must be designed for the needs to the user:
1. pages must be able to stand alone
I have decided to put all information about certain content on one page. The left navigation will be repeated so that users can move to different pages in the particular unit from any page. The top navigation will allow them to move to any particular unit from any page.

2. content flexible and readable across broad user habits, browsers and system settings
The content text will be easily printable and accessible on any computer.

3. pages read in non-sequential order
Pages will be able to be read in any order and the student will be able to navigate to any page within the unit. Links which take the user to external sites will be opened in new windows so that the student will always have the course page available.

4. content must be chunked
I will keep this in mind as I write content for my students. I have also designed the site so that the content does not extend from one side of the screen to another. I know that I dislike sites which have text covering the whole width of the screen because it is easy to lose track of the line. I consider myself a pretty proficient reader and if I have problems reading lines that are that long, I'm sure others have the same problem. I have included the center column for the content information. It will cover about half of the screen so that users do not have to read from one side of the screen to the other.

5. chunks liked via "associative relationship"
As I work on the content pages and activities refer to previews units, I will add navigation links to take the student to the particular page. Because I want to keep the units separate, I will provide students to a way to return to their original page by having the link open in a new window.

6. provide meaningful labels
I will provide meaningful labels that students are likely to have heard used in other classes. I will also provide a video overview of the website to orient the students who may be unfamiliar with specific terminology and its function. I will repeat the labels at the top of the pages so that navigation will be clearer.

7. multimedia and audio allow user to visualize concept and interact with content
The multimedia components that I will be adding to the page should fulfill this requirement.

Users dislike:
1. excessive scrolling
Because students do not like scrolling, for longer pages I will provide links to content chunks within one page. I need to go back and add the return to top link so that students don't have to scroll up when they are finished with a particular chunk.

2. longer chunks of text
As I write the content, I need to be especially careful about the size of the chunks. All literature recommends 5-7 chunks per section.

These are the principles that I considered when designing the course shell:

Principle: Discernment of Depth
Baehr argues that elements on the screen become visual elements which tell the user how the site is organized and thus provide contextual details. Once the user is familiar with the context, they will turn their attention to the content.

It was important to me to keep the context similar throught the site so that the user would not have to restrategize for each particular unit. I also wanted for all the global/overall unit information to be visible on the screen. What I think will be most important for them will be the supplemental media resources and the deadlines. What will be useful will be the information found on a specific page.

Principle: Fixation solves a problem
The user will seek elements which help solve a specific need
I think that the media resources will fulfill this. The search engine can also help.

Principle: Vision is selective
Users focus on examing specif chunks of text or graphics to determine what they mean and how they can be used

Because the context will be the same in all the units, the student will know from unit to unit what to expect from the site. He will also know what are of the page he must focus on to get the information he needs.

Principle: Shapes are concepts
Shapes provide meaning and suggest function to users and help them make decisions about navigation and strategies for filtering information.

Since shapes are concepts but I have to extra careful about images (WebCt already has them), I decided to use color to help for the shapes to help the students navigate. I have the blue navigation bar to the left will take students to other pages relevant to the unit and the orange navigation to the right will help them navigate within one page.

Principle: Complete the incomplete
User construct a meaningful whole picture of the site. Users "think visually, spatially about the meaning, location, and function of content to help act, read, and interpret content."
Because my navigation structure repeats througout the site, I think it will be relatively easy for students to get a whole picture of the site using the components I have provided.
Content Analysis
The content of the site will be organized by units. Each unit will have specific content.
Media resources will be the first component. Media will be either video or audio which will supplement the text information provided on the pages or will provide additional instruction.
Reading resources will provide students will links to reading materials and instructions for the units readings.
Grammar resources will be links and instructor produced resources to help students with grammar questions. I will be adding video tutorials in this section to target weaknesses which I see in several students.
Site map--I need to add a site map so that students can see a one page structure of the course with links to relevant pages. This will need to be updated as new material is added. The site map will part of the main template page.
Web search--I have a basic keyword search but haven't been able to make it work. I have to trouble shoot that. I also have to see how that work within WebCt.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Course Design (Again!)

Well, I thought I had finished the design but it seems like I haven't yet.

I decided that I wanted to work with templates. One of my goals is to be able to share my design so I decided to teach myself about Dreamweaver templates.

I set up a teaching notes page on my site with the following info:

Teaching Notes:

Teaching Notes:

Design Overview

This course site is designed using templates and nested templates.

I used templates because they allow me and any user the flexibility to place different texts on different levels of the nest in order to be more efficient. The following is the design of the site nest and what you can edit by designing documents using different templates.

Site Architecture Explanation

Main Index Page --This page

  • has all the layout design and can be edited.

  • if used as a template for a new document, the new document will have the top and bottom bars locked. To edit those, you must open the index template and make the changes there. The changes will appear in all other documents.

  • the top and bottom bars are the only navigation bars which will not change throughout the site.

  • it also includes instructor information which will not change throughout the site. This allows one to go in and change the instructor information only once for the entire site.

