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Backward Design Step 8: Debug Your Course
Prepare your course to be delivered to students
Before starting with the development stage of course creation, it is helpful to stop and review your design plans. There are important steps that if missed or overlooked will cause significant problems and require significant instructor time to address. This section provides a process to review your design plan to ensure you have a handle on these issues.
In blending a course for the first time, it is important to consider students' perspectives on blended learning. In the article "Scaling Blended Learning Evaluation Beyond the University," Patsy Moskal and Thomas B. Cavanagh reported results on student’s perspectives on their blended learning experiences:
TOP FIVE THINGS STUDENTS LIKE MOST (N=736)
|Instructor (or other class characteristics)||
|Use of technology in learning||
|Easy methods/ways of getting help||
|Able to review content/access material anywhere||
|Instructor (or other class characteristics)||
|Less teaching time by instructor/less actual class time||13%|
Explaining your course
Blended course design usually involves online learning experiences meant to support content presented in class. Students can view these activities as time-consuming events without any understanding of how they support their learning. The “Am I going to be tested on this?” phenomenon is alive and well, and it is to your advantage to communicate a clear understanding of your intended learning pathway. Consider these suggestions as to how to accomplish this task.
- SHOW HOW YOUR COURSE IS DESIGNED — Give students a high‑level view of how the course is structured. Talk about the ways in which the course was designed to support learning (quizzes, active learning techniques, or video content to support blended learning). This helps students navigate the course effectively and allows students the chance to give useful feedback about how successful the design and development of the course is.
- CONNECT ACTIVITIES TO YOUR UNIT OBJECTIVES — Leverage the time spent developing clear unit objectives by explicitly linking them to course activities. Tell students when and how each activity supports a unit objective. Example: This discussion question is meant to help facilitate Unit Objective 3: Formulate and clearly articulate arguments to defend your position on climate change.
- USE THE RESULTS TO SEED NEW ACTIVITIES — If students spend time with online activities without their work being acknowledged or referenced by the instructor, they won’t see a return on their investment of time. Bringing in the results of these activities into the classroom, for example, will help them understand the purpose and value of their coursework. Example: In yesterday’s discussion forum, a common misconception was revealed. I want to spend a few moments addressing this and have us work together to clear this up.
- PREPARE STUDENTS FOR ONLINE ACTIVITIES — In addition to explaining the rationale for an activity, consider the knowledge students will need to be successful and where they should go if they experience problems. Example: The online activity to be completed before class tomorrow covers the content in Chapter 4 of the textbook and the article in Canvas under Week 4. If you have problems, please review the readings first. I am available during office hours to answer any questions.
- COMMUNICATE EXPECTED TIME-ON-TASK — You should estimate the amount of time it might take for students to complete an activity. Consider sharing your estimate with students to communicate your workload expectations, help them plan their study time, and to check the validity of your estimates. Consider asking students after the activity whether your estimates were accurate. Example: You should expect to spend about 30 minutes reviewing the content and completing the online reflection paper.
- INFORM STUDENTS OF DATA COLLECTION AND USAGE — Communication to students about your interest in using learning data to provide insight into their engagement and learning. Assure them that data collection and usage will be in support of iteratively improving the course experience and will be aligned with campus guiding principles and student privacy.
Checking student workload
Before course development begins, it is wise to estimate student workload to ensure the course does not contain too much out‑of‑class work for the number of credits associated with the course. Rice University has developed a tool that can help estimate the workload for the activities planned for the course. VIEW FEDERAL CREDIT HOUR POLICY — https://go.wisc.edu/58862u VIEW RESOURCE— http://go.wisc.edu/eg6r5l
An important part of debugging your course is to review all course activities and map them to course outcomes and unit objectives. This provides a check to ensure there are activities that support the desired student outcomes. In mapping activities, it is important to remember that one activity might support more than one course outcome or unit objective. Next, designate assignments that act as key activities. Key activities act as a summative measurement of achievement of course outcomes. Additionally, it ensures a logical sequence of activities that guides students from lower‑level Bloom's Taxonomy to the target level identified in the unit objectives. Below is an example of an integration plan for one unit of a course.
Creative a technical support plan
Create a plan that spells out for you and your students the technology you will be leveraging in the course, how they learn to use it, and where they can go for support. Addressing these issues in the design phase of course creation will ensure you plan ahead to address the inevitable technical problems that will arise.
- Review key features of supported tools.
- Consider options for student training and support.
- Equip students with a detailed guide on how to access the online tools. Develop a backup plan in case of an outage.
