Friday, October 12, 2007

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 8 - Lectures?

In Part 7 I looked at how provide course notes in a web friendly fashion. Now I am thinking about how to take the one hour lectures and make them into smaller units suitable for small group teaching. The approach at the MIT TEAL flexible learning center has been to use "... 20-minute lectures interspersed with discussion questions, visualizations, and pencil-and-paper exercises ...". This agrees with advice from Flinders University which suggests changing the pace, medium, or importance of the material every fifteen minutes.

The course is 12 hours in total spread over 3 days with 4 teaching hours per day, with 6 hours of lectures, 2 hours of practical classes, 2 hours of tutorials and 2 hours of assessment exercises. So I started to divide this up into units of 15, 20 or 30 minute units. The idea being each unit would be self contained and of the same length. However, this would result in a very large number of units:, if 20 minute units were used:
  • 18 lecture units (6 per day)
  • 6 Practical sessions (2 per day)
  • 6 tutorials
  • 6 assessment exercises
That would make for a timetabling nightmare. My experience of short course plans is has been from courses for local government staff and museum staff in Samoa is that an overly complex plan does not survive more than the first few minutes. Also it would be useful if the units of instruction would fit into the usual university format.

The MIT Teal material is divided into one or two hour blocks, made up of the 20-minute lectures, discussion, exercises and assessment. I was disappointed not to find any guidelines for the instructors on how to prepare and deliver a block, but I did find some criticisms from students of the early versions of the TEAL delivery. From this it would seem to make sense to structure the content more like traditional delivery.. The ANU uses one hour units of instruction, so it would make sense to use either one or two hour blocks, with the content of mini lectures, tutorials and labs. This also makes the timetabling easier.

So now I plan 12 one hour units, each with a 20 minute lecture, plus a discussion/tutorial, practical session, and/or assessment exercise. This format differs from that being used by Peter Christen for his Data Mining and Matching module. That has Six lecture sessions and four practical sessions. This is a more traditional format, also with a change of venue between a small presentation room and computer lab.

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