Increasing reusability of open courses through transparent design

In my last blog post, I replied to Wayne Mackintosh’s question about how to design open courses for reuse. I focused on the technical aspects of designing open courses using closed (in the sense of password-protected) platforms. Wayne’s comment on that post has really got me thinking, and this post is a continuation of the conversation with him. In a nutshell, Wayne is asking whether there are ways of overcoming the technical limitations of transferring open courses from platform to platform, by ‘smart design’. This is a great question, and goes to the heart of the purpose of storyboarding, which is to create a visual representation of the course design so that all members of the design team can see, more or less at a glance, how the course is intended to unfold, and how each element of the course (learning outcomes, assessment tasks, learning activities, and resources for learning) will support the others. A further purpose of storyboards, which has been little discussed in the debates about learning design as far as I’m aware, is to enable a completely different teacher or course team to take an existing open course, and reuse it for a completely different audience. So the short answer to your latest question, Wayne, is that the storyboard itself is an ideal tool for the uptake of open education on a massive scale, in that it enables reuse of courses without the necessity for the original course designer(s) to sit down with potential new course design teams and explain what they had in mind.

We know from research into course design at the Open University that course design is a very messy process, and any attempts by administrators to impose template-driven structures on academics to try to speed up the process or make it more efficient tend to be met with either disinterest or disdain.  There is something very personal about designing a course, and something very exciting about being part of a team that develops a course (as I can attest from my experience of working with Brenda on developing the Storyboarding OOC), and asking course leaders to simply take a pre-packaged course designed and developed by someone else and reuse it has never been part of the culture of teaching in higher education. However, a range of tried-and-tested visual representation tools (not just storyboards, but also course maps and activity profile sheets, to name some other examples from the OU) exist for course design. It is my hypothesis that sharing these representations as OERs, alongside the openly licensed resources for course content, will enable other course designers to understand the spirit and context of the original design and quickly make decisions about which elements they want to retain ‘as-is’, and which elements they want to change. The ownership of the new version of the course would remain clearly in the hands of the new course team, but they would have enough guidance to redesign the course quite quickly and efficiently.

I would be very interested to hear of any experiences that other course designers have had in this regard, and whether anyone can either validate or discount my hypothesis. Wayne, perhaps when you remix the materials from the Storyboarding OOC for the OERu mOOC on Digital Skills for Collaborative Development, it will be possible to test the idea? Also, if the OERu is already using a visual representation for their course design then maybe it would be worth comparing the usefulness of different visual formats in facilitating reuse. I would be very interested in following any discussions around this topic.

About Gabi Witthaus

Open educator. Blogger at Art of E-learning. Learning design consultant at University of Birmingham. PhD student in HE Research, Evaluation and Enhancement, Lancaster University. Previously Research Associate at University of Leicester (Beyond Distance Research Alliance and Institute of Learning Innovation); Learning and Teaching Facilitator at Loughborough University; Distance Learning Manager at Bradford University School of Management. Qualifications: Masters in Training and Development (USQ, Australia); Masters in English Education (Wits University, South Africa), PGC in Mediation (Robert Gordon, Scotland), BA Hons in Applied Linguistics (Wits University, South Africa).
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2 Responses to Increasing reusability of open courses through transparent design

  1. Pingback: Increasing reusability of open courses through transparent design - e-Learning Feeds

  2. Pingback: Running a-MOC with false MOOC pollution – a reply to Stephen Downes | Art of e-learning

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