This blog was started as my reflections on the 2011 Change MOOC. It is now an on going journal of my thoughts on Higher Education, specifically teaching Biology.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Goals #change11

Last weeks discussions regarding David Wiley's challenges to the MOOC participants, and Tony Bates webinar today, have really encouraged me to sit down and reflect on what I want to do in my classes.  Next semester I am presenting a Hybrid online/F2F class in biology.  This project is based upon an internal grant sponsored by our Center for Instructional Innovation.  Since joining the #change11 MOOC, I've had a lot of ideas about how to handle this class, and a lot of inspiration for other projects.  What follows is the basic ideas about the class.  This is still a work in progress.  But first, this class.

The Course:
The course is the first semester biology for our biology majors.  This is a heavy content class, with much of the content being required for later classes.  Students who do not take the time to incorporate foundational concepts tend to do poorly in later classes.

The Goal:
  • Encourage students to become active, independent learners.
  • Encourage students to learn the foundational concepts of biology.
  • Encourage retention of the foundational concepts of biology.
  • Encourage students to see the connections between different concepts of biology; to build in their mind a picture of the systems of living organisms.
The majority of students in this class are use to directive styles of instruction, and do not see themselves as independent learners.  The instructional management of this course will start off heavy, with additional resources provided to the students.  These resources will included online presentations, notes, links, and helpful hints.  As the semester continues, fewer instructor notes will be made available. Students will be asked instead to contribute notes, interpretations and content to the course wiki.

The class is hybrid online/face-2-face, meaning that each week, students will come to the lecture hall for face-2-face time, but then the remaining time will be online work. 
Online work
  • ePortfolio of work including a blog of daily activities.
  • Comments on the blogs of other students.
  • Access to online tutorials.
  • Online quizzes based in a learning management system.
  • Papers submitted for calibrated online review.
  • Participation in webinars, online help sessions, and discussion boards.
  • End of semester reflective paper (based on Prior Learning Assessments)
In class work
  • Time in class will be mainly devoted to question and answers, mini-lectures (5 minutes on a specific topic), case studies, and activities (such as working with molecular models).
  • There will be two assessments to determine comprehension and synthesis of information.
Student Assessment:
  • 1/3 of the student's final grade is determined by the performance in lab.  The instructor has very little influence over lab, so this is something I will have very little control over.
  • Students will receive points for daily blog activity starting during the first week and proceeding through the 15 weeks of he semester.  I should note that points are awarded on "sound participation."  What this means is that the student has posted a reflection on the topic, the post is intelligible and logical.
  • Students will receive points for the completion of online quizzes.
  • Students will receive points on in class assessments.
  • Students will receive points for the end of the semester reflective paper and all calibrated peer reviewed papers.
Course Assessment:
Qualitative studies have never been my strong suit, so I'm working on ways to evaluate the effectiveness of the course.  Some of the assessments will include:
  • Survey of Student Satisfaction
  • Review of Student Participation and Survey by external observer
  • Comparison of results of standard departmental questions between sections.

This is the current scheme of the course.  Comments welcome.


  1. It's very refreshing to see a detailed account of important changes being applied to a real course with deadlines, assessment and very specific learning objectives - quite a departure from the free-wheeling, DIY ethos of the classical MOOC! A careful transition from 'directive styles' seems very appropriate but could be an uphill struggle - not all students will take kindly to this if they're used to 'spoon-feeding'! The essential content seems quite demanding so an honest, open approach with students about the more novel aspects is probably called for - insofar as the system allows; a "let's see how it goes - we're all learning together" MOOCish sort of approach so there's space for retreat to essentials if some of the new activities absorb excessive time and effort! (I wonder if the daily blog, while laudable, might end up in this category?)

    I think this sort of 'incremental' approach, not particularly revolutionary or disruptive, is exactly what's needed to establish the changes that actually do work in the field. Best of luck - I look forward to seeing your account when it's all over!

    Gordon Lockhart

  2. Gordon;
    Thanks for the comments. There are parts, like the daily blogs, that may go away. This semester I'm using ePortfolios and blogs with my students. Some of the students have gotten the concept of reflective posting on learning, others are still struggling with the concept. In both cases though, I'm seeing them really tackle tough concepts. It also gives me a chance to see common errors to put in my blogs, or to comment upon with the students.

    Thanks for the support. One thing the #change11 MOOC has shown me is that a full online experience like this requires an evolved self-sufficent learner with a passion for learning new things. I see the incremental approach as needed to help students break out of their shell. The secondary goal will be to get them to continue growing instead of falling back into old patterns.

  3. I'm interested in following your progress and seeing how this plays out too since I have been thinking about how to adapt structures and principles to other less than ready to learn groups, i.e. ESL, GED and basic skills.

    The difference (can I say shock?) between well prepared University of California engineering/ science majors and community college students in developmental (catching up) classes was a sharp lesson.

    Unready learners don't know how to learn or have the tools to be autonomous learners and not always the inclination to acquire them. Many of the well prepared could figure out how to learn for themselves if they had to.

    That said, many, especially among non-traditional students want to learn how to learn, become more autonomous learners. Developing strategies, plans, for managing that process, especially online, is (at least in my opinion) the key to adapting moocs to more mainstream learning situations.

    Some of Brainy Smurf's ideas over on the thread on the Change 11 page look promising.

  4. Real meta cognitive.We shall emulate you

  5. @Vanessa: Thanks for pointing out Brainy Smurf's ideas. They were very helpful. Having taught at both a community college and at a research university, I can feel your pain. Having taught many non-traditional students, I agree completely with their motivation to become self-actualized learners.

    The trials I've done with online interactions have worked, with the major complaint from students being that it takes too much time. Of course, most of them come out with stronger foundations. Some have even come back to tell me how much it helped them. I'm hoping that this move, and bringing many of my successful trials together, will work to help students realize that they can become self-sufficient learners.

    @boruett: Thank you. When it goes live next semester, I'll post a link to the course homepage.