- Briefly explain the function and purpose of the tool and its role in the course (either in person in your first class or on the syllabus) so you get buy‑in from the students.
Often, we take for granted that students are well informed and equipped to work with technology. Additionally, it is impossible to plan for every technical glitch that might pop up. In order to help navigate these issues, offer as much support in advance of an activity as you can.
- Provide instructions on how to access online tools.
- Keep instructions simple.
- Guide students to resources like STS (Software Training for Students), and LinkedIn Learning.
- Create a training resource page on the course site that lists ways for students to find support and guides them to on‑campus support services.
Checking your course syllabus
A course syllabus should convey to students the course topics and course outcomes, the location of course learning resources, the ways in which they will be evaluated and graded, expectations of students enrolled in the course, information about course content and depth, the textbooks being used, the number of credits awarded and how they can be achieved, and information about course instructor(s). In essence, it conveys course expectations, serves as a durable record of the learning experience and is a tool to support student learning. The syllabus is in English. Every group instruction course should have a syllabus.
INFORMATION TO INCLUDE IN SYLLABUS
- COURSE OUTCOMES — Course outcomes are statements about the knowledge and skills that students are expected to know, be able to do, or value by the end of the course. Include the course outcomes that have been previously approved in the course approval process. Distinguish learning outcomes for undergraduate vs. graduate vs. variable credit activity.
- NUMBER OF CREDITS ASSOCIATED WITH THE COURSE — The number of credits associated with each course can be found at guide.wisc.edu/courses.
- HOW CREDIT HOURS ARE MET BY THE COURSE— A course syllabus should show how the course offering and learning expectations are consistent with the course credits and the UW-Madison Credit Hour Policy. Follow these recommendations for how to describe course credit information. UW‑Madison definitions of the credit hour are as follows:
- TRADITIONAL CARNEGIE DEFINITION — One hour (i.e. 50 minutes) of classroom or direct faculty/instructor instruction and a minimum of two hours of out‑of‑class student work each week over approximately 15 weeks, or an equivalent amount of engagement over a different number of weeks. This is the status quo and represents the traditional college credit format used for decades. Instructors who have regular classroom meetings and assign homework, reading, writing, and preparation for quizzes and exams should use this definition.
- 45 HOURS PER CREDIT — One credit is the learning that takes place in at least 45 hours of learning activities, which include time in lectures or class meetings, in person or online, labs, exams, presentations, tutorials, reading, writing, studying, preparation for any of these activities, and any other learning activities. Regular and substantive instructor/student interaction is required, and the syllabus should be clear on how this happens. This option may be useful for nontraditional formats, “flipped” courses, lab courses, seminars, courses with substantial meeting time and little out‑of‑class work, or any time this is a better fit for learning activities than the Carnegie definition.
Using the course syllabus in Canvas
UW‑Madison has two new Canvas tools: Course Syllabus (AEFIS) and Course Summary.
- COURSE SYLLABUS (AEFIS) — This tool makes it easier to find, create, and use course syllabi in Canvas, and to transfer consistent course information between Canvas and other campus systems. It is only available in timetable courses. MORE INFORMATION
- COURSE SUMMARY — This tool replaces the native Canvas Syllabus tool. The tool retains much of the functionality of the native Syllabus tool but was newly labeled to better align with its capabilities and to distinguish it from the Course Syllabus. All content previously in the native Syllabus tab has been automatically migrated to the new Course Summary tool. MORE INFORMATION
Promoting your course
The Course Guide is a resource for students to find all relevant information about available courses. VIEW COURSE GUIDE — http://my.wisc.edu ‑ Select the Teaching tab, then Faculty Center.
The Instructor‑Provided Content (IPC) section of the Course Guide allows an instructor to enter additional information to be displayed to students without any approval processes. The IPC can vary from semester to semester and each section can have unique IPC provided. All content placed in an IPC section can be searched by students — making it easier for you to market your course effectively.
COURSE INTRODUCTION VIDEOS
Course introduction videos are a great way to communicate to potential and new students about the course outcomes and actual work that will take place in the course.COURSE INTRODUCTION VIDEO EXAMPLES— https://go.wisc.edu/5h5894
This section presents the process for requesting classroom spaces that support your blended course needs.
GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CLASSROOMS SCHEDULING POLICY
The Office of the Registrar and the Space Management Office’s Classroom Scheduling Policies state that they will “match special academic requirements with available classroom facilities.” “Special academic requirements and curricular content/methodology [such as blended courses] are appropriate for special facilities requests [such as certain types of classrooms, classroom equipment, or other special considerations] and will be given priority in the classroom assignment process.” GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CLASSROOMS POLICY— https://go.wisc.edu/hty527
COLLABORATIVE LEARNING CLASSROOMS
Collaborative Learning Classrooms are general assignment classroom spaces that support active learning. These rooms utilize and advanced media system, flexible seating, writing surfaces, and multiple projection options. There are several spaces on campus that can be used to support your blended course:
- Sterling Hall 2301 (48 seats), 2425 (36 seats), and 3425 (36 seats)
- Educational Sciences 212 (64 seats)
- Ingraham 115 (48 seats), 122 (48 seats), and 214 (54 seats)
MORE INFORMATION— https://av.fpm.wisc.edu
The Wisconsin Collaboratory for Enhanced Learning (WisCEL) facilitates innovative teaching and student‑centered active learning by providing instructional support, campus resources, and educational technology in multi‑use learning spaces on the UW‑Madison campus. WisCEL enables increased student engagement, student achievement, academic mastery, performance skills, and self‑efficacy by providing opportunities on campus that support the learning community and prepare students for lifelong learning.WisCEL centers are located in College Library and Wendt Commons. VIEW APPLICATION FORM— http://wiscel.wisc.edu/apply
CLASSROOM USE CATEGORIES
A typical classroom has fixed tables and chairs arranged in rows facing forward. Often, it has an instructor station, chalkboard, and screen at the front of the room. While many are larger rooms with cantilevered seating, there are some rooms with movable tables and chairs that could be used to accommodate many blended learning activities. Refer to the Seating Categories section for a list of seating type codes that can be used in your general classroom request to get appropriate classroom space.
Classroom seating categories
The Definitions for Seating/Function/Use/Subuse Codes document specifies the following seating types to be used in classroom requests. Some of these are appropriate for most blended learning courses.
|CLSRMT&C||TABLE AND CHAIRS (FIXED) Fixed tables and chairs arranged in rows facing forward with instructor station, chalkboard, screen. Typically larger rooms< with cantilevered seating. This room type is not ideal for active learning activities.|
|CLSRMT&C -FX&MV||TABLES (FIXED) and CHAIRS (MOVABLE) Fixed tables and chairs that are not fixed to the floor. This room type is adequate for blended courses in that chairs can be configured in many different ways to facilitate a number of active learning activities.|
|CLSRMT&C-MV||TABLES (MOVABLE) and CHAIRS (MOVABLE) Movable tables and chairs designed to fit in a room in rows. This room type is ideal for blended courses in that tables and chairs can be configured in many different ways to facilitate a number of active learning activities.|
|TABLEARMC||TABLET ARMCHAIRS Movable chairs with attached writing surfaces. This room type is ideal for discussions and some group work, but the lack of writing surfaces is not friendly to computer-based activities.|
|SEMINAR||SEMINAR SEATING Movable tables and chairs that can be arranged in various configurations. This room type is ideal for class discussion or group work based on flexible spaces and furniture.|
|COLLABT&CFX&MV||COLLABORATIVE TABLES (FIXED) AND CHAIRS (MOVABLE) Collaborative classrooms with fixed tables and movable chairs arranged in pods to facilitate group work.|
Tool selection is an important part of building a sustainable course design. It will determine the level of support you receive, the level of support your students receive, and how robust and reliable that support will be. The Blended Learning Toolkit identifies a list of tools supported by DoIT. Be aware that different parts of DoIT may provide different levels of support for these applications. The criteria for tools to be on< this list are that users should receive some combination of the following levels of support:
- Technical training is available from DoIT Academic Technology;
- In-class support and training are available through DoIT Software Training for Students;
- Individual consultations are available with DoIT Academic Technology;
- Campus licensing makes them available at no cost to campus users; and/or,
- Available on Windows and Mac operating systems.
VIEW SUPPORT TECHNOLOGIES— https://go.wisc.edu/pxgq2e
- Backward Design Step 1: Identify Situational Factors
- Backward Design Step 2: Identify Course Outcomes
- Backward Design Step 3: Define Course Structure
- Backward Design Step 4: Identify Unit Objectives
- Backward Design Step 5: Identify Evidence of Understanding
- Backward Design Step 6: Select Learning Activities For Your Course
- Backward Design Step 7: Integrate Course Elements
- Backward Design Step 8: Debug Your Course
- Backward Design Step 9: Evaluate Your Course