All posts by nmevans

Philosophy + Goodbye

I’ve attached my philosophy assignment at the bottom of this post. I’ve written about a half dozen of these by now and every professor in the School of Education has told me to keep them pretty short, and since we didn’t have a length specified, I tried to do that. I also tried to not retread water, so to speak, and to make sure everything in here was kind of new and pertained specifically to online education since that is, of course, what we’re in. So this is kind of unrelated to the normal philosophies I’ve written.

Also, I guess this is goodbye. Obviously there will still be comments made on people’s posts but this is the last assignment posting for the course, so I’d like to thank everyone for their input and feedback over the course of this semester. I’m not even done going through everyone’s final units yet but that seems a lot less final than “the final post.” I tried to get this assignment done early to make sure I had time to make comments on everything. Your posts are all just so interesting I feel the need to read them all!

I’ll keep this short and say I enjoyed meeting and interacting with all of you, and I’ve learned a lot from everyone’s posts this semester. This is my last ever ONID course (at least for a few years) so I doubt I’ll bump into you all again. Take care!

Goodbye, and I hope you all have a fine winter holiday!


Unit Defense Paper (One Page? How?)

This unit, which is designed to exist part of the way through an entire year long course covering Alaska Native literature, is designed for low-level high school students in rural Alaska. It is assumed that there will be a small number of students in this unit and they will have been in this course all year long and be familiar with course structures. I envision them as being, most likely, ninth graders with some experience with English but little experience studying Alaska Native stories outside f the context of their own lives or elementary school culture classes. I am not sure how many students would ever enroll in the course but my guess is that the numbers would be fairly low, likely below ten per semester.

Many rural Alaska schools have surprisingly decent libraries, so that is obviously important in this unit. The course is not particularly designed to impart technological skills so there is little in the way of explaining complex tools. I have tried to include multimedia somewhat, as well as student interaction as best I can. I believe the new inclusion of student interaction is executed at a level that best suits.

Student interaction is a foundational element in teaching lower level students (Burke, 2008). It helps them feel more comfortable and it helps them build ideas off of each other, so that even if they’re studying different things they can share an intellectual space with each other and grow ideas together (Lorber and Pierce, 1990). This ideology lies within the realm of constructivist theories, as I hope to position students as active learners rather than passive vessels (Ally, 2008). Students need to be involved in both designing their own educational paths and helping to teach other students, otherwise the entire educational process online can find itself being remarkably similar to 19th century mail-in correspondence courses.

The design of the course has now undergone many revisions and I have now come to a version of the unit that I am happy with. The activities are very loose and based largely on students building their ideas up to a single project. English lends itself very well to a longer brainstorming process than do many subjects, so I feel as though the current structure basically just builds up and up for weeks, which I like. I am picturing these potential ninth graders in rural Alaska as being largely at a level that necessitates long drawn out spiral building processes. The fact of the matter is that the education works best when you start from the end and work your way backwards, so that students can always be building to something (Burke, 2008). The current activities are all designed to force students to engage in activities that should make the final paper and presentation easier to conceptualize. That is the hope, anyway.

The course has three major outcomes, all of which, like I said, should help move students towards the final outcome which is the paper. The first two outcomes are peppered throughout the course; within three weeks students will have met the first two outcomes and absorbed the products of other students also meeting those outcomes. The student interaction in the first three weeks is designed to ensure that if some students are having difficulties meeting those first two outcomes, they can bounce other ideas off of each other. The fourth week’s peer edits are designed to make sure that students have no problems meeting the third and most important unit objective. If the first two build into the third one, and all of the activities are designed to build into each other, I am fairly confident now that the course is designed in such a way that student have to meet all the outcomes.

In short, my goal for this unit is to create a unit that allows students to come in without much background information and follow a path that most interests them. Obviously that puts a kind of unusual responsibility on students, but I am okay with that. That is my intention here; transferring responsibility for course design from the teacher to the students is part of what I am shooting for. I hope the unit proves successful, and I am fairly confident that this unit is designed in such a way that any student who works their way through it will meet my objectives and then some.