  • the blue navigation bar stays editable because that will serve as the main navigation bar for each unit which will have links to different resources and tags to different parts of the portfolio page.

  • content and on this page information should not be edited on this page.

Course Info Templates--This page

  • was created using the Main index page template.

  • has all the layout design but has the top and bottom bars locked.

  • this template was used to create the course info pages.

  • to edit the blue navigation bar for this particular unit (course info), open the template page.

  • all unit or course info pages will show the new information.

  • content and on this page information should not be edited on this page.

  • creating a page using this template will lock the blue navigation bar (since all unit pages should have the same navigation bar to point students to the same resources as they work on the unit assignments); on this new page you will be able to edit content and on this page information.

Unit/Portfolio Template--This template page

  • was created using the Main index page template.

  • has all the layout design but has the top and bottom bars locked.

  • this template is used to create the portfolio pages.

  • to edit the blue navigation bar for this particular unit (portfolio), open this template page.

  • all portfolio or unit pages will show the new information.

  • each portfolio or unit has its own template; editting portfolio 1 template will not change portfolio 2 pages.

  • content and on this page information should not be edited on this page.

  • creating a page using this template will lock the blue navigation bar (since all unit pages should have the same navigation bar to point students to the same resources as they work on the unit assignments); on this new page you will be able to edit content and on this page information.

  • note: this page Teaching Notes.html was created using the Portfolio 1 template. If you open this page the top, bottom and left navigation bars are locked and only content and on this page information can be edited.

Site Architecture Picture

  • Main Index Page Template

    • Course Info Template

      • Course Info Page

      • Expanded Description

      • Grading Criteria

      • Learning Outcomes

      • Materials

    • Portfolio 1 Template

      • Portfolio 1 page

      • Media resources

      • Assignment Details

      • Discussion Details

      • etc.

    • Portfolio 2 Template

      • Portfolio 2 page

      • Media resources

      • Assignment Details

      • Discussion Details

      • etc.

    • Portfolio 3 Template

      • Portfolio 3 page

      • Media resources

      • Assignment Details

      • Discussion Details

      • etc.

    • Portfolio 4 Template

      • Portfolio 4 Page

      • Media resources

      • Assignment Details

      • Discussion Details

      • etc.

    • Final Essay

I still haven't worked out how I'm going to work out my pages in WebCt. I thought I had figured something out but it turned out to be a dead end. I tried Jeff's (I don't know who he is) and played with the header settings in the WebCt Page. But the headers can be set for the first page or for the whole class site. What I wanted to do won't work. I'll figure something out.

The course shell is online at

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Course Template

The course template is done, finally. I didn't think I was going to ever be satisfied with it.

I have been thinking about the design and the different elements that I wanted to incorporate into the page. So after finishing the first unit last week, this step could not be put off any more. I had an issue trying to get training to design using Dreamweaver.

I don't have much experience building web sites and the only program that I had worked with was frontpage. Since everyone said that Dreamweaver was a better program, I decided to use that to design this. For a while, I thought I was going to have to revert back to Frontpage. Another goals was to learn how to implement CSS to the site so that future work on it was easier.

I was not able to be the training which I was hoping to get since no one at my institution who is involved with faculty development is trained in using this program. We have digital design faculty but they are too busy with classes and what I wanted to do was a bit complex for a one hour sit down session. I was able to discuss some of my design ideas with JJ Vavra who walked me through a 10 minute explanation of what the simplest way to design for my specific requirements was. I played with the program for a couple of weeks but was not satisfied with much of what I had done.

My next step was to search for sites which had components which I wanted to use. I also looked at what templates Dreamweaver had available that I could use as a starting point. I decided to dive into a CSS based template which had the CSS elements I wanted to incorporate and I also used a one page template which had some design elments that I wanted to use. I then set out to design a page to my specifications using the code in the templates as my guide.

My main goals were:

  1. Have clear navigation
  2. Present an at a glace look of the content of the page
  3. Format to include as much pertinent information on one page
  4. Minimize scrolling
  5. Personalize the page
  6. High contrast color scheme
  7. Visibly appealing color scheme
  8. CSS design

1. I wasn't sure exactly where I wanted to have my navigation bars especially since I had to think about how my design would fit into the design of WebCt Vista. Right now I still haven't decided if I'm going to host the course in my own site or if I'm going to load my pages onto Vista. I decided to go ahead and design it independently of Vista (which is good for me because of the portability of the site) and then make the Vista decision at a later point after I had had more time to play with Vista and its tools.

