Saturday, November 03, 2012

Seriously beginning to prepare for Useful Genetics

My Useful Genetics MOOC now has more than 8000 students signed up.  It won't be offered until May (6 months form now), but there's so much preparation that I'm already in danger of panic unless I get things under way now.  Last week I meet with the CTLT (Centre for Teaching and Learning Technology) team, and then with the instructional designer specifically working on my course.

Some of the many many things I need to do:
  • Remake the promo video.
  •  Decide how to split the course material into two halves, so the course will be in two less-intimidating parts rather than requiring a big 10-week commitment.
  •  Decide how to divide each half's material between 5 weekly modules. 
  •  Decide how to present each week's material in some (5? 8?) short videos, each 5-10 minutes long.
  • Learn how to shoot the videos.  First decide on a default presentation style for the videos.
  • Find a Genetics in the News topic for each week's material.  This needs to be news from the past year; there will also be more topical News videos for the latest news, but these will be filmed as needed and won't need to be closely tied to a specific week's course material.
  • Set up my office so I can film draft videos and some final videos there, rather than having to do everything at the CTLT studio.
  • Record all the videos (at least 50!).
  • Develop one or two in-video self-test questions for each video.
  • Develop more questions for a self-test quiz on each week's material.  Students will get immediate feedback and hints for additional attempts.  These questions will be automatically graded.
  • Develop more questions for a graded 'homework' quiz on each week's material.  Students won't get immediate feedback or hints for these questions; the answers will be revealed only after the homework submission deadline.  These questions will be automatically graded.
  • Develop a problem-based-learning activity for each week's material.  In this, students will explore a single problem or issue or resource, answering quiz questions as they proceed.  Will this be graded?
  • Develop an 'explanation' assignment for each week's material.  Students will be asked to submit a short written explanation of a key concept (as if they were talking to a neighbour).  These will be peer-graded.
Some of the things I've gotten started on:
  • Nagging the CTLT people to get committed funding to hire a course-preparation assistant and a running-the-course assistant.  These could be the same person.  They would need to know a fair bit of genetics; they could be senior grad students, post-docs or sessional faculty.  The most important roles of the course-preparation assistant will be (i) helping me think about what we should do, and (ii) developing the various kinds of question-resources we'll need.
  • Writing a draft script for the reshoot of the promo video.
  • Starting to plan the videos for the first week's material.
  • Trying to decide on the topics for the weekly modules.
  • Putting together a collection of PowerPoint slides that illustrate the copyright issues we'll need to deal with.  I think I'll do a separate post just on this topic.
  • Studying the resources Coursera is providing.  They've set up a Coursera course for people developing their first Coursera course.  I've watched most of the instructional videos and checked out the sample videos (showing ways to do it) and the kinds of quiz questions we can create.  This MOOC on MOOCs has its own discussion forum, and I've already posted three questions about the quiz questions.
  • Learning my way thorough the Coursera platform.  In some ways it's very clearly designed and in other ways it's very baroque.  (It took hours to find the page that lets me create a quiz.)  I have a 'sandbox' course, where I can try out things that won't be in the real course.


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