Ally, M. (2008). Foundations of educational theory for online learning. In Anderson, T., & Elloumi, F. (Eds.). The theory and practice of online learning (2nd ed.) (pp. 15—44). Athabasca, AB, Canada: Athabasca University.

Burke, J. (2008). The English teacher’s companion: A complete guide to classroom, curriculum, and the profession (3rd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Lorber, M., & Pierce, W. (1990). Objectives, methods, and evaluation for secondary teaching (3rd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

Unit (Completed!)

Here is my unit.

I tried to incorporate feedback as best I could so it’s changed quite a bit! You can navigate through it from the start or through drop-down menus like we do here. I wasn’t able to incorporate everyone’s feedback 100% – especially on that multimedia thing, because that’s really a very large part of the future of the course outside of this unit, but I did try to get everyone’s feedback and was very appreciative of the in-depth comments! There is some multimedia at the end but it’s not a huge part…at the end of the class students will be doing that in big projects.

Tool Reviews (All Three)

Figured I’d put these in one place since it can sometimes be difficult to find things if there’s lots of recent posts. Gets pretty long that way but it’s easier to find.

First up is Mango Languages. I don’t have a product that I made with this service because it doesn’t really produce visible products.

First and foremost, Mango Languages is free, but it’s not an online tool in the sense that I thought it was. I’m really used to DuoLingo and YoyoChinese and ChineseSkill being totally isolated digital tools, but Mango Languages surprisingly directed me to my local library’s website. Instead of being offered exclusively through the Mango website, it took me to the FNSB public library site’s home page with no indication of how to even find what I was looking for! Unable to find anything relating to  this service on the library site, I found out that Mango Languages has a mobile app so I’ll be reviewing that, but I think Mango is losing out here on “ease of availability.” Consider that a major barrier to entry – even the mobile app seems to want you to go through your local library. If your local library doesn’t have a subscription, you’re boned. What an archaic business model.

I worked through some of Mango’s Mandarin Chinese lessons since that’s what I’m most familiar with. Languages are divided up into really broad “topics” – here it’s Conversation, Chinese Zodiac, and Feng Shui, which is weird, but I went through all of Feng Shui. I also looked through the start of Conversational Chinese and followed it for a while just to make sure I was giving the app a fair and thorough testing of a single language.

The verdict: if you’re new to a language, this probably isn’t the app for you. I think at higher levels in education it would be a good tool for intermediate or advanced learners. Nowhere that I could find does the app go over the importance of tones – it’s mentioned, but not taught. If you can’t distinguish the basic tones in Mandarin you’ll never have a conversation, no matter how good your vocab is. There’s also nothing about grammar and syntax. There are little “grammar notes” here and there which are useless without an understanding of how a language is ordered.  The app is all about mimicking sentences and breaking them down word by word without any explanation as to what the order means, why it’s in that order, or why similar words mean different things in Chinese. If you don’t know, similar words in Chinese may sound exactly the same to an outside speaker, but with different tones in the vowels, so if you can’t distinguish between the four tones you can have some embarrassing or funny slip ups (草泥马 is everybody’s favorite but there are a LOT of weird ones). Every decent language learning tool I’ve ever seen has started its Mandarin or Cantonese lessons with an overview of the tones and how context determines meaning more than literal word choices, and this does not. Chinese is all contextual so these things are important.The pinyin writing system, which the app uses, indicates tones, but the app never describes what pinyin is or what the marks above the vowels mean.  If the grammar is this lacking here, in a language with similar syntax order as English (SVO), then I imagine it’s really a pain for other languages with major order differences (Romance languages).

That said, there’s an option to record yourself saying a word, which is actually really awesome, and you can listen to it and play it at the same time as a recording of a (native?) speaker saying the same word so you can compare your pronunciation. That doesn’t do much if you don’t understand the tones, but it’s still really cool. I wish all languages apps gave you recording tools. It’s still just asking you to parrot sentences, but it’s the most effective way to parrot sentences, I guess. The layout of the app is actually quite nice, even if it’s kind of unresponsive. It’s simple and sparse but that’s what you want in a language app – the ability to navigate unhindered.

