Course Description

Using classroom and field community experiences as a means for generating information, the learner examines various community development practices on the Prairies. In so doing learners may assess their own level of competence in putting into practice community development theory, principles, and methods.

Project Context

This course had been taught several times by the same instructor several times. The instructor was asked to offer an online version of the course. This is an 800, graduate level course embedded in the Educational Foundations department, and consisted of 14-25 students each offering.

The key aspect of the course that the instructor had as part of their course was the assessment. The course included five assignments that culminated in a final paper, the student’s prophetic vision for a community development project.

Aside from learning about concepts in community development practices, the primary outcome for the course is for students to “propose a compelling and defensible resolution to a contemporary issue of importance in community development in one’s own context.”

Affordances and Limitations

As the course was currently in a face-to-face offering, we had a syllabus to gather some information such as a reading list and assessment outlines from. However, curricular alignment details such as learning objectives, content & reading schedule, learning activities and rubrics for the assessments, as well as articulated teaching strategies were not present and would need to be developed. The online offering was intended to enroll more students than the face-to-face offerings each term, so the current feedback and grading workflows the instructor used would not be sustainable. In addition, the course was being offered in a six week format rather than the usual 13 week format.

Design Overview

As shown in the feature image of this post, we began with the sequencing of the assessment components and concepts. In the face-to-face version of the course, students submitted all work to the instructor individually for individual feedback. Early in the course this was manageable for the instructor, but by assignment three the latency in the feedback loop grew considerably. Using the instructor’s perspective on how they structured feedback, rubrics were developed for student use. At each phase of the development of the final paper, students were able to read and provide feedback on each other’s work, and revise work prior to submitting to the instructor for additional feedback and grading.

The rubrics that were created were “single-point” rubrics, which provide criteria and questions for students to consider while reading another’s work. The primary feature of the “single-point” format is to focus on narrative feedback rather than having generic statements which can often be overlooked and then used as a rating scale. With the space provided for narrative feedback in the rubric itself, students were able to provide one another with targeted feedback that was specific to each community development proposal.

The course consisted of six modules which reflect the development of students vision, rather than being strictly topic or concept based:

  1. What is community development?
  2. Community development practice issues
  3. Community development visions
  4. Community development: connecting issues and ideals
  5. Community development proposal
  6. Community development advocacy

Each week, students would enter a new module which, using the image in the feature of this post, would focus in one where student’s were in the grand scheme of the course. Each module consisted of instructor created content which weaved together readings, web-content (e.g. video), and reflective questions which lead towards the main assessment component for the module.

Decision Making

Decision making in this design and development were a balance of consultation with the instructor and technical limitations of the learning management system used. In conversation with the instructor, priorities for teaching and learning values were identified by the instructional designer. After establishing the teaching style and values, activities and online methods were suggested. Due to the nature of the LMS, discussion boards were the primary tool for students to interact with one another, however these were not used in the traditional “post once-reply twice” format, but instead were spaces where students shared their assignments and provided feedback prior to submitting their work to the instructor.

A number of other tools can be used to manage sharing or work and peer feedback workflows. However, familiarity with the discussion forums in the LMS for both students and instructor provided the lowest barrier to interaction, which the ID believed would allow course actors to focus on the work rather than having to manage new technology and new concepts at the same time.

Design Process

For this particular project, we actually got to start with the assessment and construct the course around assessment and student experience and workflow. Many higher ed courses focus on online content development and create activities and assessment along the way, even if the assessment types themselves are decided at the course design plan phase. In this case we finalized all instructions and rubrics for the assessments at the same time the course design plan was developed, then moved into content development.

Because this design was writing and feedback first, the content that the instructor assembled and created played a supporting role to the student work. Contrary to other course developments, which tend to be content first, this meant that content development was leaner, providing suggested resources and some narrative, but refined in a way that really focused on development of the final paper.

This process also provided space to discuss teaching and learning online at each meeting with the instructor and ID. Again, in many course developments that focus on content first, a discussion about teaching and learning online may happen early on, but often by the time the instructor gets to the teaching term they’ve focused so much on the content that they can be at a bit of a loss when it comes to the teaching online part.

Evaluation

The course is offered by the department for graduate students enrolled in Educational Foundations. Based on the end of term feedback from the students, the workflow and workload appeared to be at an appropriate level. The feedback from the instructor indicated that the student work in the online class actually surpassed that of the face-to-face students, which the ID believes is a result of the deep integration of supported peer feedback. No changes are proposed at this time.