I arrived in Orlando, Florida, yesterday and took care of my registration for the BbWorld conference, because even though the conference doesn’t open until tonight I am spending all day today in a pre-conference workshop. The session, titled Using Learning Modules to Develop and Deliver Units of Instruction, is supposed to cover techniques for organizing content for consumption by students.
So far I feel a bit out of depth in the workshop. Everyone else attending (all six others) have teaching experience, including an instructional designer and teacher for the CIA. (Yes, that’s not a strange coincidence of acronym, she actually educates for the Central Intelligence Agency.) Their backgrounds in pedagogy make the discussions a bit heady by my standards, but here, as best as I can follow, is what has happened so far today:
We’ve had discussion of different course design techniques, briefly comparing the concept of a sequential-only approach versus a more “open entry” approach in which students may change up the order in which concepts are covered. Although the sequential model is most common for a typical class environment, I can certainly see some uses for the open entry model, particularly in the Professional Development training that I spend time with.
There has also been some long discussions of designing Learning Objectives, with an emphasis on how to word such objectives so as to make them measurable. I’m afraid I keep tripping over the terminology of this, as until now I’ve managed to stay blissfully unaware of the minutia of writing SLOs. After these discussions this morning, I think I may – for some of the Blackboard training workshops – ask faculty to bring the SLOs for their classes along to the workshops. The pre-conference workshop facilitators have emphasized that, even once proper learning objectives are written, a common stumbling block is to fail to connect the actual activities done in class by students back to those objectives; likely this afternoon will cover concepts on how to do this well.
During all of this, I am put in mind of what I’d tried to accomplish in August 2009 at the Academic Technology Tech Camp, trying to walk faculty through the process of sequencing material in Blackboard. The delivery techniques in this workshop today are similar, but the focus on defining why to have students do things based on concrete learning objectives really makes the whole process seem far more important and valid than what I’d done last year. As with so much of the training I’ve offered, it’s far more about the mechanics than the pedagogy. With any luck, I can incorporate what I’m learning today into future workshops, and particularly into the one-on-one sessions with faculty, once I get back to the office.