I think I will probably keep the app on my phone. You have to download lessons and they are pretty big, but I imagine since I already have an understanding of the building blocks of  Mandarin, this app will be good to pick up on a lot of little things I might miss otherwise. Mostly it looks like small talk. Were I teaching a language I would recommend this to students who had already been studying for, say, at least a year in school. It’d be useful for picking up and mimicking new sentences, but not for learning a language from scratch. It’d be useless for that – in a tonal language where context matters, or a Romance language where conjugation matters, you might do more damage than good.


Next up is Quick Rubric. Making Rubrics can sometimes be a real pain because tables in Microsoft Word / Pages / Google Docs aren’t always easy to work with.

I really like this. It offers up an incredibly easy to use interface. I used it to recreate a rubric I’ve taught with in the past and managed to get the entire rubric made very quickly, not counting typing type. The interface is incredibly simple and lets you create rubrics in sort of a drag and drop / add your own template. There’s not really much to say because the website is very easy to use and very attractive. It works well on mobile, also. I was using and Android and was able to login and make a rubric just as easy as on a computer, typing obviously notwithstanding. I always think of rubrics as being one of the biggest pains in the butt in the world of practical education. Re sizing tables in MS Word and trying to make sure everything fits without a table breaking weirdly is infuriating, but this tool really fixes all of that. Be able to scale the score how you like is awesome too. Sometimes rubrics are weird when you have a scale (out of 30 here) but REALLY it’s worth 100 points in the gradebook. This scales automatically for you, you just click it up or down.

There’s no way to swap the x and y axes though, which is weird, because in larger rubrics like the Six Traits one I made, it’s sometimes easier to have the rubric horizontal with the scores going from top to bottom instead of from left to right. Having it start at the highest score instead of the lowest is a little weird too, but not disorienting. There are also no text editing options, which I would like. No way to bold or italicize or use bullets, as far as I can tell.

You can see my rubric here:


It comes out easy to read / formatted nicely and can be shared with just a URL. Far as I can tell you don’t need an account to view other people’s rubrics so there’s some cool potential there for being able to swap advanced rubrics back and forth with other teachers. That’s always nice. Much as I love Google Drive, it’s not always as fast and easy and flawless as it needs to be.

The biggest drawback is with the printing. I don’t own a printer but I did try to print it to see what it looks like, and there’s a huge logo at the top of the screen. Because it’s in portrait orientation instead of landscape, it doesn’t all fit on one page. The URL being listed is distracting and gives your username away to your students, if you care about that. I suppose you could clip it and print it as picture if you want but that sort of defeats the point. It’d be nice if there was a “export to PDF” option.

Despite its shortcomings, the tool is simple and plain enough that I’d use it in the future. That’s what I really want out of a rubric creator. No fancy flash based programs, no weird breakable tables, no obtuse formatting issues, no pre-made garbage rubrics, just a simple tool that takes my text and arranges it in a functional rubric with a point scale. That’s all it needs to be and that’s what it is.

Last up is Screencast-O-Matic.

I figure I’ll let this one mostly speak for itself. The video is part of the review.

Sorry for the audio quality. It turns out Screencast-O-Matic doesn’t work with on-board microphones in laptops. BIG strike against it, I think. I had to re-record over the video’s audio using my phone as an external microphone. That’s not a glitch, either. I replicated this error on my old Macbook as well. How weird, right? I also made three screencasts (1, 2, 3) just LAST WEEK using Camtasia and Camtasia recorded that audio (which, as you can tell, is high quality) using my Windows laptop’s on-board microphone. Most people nowadays do the overwhelming majority of their work on laptops or tablets and have no need to own desktop computers. Most people I know who do are either tech junkies / work with computers or are gamers. Certainly most teachers don’t seem to need them. How strange.

Something I didn’t mention in the video is the online features. It is very easy to navigate your saved videos and if you pay the $15 a year you get more storage space plus a bunch of other cool but probably mostly useless features. Having it stored online is great, but I’m not sure why you’d bother when they’re just going to end up on YouTube anyway? I also didn’t think about how launching the screen recording tool from the website might make it useless if you ever want to record without internet! Mostly I would never do that, but it’s something to think of.

