Friday, December 05, 2008

e-Learning Course on Green ICT Strategies: Part 10 The Content

In Part 9 I looked at some books for a new e-learning course on "Green IT Strategies", to be offered as part of the ACS Computer Professional Education Program. I didn't find any books worth using as a text and so decided to proceed using online readings only. As a way to get some relevant material and to check that I was on the right track with the course I organised a symposium in Canberra on Green ICT and talked at a Sustainable ICT Symposium at University of Melbourne. Also I talked to the people preparing Green ICT courses for TAFE.

I found that I was proposing to include in the course was consistent with what others said at the various events I attended. Also the management level course I was preparing should fit in well with the hands-on TAFE courses. Some of the materials from the symposia would be directly usable by the students in the course. One frustration was that many of the documents which had good content were very difficult to access as they were in the form of very large PDF documents. Also some videos could not be used as they did not have any accompanying text.

The ACS approved the draft of my course outline (one minor glitch had top be fixed when all my links to the SFIA web site turned out to be incorrect). A few days later the course was open for enrollments and students started applying. This then put pressure on me to complete the detailed, week by week, content for the course. To do this I continued to use the existing IT Service Management course as a template. I used the same titles and sequence for course content items, with each week having:
  1. Readme 1st
  2. Work Notes
  3. Seminar
  4. Discussion Questions
  5. Friday Message
I used similar wording for these documents as the IT Service Management course, but changed the format of the documents from PDF to HTML. This makes the process of creating the content much easier. Instead of having to create the document with an external word processor, then convert into PDF and then transfer the file to the Moodle system, I am able to use the internal Moodle web editor to create and save the document in one operation. This should also make it easier for the students to read the documents online directly in the web browser, without needing to use a PDF viewer. The documents will not look as pretty when printed, but will still be very readable.

The documents used resemble those for a face-to-face course. Each document is the equivalent of between one half and two pages of text, with simple formatting of one column of text with headings, bold and italics (no colour or images used). The readme 1st gives the students an overall sense of where they should be up to that week.The seminar takes the place of lecture notes. The discussion questions are the equivalent of tutorial questions to be answered in the online discussion forum. The assignments and instructions about readings are much the same as they would be for a face to face course.

While the formatting is relatively simple and the documents short, considerable effort is still involved. It has taken me about two to three hours to prepare the documents for one week of the course. This is for a subject I am familiar with and without allowing for testing of the content, for example by trying the exercises or including preparing the marking schemes required. I expect that about five to seven hours will be required overall to prepare each week of material. This might be less if prepared texts and exercises were available, or more if I have to prepare content from scratch, rather than adapt material I have already written.

A major problem I have is the lack of a text book means I have to try and provide a coherent narrative from disparate sources. This is made more difficult as there is no accepted body of knowledge for the Green ICT field. Essentially I am having to make that up as I go along. Hopefully some of the students of this course will go on to define the field more clearly.

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