May 28 2010
E-Coaching Tip 78 Content Framing and Case Studies: Design Strategies for Summer Intensive Courses
Summer brings shorter courses. But no reduction in expected content “coverage” or learning. This can mean making tough decisions about content selections and learning experiences. Here are two design strategies that can help make summer courses lively and dynamic while not shortchanging the content exposure and awareness.
Design Strategy I: Create a Visual Frame of the Core Concepts
Just as builders “frame” a wall as a basis for drywall or build a steel frame to hold the ceiling tiles, creating a frame for the core concepts of a course provides a structure for organizing content and data. We are accustomed to creating a set of learning outcomes for a course. This usually means that we wind up presenting to students a list of wordy and abstract formal goals without an organizing visual such as a map or graphic that learners can use to latch onto to help process and manage incoming waves of content knowledge.
Most leadership courses deal with concepts such as creating a vision, effective communications, strategies for implementing leadership, and personal character. Similarly, business courses often deal with key concepts such as product and services, marketing, finances, and business processes. How do you frame — or picture — the content or the core concepts in your course? Is there one visual frame that can help your learners “hold onto” the content in your course? Such graphics are always helpful for learning, but particularly during a fast, intensive, concentrated learning time that we experience during the summer.
Design Strategy 2: Put Case Studies with Consequences at the Course Center
I like to subtitle this design strategy as the “sink or swim” strategy and so, it is particularly fitting for intensive summer courses. How does this strategy work? Choose a set of problems, scenarios or case studies that toss the learner into the middle of the content and the core concepts of the course. Use your discipline knowledge to guide the sequencing of the types of problems or case studies, but basically toss your learners into deep enough water that they need to apply and use some of the course content almost immediately. This is an example of “situated cognition” as described by Brown, Allan and Duguid (2007).
If you don’t already some of these items, you might want to set a goal of creating these with the help of your learners in a blog or wiki or straightforward discussion forum during this course and then building up to it for next summer. The first two items help to serve as a learning tool for solving problems and to take forward to next courses or to use in their life or career. These items help to guide the problem solving and support the reasoning and thinking behind the problem-solving.
Summer Collaborative Projects – A Hint
While teaming and collaborative projects are excellent community and learning strategies, the additional overhead of working with teams during the summer can be overwhelming. So, you may want to assign group-supported independent projects as suggested by Chen, 2007. Group-supported independent projects are projects that each student can complete at his/her own time and pace while still collaborating with other group members for input into improving the project.
If you have a course visual or graphic that you like to use for framing your course content, would you consider sharing with the other SLPA faculty? It might become a resource for the faculty resource center for improving learning for everyone. Don’t worry about it being perfect; it can be a work in progress and you and I might work together on refining it if you are interested. Send a note to me at email@example.com. Thanks so much.
Boettcher, J. (2007). Ten core principles for designing effective learning environments: Insights from brain research and pedagogical theory. Innovate Journal of Online Education, 3(3). Retrieved April 24, 2009, from http://innovateonline. info/index.php?view=article&id=54.
Note: These E-coaching tips were developed as part of an ecoaching service for online faculty in the School of Leadership & Professional Advancement at Duquesne University. This library of tips has been organized and updated through 2010 in a book The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips coauthored with Rita Marie Conrad. See more at JosseyBass at http://www.josseybass.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470423536.html or at Amazon. Judith can be reached at judith followed by @designingforlearning.org.
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