Screencasting in general is one of the greatest educational tools we have, I think. I love screencasts and have used them in my classroom before. I’m currently being paid to make some for the UAF library. Google Drive, your gradebook, checking grades, navigating district websites, how to use class tools, etc. – there are a lot of options for screencasts.

This tool is just as good as any other, really. There are some weird quirks that I go over in the video but for the most part I think any teacher could find cool ways to use this. It does have a few drawbacks – the weird web-based thing, the lack of editing, and the audio issue I ran into, but it’s also fast and easy and has that cool pointer feature which Camtasia doesn’t have. All in all it’s a good tool for teachers to try out and it requires a FAR lower level of tech literacy than Camtasia does, for example. If you’re thinking about ever doing screencasts (and you should), I would say start here. For most teachers, Screencast-O-Matic delivers the tools you’ll need for your classroom (record and export easily) in a simple package. It doesn’t do much else (like Camtasia) and it doesn’t ruin its functionality with stupid design (like Jing) so, if I didn’t already have a Camtasia license, I’d probably use this for most of my screen recordings for my classrooms.

In short, Camtasia > Screencast-O-Matic > Jing, but this is free. You choose.


PS – Unit incoming tomorrow! Doing some last-minute editing and clean up.

Initial thoughts on tools + learning

Don’t want to make this too in-depth since we’re all doing proper reviews of these tools next week and I don’t want to pre-emptively do anybody’s chosen tools.

Looking through the list of tools on the doc, I think I’ll tackle some of the prompts one at a time.

“How many of the proposed tools are contextualized primarily for teacher presentation (passive learning)?”

Well, as is, most of the ones that are the biggest / most popular / most well-funded tools there (Prezi, Camtasia, Khan Academy, TeacherTube, Moodle, iTunesU etc.) are very much tuned around that “sage on the stage” approach to delivering material. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, I think, at some point all learning requires at least some listening, but it is striking that many of these things that people call “revolutionary” are really just digital versions of lectures and slideshows. The revolution has been digitized.

“Which have potential for active learning or afford students opportunity to display a product of their learning?”

Hmm. Not many, really.  Moodle sort of does, I guess, as does Evernote and Edmodo, but that’s pretty much it. Most of these tools are tools for teachers, not necessarily tools for students. I don’t think the list is really curated for student active learning, so maybe this is an unfair assertion, but it certainly looks like our list is passive.

“Which of the tools have potential for developing or enhancing the community of learners? Which features most actively support learner engagement in a community?”

I’m really biased in favor of the tools I use myself (Camtasia, Evernote, Drive) but I think learning community wise, Edmodo is going to be seen as the grandfather of some great tool that helps with this. It’s not going to be Edmodo, because it kind of sucks, but I think within the future of social media (yuck) we will find some new version of the old BBS forums from the mid 2000s that will help revolutionize the way online learning communities function.

And that, I think, is how I feel about all of these tools. I know the internet and technology move very fast but let’s not forget that technically all of these tools are infantile in the span of human development. It’s not surprising that the perfect online tools don’t exist yet since the internet only went public in our lifetimes (well, okay, not MY lifetime, but people who are older than me). I imagine my reviews next week will be of a “this will be great in the future” flavor, since that’s how I feel about a lot of educational tools online. That they work, right now, but once we have a workforce of teachers who can create and customize their own tools, that’s when things are really gonna get interesting.


Forced Presentation Online

I’m going to come at this from an English perspective. I know it’s going to be different for math (etc.) but I’ll stick with what I know. I’m all for students presenting their work online. If you sign up for an online class, I think that’s part of what you’ve signed up for. Also, admittedly, I think a lot of people with intense anxieties about things like this…well, the only they’re going to get over that anxiety is by slowly wading deeper and deeper into the cold water, and doing it online amongst peers is the easiest way to start. End of story! I think sheltering students from never having to share their work online is similar from sheltering students from never having to speak in public. With one, you’re going to end up with students who spend their entire lives terrified of being in front of people, which is, you know, an important skill. With the other, you’ll end up with students who spend their whole lives terrified of showing people their work, which is another important thing they’ll need to do in their lives.

