Tag: Parallel Content

Student Choice in Canvas Modules: Notes from #PaintCanvasOU

Today, we are kicking off a new mini-conference called Paint Canvas. Prepare All Instruction, Now Teach (PAINT) is a half-day Canvas training that showcases the best of Canvas in the classroom to inform and inspire educators. PAINT is organized into 45 minute rotating stations that focus on various Canvas features including pedagogical approaches and technical examples. In this series of blog posts, I’ll share my notes on the talks I attend in each session.

In the third session, we had six presenters:

Topic Presenter Room
Student Choice Modules Jennifer Shaiman LL 118
Hypothes.is Collaborative Web Annotation Nick LoLordo LL 118
Student Engagement Math Assignments Jonathan Epstein LL 123
Life Design Small Groups Clay Wesley LL 123
Collaborative Mind Maps Andy Vaughn LL 123
Piazza Amy McGovern LL 123

I attended Dr. Jennifer Shaiman‘s talk on Student Choice Modules. Dr. Shaiman teaches in Expository Writing and has integrated games and gamification into her courses. In this course, she used Canvas modules to create student choice in a course.

By creating a large number of modules presenting students with different types of content and assignments, Dr. Shaiman allowed student to choose those topic sets that most interested them.

This is a really similar approach to what I’ve tried before in my history of science courses. I think that many humanities courses are trying to get students to grapple with themes, but without needing to dictate specific content. For my history of science courses, I want students to think about the relationship of science and religion, but it doesn’t matter to me whether they want to use examples from the history of biology, physics, astronomy, or the social sciences. If I can allow students to pick the particular historical episode that most fits with their own majors or their own interests, hopefully they will engage more with that theme that I care about.

In Dr. Shaiman’s case with expository writing, she wants students to understand the structure and rhetoric behind various kinds of arguments. The particular subjects that they are arguing don’t matter, creating room for student choice of topics. Even the question of what medium the student is writing in (old fashioned paper, blogs, tweets, etc.) can be flexible when the medium is not part of the message.

Gimme S’More Learning Choices #InstCon

In the second afternoon session, I attended Travis Thurston and Erin Wadsworth-Anderson’s presentation ‘Gimme S’more Learning Choices,’ which focused on course design focused on student choice.

Choose your own adventure banner

The presentation focused on the ID for a transition from a 500 person face-to-face course into an online course with a self-directed learning model with “Assisted Freedom of Choice.”

The creative arts course had traditionally been taught in a large lecture format. In moving it online, the IDs parsed the course into four modules, each focused on a realm of the creative arts like Art. Within each module, there was an introduction section with a video and three intro sections. Students would then be able to choose from a set of submodules based on their own interests within that realm – Avant-Garde, Modernism, Museums, etc. The IDs used parallel design for each of the four main modules to lower cognitive load in terms of navigation.

After the initial semester, the IDs reviewed student feedback—collected at the end of each of the four key modules—on the factors that went into their content choices and the issues they faced as they went through the course. Students said interest and prior knowledge drove their choice of submodule. With great humility, students most often identified Procrastination/Time management as their greatest barrier, followed by (the less modest) assignment difficulty/length.

In the second iteration of the course, Travis, Erin, and the professor for the course are going to work to frame the model of self-directed learning. Despite having an introductory section on how to be successful, they now feel that they need to provide students with more information about time-management. The new Canvas assignment-path may help students better understand the paths through the course, but direction specific to the course, designed by the IDs and voiced by the professor is necessary. Maps for the paths and a dashboard explaining the interconnectedness of path content and assignments would provide further transparency for the students.

This course design is vary much like that for a course that Kate Sheppard and I taught at the University of Missouri Science and Technology. Our course was an introduction to the History of Science. There are a thousand ways to define the scope for such a broad course, so Kate and I tried to offer a number of possible paths and let the students choose the content that most interested them.  We developed six disciplinary paths (Natural Sciences, Life Sciences, Medicine, Engineering/Technology, Mathematics, and Philosophy). We also identified 6 chronological paths that cut across those disciplines (Ancient, Greek & Roman, Islamic World, Renaissance, Early Modern, and Modern). Students could choose the three paths that they were most interested in. Each path had shared themes and learning objectives, so the students were exposed to what we considered the key points for the course, no matter what content they chose.

Both our course and the course discussed in todays session encountered similar issues. Grading a variety of student assignments is far less mind numbing but also far more time consuming, and feedback was sometimes delayed. Students could get confused in their options, and both courses should have had more scaffolding.

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