Blog Platform: Authoring Tool?

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I am currently in the midst of a project where we are redesigning the delivery of a wet-lab for Biology 12.  Specifically, we are taking the lab where students are taught how flowering plants reproduce.  You remember that, right?  If not, here's a quick recap: Flowers produce pollen; bees (and other animals) inadvertently carry the pollen to other plants.  This pollen (like sperm) then travels to the flower's ovary triggering reproduction.  This leads to the development of fruit, and so on.

We are developing a series of Flash learning objects that will demonstrate this process along with a number of objects where students perform exercises to learn more and practice their knowledge.  I've seen the first few flash objects and they look great.  Being that I've just recently come out of the corporate custom e-learning development space, I'm obviously very familiar with this form of learning-object development. 

What I'm not as familiar with in my new job is how this type of learning will be delivered to the end-user (students).  With everything I'm trying to learn and get a handle on, it was never exactly clear to me how such content would be "authored" or pulled together.  I use the term "author" in the 'classic' e-learning development sense whereby learning content is pulled together in an application built specifically for this purpose. Toolbook, Authorware and Lectora are some of the more well-known examples of these. 

After a meeting with Cole earlier this week, the solution to 'authoring' the content was clear: Blogs!  Of course!  Mind you, this is all still in the design phase and we need to prototype this out, but the design is basically this:

  • We will develop the Flash objects (multimedia presentations and interactions).  Then we will create blog pages and embed those flash objects in them.  This will give us an inherent navigation (Topic 01, Topic 02, etc.).  Once that is done, we will go into ANGEL and build a course structure that refers students to these blog URL's.

Sound simple?  OK, well, like I said, we still need to prototype this but there are number of reasons that I am excited about this (besides me getting to explore these technologies more in-depth).

For one, I feel this will enable us to demonstrate the blog platform for the multi-purpose web content and publishing tool that it is.  For classic e-learning developers like me, I can see that the blog platform is another 'authoring' tool.

Another reason is the built-in features of feedback and comments.  I've personally only just begun to grasp what students might be interested in contributing to the content upon go-live.   One thing we've already begun to plan is for students to provide level one assessment feedback on the learning they just took.  A quick discussion revealed so many ways to do this that we had to table it for another meeting. If anyone is reading this, please feel free to comment back to me on your thoughts. 

The third main reason this delivery strategy is so cool is how portable it is.  Because the content will live in a blog environment, it can be published, ported and then edited with incredible ease.  Imagine that when we complete this online lesson, another Biology instructor from a different campus sees it would like to use it to deliver to his or her class.  This instructor could get a 'copy' of the web pages that make up our course, modify it for his/her purpose via the blogging platform and republish it for delivery to the students.  If it works how we think it will work, it could become a prime example of reusable content (learning) objects.

In the next two weeks, I will be asking a lot of questions throughout ETS as we ready this design, bringing it to fruition.  As we develop this content and structure of delivery, I will try to post links in this blog for anyone interested.  As I mentioned earlier, if anyone has thoughts or cool ideas based upon what we are trying to do, please let me know.

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2 Comments

Hey Matt! I really enjoyed reading this. It prompted me to write a little bit about it this morning myself. Honestly I think we are on to something really interesting here ... it'll clearly require some additional thinking, but I am convinced it is a smart move. The one thing that really got me thinking was your interest in collecting feedback and pushing for participation on a screen by screen basis. I've always wanted to deliver a course in place where every page has the potential to produce conversation. All in all I am really excited about this thinking and the approach.

Hey Cole. Just to updated you a little further, I worked with Brad yesterday to prototype the embedding of the flash objects in the blog page. A bit more complicated than we thought but, of course, Brad was all over it and nailed it. I'm seeing that this will be a classic collaborative effort (Brad, Zac, Pat, Allan, Me, You, etc.) to think and execute this design. I'll try to keep the scope "on the ranch" with the tight timeframe but I think this deliverable will quickly live beyond it's first delivery audience. I think everyone in ETS can bring something to the table on this as they look at it. In a way, I'm glad the subject matter of this course is very simple so that as an ID on this project, I'm not totally focused on that but can rather spend more time on the delivery. To quote Carl Spackler, "This is gonna be sweet."

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