That said, I think for some classes, then, yeah, you shouldn’t expect students to post things online. Creative writing, for example. Again, some part of me thinks you should just get over your anxieties, since living in that kind of space for your entire life is unrealistic. I also think students sometimes write things that you can’t expect them to share with people. I’ve read some really crazy personal things from students that you just can’t expect them to write if they think there’s a possibility that tons of people are going to see it.

I don’t really think of an online class as a “public space.” It’s possible to be private on the internet – I’ve had classes that operated through Google Plus and that was totally private. This is one of the reasons I’m against using Twitter in an online class – you’re taking control away regarding privacy. Students need to have control over things they might think are sensitive. While it wouldn’t ever both me to post things online, I understand that some students get the shakes because they’re so nervous about sharing something. You’ve gotta ask yourself if it’s worth knowing you might not get the sincerity  of assignments you want because students don’t want to do anything they might get ridiculed for. I acknowledge that teenagers are fragile and that the emotional trauma that can come with having your intellect picked apart online can be pretty serious. Let’s not kid ourselves – the internet is the most foul and volatile version of casual human interaction out there, but a class is a little different, so long as it’s not one of those mass classes that Owen mentioned a few weeks ago. Putting classwork out there to be seen is a little different from putting up private social information, so I don’t think students have a lot to worry about in most situations. In fact, you could maybe make the argument that creating positive social environments online for students might be beneficial to their social development in the long run.

All that means is that a teacher or professor needs to be really careful with exactly what assignments you do and don’t mandate be shared. Or, you mandate how they’re shared (amongst trusted partners, for example). Or, you enforce very strict behavioral codes. Either way, I think it very much falls on the course creator. They have the power to create a safe environment online, and it’s their responsibility to plan things out as far in advance as they need to. I do think there are benefits to sharing things online: I have on occasion gone back to watch an old video that a former classmate created. Alternatively, it’s nice to know that if I upload something, it’s there forever, and I needn’t worry about losing it. I’m not certain there are huge intellectual pros for this, to be honest, but it is very convenient. Outside of sharing material with classmates I’ll not meet in person, I’m not really sure I can imagine anything you can do by sharing online that you can’t do face-to-face. The pros that I’m thinking of really are those of social interactions and convenience. In larger mass classes, yes, there could be benefits. A huge amount of potential feedback is available instantaneously and for free! I’m not sure how common those situations are, though. What I see is that there are limited drawbacks to this situation, and potentially unknown benefits that we could be exploring. That, as far as I’m concerned, is argument enough!

Unit Draft


So, obviously we haven’t finalized our papers that go along with our units, but I want to contextualize some things first before you read through that. As I’ve said before this is from a Native American / Alaska Native lit course I’ve sort of worked on a bit here and there. This unit is from within the course – it’s not the beginning and it’s not the end, either. By this point in the course I am assuming that students have the skills they need to do what I’m asking of them. That is, they don’t really need to spend a lot of time going over writing skills (etc.) because the analytical skills needed would have already been covered. Hopefully.

Anyway, so, the biggest challenge so far has been in organizing “units.’ I’m used to drawing up daily lessons that go along with units, but obviously, daily lessons are kind of not very useful in an online class. So, I’ve taken a page from Owen’s book and done this in weekly units where students just have a set number of things they have to do in a week. Seems like a better way to do things. Ideally it would be great if you could do this as just one big unit that students did over the course of, say, a few weeks, but we all know we can’t always (often, or, ever) trust students with something like that.
Originally I wanted to create units that covered every region in Alaska, but my talk with Lexie last week convinced me that this wasn’t really a great plan. Too much to cover without being a specialist. Instead, this is kind of choose-your-own and it leads students towards resources. Assessment wise, English is pretty easy – I’ve got detailed rubrics that are easy to adapt. I haven’t done that yet because I’m not sure if the well-known 6+1 traits rubrics meet all three aspects of Information Fluency. I’m fairly certain they do, but they certainly feel a lot more summative than formative. There’s always that implication that once an essay is graded it’s done. Once a speech is given, it’s done. I’m not sure how to incorporate continuous feedback here. I haven’t included any rubrics for that reason…if anybody has some suggestions on that front (assessment cycles + speech assessments), I’d be most appreciative.

