How do I know if the workload for my existing course is reasonable?
When designing a new course, how do I judge a reasonable student workload?
When redesigning a course, how do I determine whether new components are balanced by the removal of other components?
When flipping or blending a course, how do I ensure that online or out-of-class components of the course are not overwhelming students?
In some cases, you can ask students using a survey or focus group how much time they spend on the course. However, that is not always possible especially within a course design or redesign process. You can also do your ownestimates of how much time an average successful student ought to be spending each week andhow they could be effectively spending that time. This all boils down to a question:
How much am I asking students to do each week, and is it a reasonable amount?
I’m an eLearning specialist, so part of my job is to provide advice and workshops on improving online learning. We often refer to “How Course Web Design Impacts Student Engagement” by Dian Schaufhausser and the infographic that inspired the article during these consults and workshops. The article is a summary of a study of hundreds of courses using a particular Learning Management System (Canvas). Although I often use this as reference material for online course design consults, it should also apply for course sites supporting face-to-face classes. So, when teaching a medium sized first year course this year, I decided to apply my own medicine and try to create a simple and deep design to my course site. From the article:
A simple, deep design might lay out the course directly on the home page with a lot of different activities organized to give the student a clear indication about how to move through them. A given week’s lessons page might include hyperlinks to each activity the student is supposed to do, and there’s no question about what comes next.
So, I divided my course up by themes (usually one per week), and set out with a template for each unit tab seen below in cartoon fashion:
A stonemason, a student, a superintendent, a dean, a pre-school director, a faculty member, a not-for-profit executive director, and a data scientist walk into a hotel. They’ve come together to share their ideas about access to education at “Rethinking Access: When Non-Traditional is the New Normal” a conference put on by HEQCO (Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario). Most sessions were set up as panels surrounding a given topic about access – each panel was ripe with ideas and well-articulated challenges. Given the breadth and depth of issues around access, each panel could really only scratch the surface of the research and on-the-ground work being done. Even so, I gained an appreciation for the systemic issues around access to education and some of the creative solutions for improving access from a variety of perspectives.
My big questions
I took the early train from London and arrived at the Delta Chelsea with my shirt on inside out and a lot of big questions: Who is accessing post-secondary education, and who is not? What are the barriers to accessing post-secondary education? What can and is being done about differences in educational access?
For a week in late March, I guest-hosted the rocur (rotation curation) account @iamscicomm. My initial motivation for hosting the account was to disseminate recent research on science communication and graduate training. Hosting this account would allow me to have a greater reach than the reach of my and my colleagues twitter followers. My hope was that by engaging with a community that’s already excited about #scicomm, I could move past sharing our work into engaging in a dialogue. I’m so pleased that our work was discussed with such excitement and that it was shared over 75 times during the week.
Amanda Freise started the week by introducing me to @iamscicomm followers.
This week our host is @bhundey. Beth is an Educational Developer & Adjunct Research Professor @westernu.
I’m a little troubled by workshops and resources that teach scientists how to do #scicomm (that is, web 2.0, social media heavy science communication) without any consideration or even a brief mention as to whether this is a fitting strategy. By jumping immediately to how to build a personal brand, choose a hashtag, and decide how often to post on 7 different social media platforms, the assumption is made that developing your own social media brand is the best strategy.
Building a lively and energized following on multiple platforms is an effective strategy for many scientists, and it may also be a valuable strategy for you. But, have you given enough attention to other possible modes of science communication that may be a better fit with your goals, available energy, and personal strengths?
If you do any kind of science writing and you use Microsoft Word, you likely find yourself repeatedly formatting for subscripts, greek characters, and math symbols.
Until Microsoft Word has AI learning capabilities, autocorrect can take you one step closer to uninterrupted writing flow. It takes a few minutes to set up, but then you can forget about formatting, special character maps, alt codes, subscript and superscript shortcuts. If you’re anything like me and you can’t move on with CO2 looking like that, this tip is for you.
I can’t overstate how much time this saved me. In addition to reducing time formatting, it reduces the need to stop mid-sentence and break precious writing flow.
By the end of my 3rd year environmental change course, students are expected to demonstrate that they can orally communicate environmental change research to specialist and non-specialist audiences. To assess this learning outcome, students deliver research presentations at a mini-conference that they organize themselves. I have been so pleased with the presentations themselves and at the opportunity for community building that I thought it was worth sharing the experience.
My assessment planning (simplified below) is guided by principles of constructive alignment to ensure that students learn the skills they need to succeed at demonstrating their achievement of the outcome.