Whew! Moved into a new house from start to finish in two and a half days. That’s gotta be a new record. Just got internet up and running – it’s amazing how, in our crazy modern world, you feel really out of the loop without stable wi-fi. Kinda sad, really.
Gotta try to keep this short, because it could get looong.
I first started developing this course idea in 2012 and had absolutely no idea what I was doing. No teaching experience, little pedagogical grounding, and only a vague understanding of how courses need to be designed. The whole process involved was very confusing and the course skeleton has been through multiple drafts since then, being looked over by professors, committee members, Alaska Native educators and students, non-Native teachers, and even a district admin or two. They helped immensely, but, unsurprisingly, most of these people have never designed an online class. So the course has sort of been in limbo for some time before this semester – with me basically knowing (mostly) the sorts of things I want to teach but without much of an idea of how to structure it (in terms of the interface and unit layouts), organize it (in terms of content), or specialize it (in terms of making it place-based for different areas).
So far, the way this course this has gone has helped immensely with these three issues. Firstly, just watching the physical arrangement of the course has been immensely helpful. The unit arrangement in this course has helped me visualize in more detail how I want to organize the course. The concept map we made made me think especially about how to sequence the (admittedly very high number of) topics I want to cover in the course, and as I fleshed it out, I started realizing exactly which things are more important than others.
The interface and the organization of the content are tied together, and I had never realized that. I think it would actually be pretty cool if you could navigate the course by topic, but since that’s not possible (???), I’ve been thinking about dividing the course into units that the students can work through in an order that’s more on the students than me. Khan Academy style? I’m not sure how to go about building that but I’m sure it can’t be that hard (…). I’ve been playing around with that idea because as we build our unit for this course it seems somewhat natural in an online course to have semi-isolated units that build on each other in a spiral (or, um, not in a specific order, but in relation to multiple units) instead of chronologically like in a face-to-face course. Specifically in a literature survey because, really, you don’t need to do things in order. Once you kind of know how to talk about literature, and if you start out with a good level of foundational knowledge (unit 1), then you can tackle different units in whatever order you want, really.
Lexie suggested that the units be arranged chronologically, so that’d obviously be different, but the great thing about online classes is that you can organize your units in different ways. As I’ve been working through this unit I’ve really been thinking about how online course design simultaneously restricts you a bit (assessments seem more limited), but also really frees you to do things you just can’t feasibly try in a face-to-face course, and I think Khan Academy (much as I’ve been hating on it) is a pretty interesting example of that. A sort of choose-your-own-adventure course. I don’t think it would be that difficult to plan out, especially this since unit I’ve been working on is sort of self-isolated.
If we’re supposed to be metacognating here, well, I just realized how important the social aspect of this course has been. I think I lambasted forced interactions in a previous post but they’ve become by far what I look forward to the most about each week – reading other people’s posts is a lot more informative for me than doing my own. Only just now, as I write this, do I realize I haven’t at all incorporated the social aspects of online learning into my unit. I’m not sure exactly how to do that, really, because I have so far been conceptualizing this course as a unit that was aimed for courses with small numbers of students (like, literally one at times, you know how rural Alaska can be). I’ll spend some time thinking about how to do that. Anyone who has any suggestions for how to go about that with classes that might have only one student, please let me know!
In conclusion, the units we’ve been designing have been quite the journey. The progress has been wild and hard to keep track of and confusing. The course isn’t going to be done by the time this semester is over, so any version of the unit I’ve got ready is still not done. It’s as seemingly never ending (stoooory) project. This class has been very useful, but it’s also made me realize this is a larger thing than I kind of wanted it to be. There are a lot of threads and they’re a lot clearer than they were two months ago, but…there are a lot of them! I hope as the semester starts to wrap up, I can weave all these things together into one cohesive thread, because as is, the whole process has been a bit overwhelming.