Also, note: for the final version I’ll probably link to articles/readings instead. I chose books that I expect most high schools in Alaska will have access to, but scans would be better.

Reflection on this whole…process

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.

Article Review #5? Getting bored…

I’ve lost count! Almost forgot to do this one. You ever get really excited about an article’s title and abstract, only to find out it’s completely off course from what you were hoping for?

The article I’ve chosen this week is  Bored with the core: stimulating student interest in online general education,  which I chose in continued search of information on motivation. See what I did with my title there? You thought I was bored with article reviews, when really the article is about being bored. I won’t bore you (okay, I’m done) with an overview of their introduction; like every article on this subject they feel the need to remind us that research has shown that motivation and student interest are important to learning. Likewise, the same motivation problems that plague face-to-face education plague education online. You would think that would just be a given by now and we would not have to bother going through paragraphs of citations just to reaffirm those  facts. I know articles have to have literature reviews, but at some point if you are just retreading well-known territory, it feels as though you are wasting your readers’ time. Normally, you expect a literature review to be relatively short, but this one greatly overstays its welcome – taking up almost one third of the article.

When the article finally make its way to making arguments, it really warms up to being a lot more interesting. It takes, like I said, a third of the (short) article, but the section “Implications for online general education instruction” opens up some very useful ideas. Earlier in the article the authors detailed a certain number of factors (coherence, complexity, creativity, completeness) that they felt, from their research, marked engaging course design. Even here, they’re going over things that I feel like most people should already know about course design, provided they’ve ever taken an ed course. I’ll throw some quotes up to summarize so you can see what I mean. These are taken from the section of the article directly after their literature review where they’re starting to be more specific and offer up advice about course design:

“a course that presents instructional materials, for example, in an organized way, providing easy navigation and clear instruction, may contribute to situational interest” (Pregitzer & Clements, 2013,  167).

“unit-level topics should be related to overall course themes” (Pregitzer & Clements, 2013, 167).

” Assignments such as discussion board questions should flow from other materials in the course and link to course themes and topics” (Pregitzer & Clements, 2013, 167).

“Assignments that require students to think deeply through analysis, evaluation, and interpretation of the course materials may serve to stimulate interest” (Pregitzer & Clements, 2013, 168).

It goes on like that for a while. It was around this point that I started to feel like maybe this article wasn’t written for me. Where at first I was disappointed, around here I started to see other applications for this article beyond people like us. The article is fairly recent but covers (very well, mind you) a broad range of things that any student of education  should  know from their introductory courses.

That said, I do not think this article is meant for trained educators. It’s published in an education journal but I imagine that this would be an excellent overview for someone who is either new (or out ot date) on their education studies or who is new to course design in general. This might not be a bad article to have as supplementary reading early on in future versions of this class, as it distills a lot of information from a large number of reputable sources (there are some big names in their references list) in an easily digestible manner. I also think it might fit into early sections of other ONID courses. They’re talking about course design at very broad levels (be creative, be complex) and that’s the kind of writing that kick starts thinking early on in the learning process, not this far down the road (not just in this class, but for me in general). It would be easy to follow the threads this article starts as you move through course design. That said, I think this would be more interesting for someone who isn’t involved in education at all.

To anybody who is, for example, creating a professional development course in an office or writing up online training, this would be a good introduction. It might be a little jargon-heavy for them, but I think that is easy to overcome. Obviously it is focused on core education at the K-12 level, but it doesn’t read that way. It’s covering topics that are relevant to education at all levels and it rarely dives into anything that would make you feel as though you could only apply this information to high schools. If you’re looking for something to frame course design with, this is fine. It is unfortunately just not what I was looking for this late into the game – it’s not detailed, it’s not specific, and it offers nothing new to me, but I think for the right person this would be an excellent starting point.





Pregitzer, M., & Clements, S. N. (2013). Bored with the core: stimulating student interest in online general education. Educational Media International, 50(3), 162-176.