Vista has an entry page which opens to a set of tools chosen by the designer. I still have to ask if it is possible to go directly onto a linked page upon entry rather than going to that Main page. To me that Main page will really be an intermediary between Vista and my pages. So my goal for minimizing clicks automatically got more difficult. Vista has a content module tool which sets up frames with the linked page on the main frame to the right and a table of contents frame on the left. The way I think the course will be designed will be: enter Main Vista page with links to Content/Unit modules. The Content module will have

  1. my Dreamweaver designed Unit page--that page will then link to other content inside my site
  2. WebCt discussion link
  3. WebCt assignment link
  4. Other collaboration tools

I could have just used the content module to design the different pages for my units but then the units would be organized in a linear fashion and would not meet the different goals that I wanted. I have seen several online courses and they are just a list of things the students need to do; some do demonstrate that some thought went into the design of the page but the pages are still mostly text with very little "personality" in the design. I did find several in which I could "read" the personality of the instructor by the way in which he addressed the students in his pages. But that still was mainly communicating via the text. I found a couple and have heard of a couple of instructors who demonstrated their personality via the design but mostly in ways that was not of value to the instruction. I heard of one who used different flowers for icons, a flower lover I guess, and another who used hot pink for all her headings. These choices certainly reveal personality and that may have an important affective component but I don't think those choices had anything to do with the instructional goals.

2. One of my main objectives--this is what one of the UDL sessions recommended--was that assignments be designed in a way that all important information is clearly visible to the students. I really liked the design which Robbin Zeff used but I wanted to accomplish a bit more with it. Here is a link to her design I really liked the post-it note idea but when I spoke to a designer they told me that those were images which which part of the page. Well, I didn't want images. I wanted to design a page which I was going to be able to share with others and using images was not very conducive to that. So I decided to keep with the idea of including the information which she suggested in highly visible areas such as due dates but incorporating a design which is more friendly to those who do not have much experience designing web pages.

The information which I wanted clearly visible are: the media links, synopsis of the page, resources links which could change depending on the assignment, contact information, deadlines. I wasn't too sure about scrolling. I knew I wanted to design the page so that it would change depending on screen size so that there would be no horizontal scrolling which was needed. Design experts argue that users do not want to scroll across but they will scroll down indefinitely. I know that most of my unit pages will have alot of text and I want to keep all the information to gether rather than in separate pages. I'm not sure about users scrolling indefinitely so I decided that I would also include links to page sections so that students would not have to scroll but could navigate easily within the page.

5. As to personalizing the page, I have to think about that a bit more. I think adding the video and audio components will personalize the instruction but not so much the page.

I have been thinking about how important images are for me and for other students in the phd program, f2f interaction is very important. I have not been using the webcam very much and I'm not sure that I want to use that. I have decided that using pictures is a good balance. The feel of the person is there without needing to have the tech tools and fighting the bandwidth battle at school. So I added the image and the Yahoo IM presence tool.

I have one concern about the tool. I would like for it to show the user status. If the page shows that I am online but I am really not available then that may become a problem with students. So I would have to be really careful about logging out when I will be unavailable and not letting the IM idle. I wonder if there is some code to add that component to the page.

6.7. I wish I could say that my choice in color scheme was inspired by blogger but it was not until after I had finished it and that I logged in to write this entry that I realized how similar the color scheme that I chose is. I guess blogger has entered my subconscious without me being aware of it.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Unit 1 Plan--4 Weeks

Class Theme

Write to Learn to Write
reWrite to Learn to Write
Research to Learn to Read
reResearch to Learn to Read
Question to Learn to Learn
reQuestion to Learn to Learn

Unit 1--Your Identity as a Reader/Writer

Week 1--Intro to Course/Introduce Yourself

  • syllabus (text and video intro)
  • Class documents (class structure, units, portfolio, weekly reports)
  • Introduce Yourself memo--will also serve as diagnostic
  • Weekly Report
Week 2--Reading and Research

  • provide initital readings
  • Discussion--how does the article affect the way you think about yourself?
  • Discussion assessment criteria--text/audio
  • students research for one article
  • text/video instructions on researching using online databases
  • student write annotated biblio for their chosen article--summary/recommendation
  • video instructions for annotated biblio
  • Reflect on Week 1 based on readings/research
  • weekly report

Week 3--Collaboration/Reading/Discussion

  • students read summaries of articles peers selected/choose two articles based on summaries to read and comment on/what similar and/or different ideas do these articles provide
  • begin essay 1
  • Eval criteria for essay--collaborative
  • MLA format text/video instructions
  • Reflect on Week 2 and 1 based on this week
  • Weekly report-email

Week 4--Collaboration/Peer Review

  • Discuss Purpose, Audience, Forum--text/audio
  • Peer review guidelines--text/video/audio
  • students do two peer reviews
  • Reflect on Week 3, 2, 1 based on this week
  • Essay Due
  • Weekly report

Survey--What components did students find most helpful?

This is what I would like to do. I know that this structure and these activities relate to many goals. I was thinking about writing down the goals for each activity but after considering the complexity of these assignments, how they build on each other and how the students should be discovering something about their learning that I don't want to give everything up at the beginning. Letting them discover the importance of the assignments for themselves, what each of them considers important, is also something which the theory that I have been reading supports.

So what I am going to do is discuss the general goals and objectives for the course and then have them reflect on those in some of the weekly reports.

To make sure that I do not overload myself with all the grading, there will be some components which will be graded based on participation (especially something like the peer reviews). Everything in the course will be public, except the weekly reports, and some of the readings have suggested that this keeps the students "on their toes" and more responsible for the work they turn in especially when someone else is depending on it.