"How can Learning Management Systems (LMS and/or Non-LMS) help me develop courses where students learn in the best way for them (teacher-structured/personalized), while providing me with the tools I require for efficient and efficacious presentation, moderation, support, and assessment (for, as, and of learning)?"
For my final project for OLTD 504, I designed and built this course using Wix. I was interested in learning more about the creative process of designing a course. I wondered how a non-LMS could support the design process; provide tools for effective presentation, moderation, support and assessment; and create a learning environment which personalizes a structured learning program.
My course is entitled Literacy Through Art. I have always loved teaching through art and have been fascinated with storytelling through photography since I discovered the work of Wendy Ewald through Duke University and The Centre for Documentary Studies. As one of my favourite authors, Thomas King, has said: "The truth about stories is that that's all we are." Through this course I combine what I love: art and storytelling.
Distance and blended learning offers the ability for students to take Literacy Through Art wherever and whenever. To offer such flexibility is appealing to me as an educator. This said, I would offer this course as a cohort model as I value discussion, cooperative problem-solving and creating a community of learners. I think that the nature of Literacy Through Art invites collaboration and this would enrich the learning for all involved (myself included).
I like how while Literacy Through Art is structured to some degree, it is also flexible enough for each student to personalize his/her learning, thus "owning" it. This is possible in part by the way I have designed the course and in part by the non-LMS I chose. I decided to use Wix because I wanted to explore a new website building tool and find an alternative to Weebly. Wix is an incredible tool that allows me to be creative and produce sites which are aesthetically pleasing, practical, efficient, engaging and useful.
Using the Wix template I selected, I was able to present my course and content in a way that is engaging visually and intellectually. I like being able to use my own photography and have the freedom to change fonts, colours and size of text. Elements can be moved around, deleted and added. One issue with all the creative flexibility is knowing when to stop...I could (and did) spend too much time playing around with the formatting and design and felt at times overwhelmed by choice.
I used Google tools to support learning throughout my course. This is such an incredible resource for learning and teaching. I created a Google Form to be used as an introductory activity, a Google Site as a resource wiki and Google Docs as an assessment tool as well as an information gathering tool. I have also used Google Calendar to help students keep track of course activities. The educational possibilities using Google tools are truly endless and I feel as if I've just started scratching the surface of all that is possible using them as teaching and learning tools.
Another Google tool I used is Blogger. I set up this blog as discussion forum where I post a question and require students to respond to the question and/or comment on other responses. Wix has an app where the newsfeed for the blog can be seen on one of the pages. This is so far my only criticism of Wix: users cannot post directly to the Wix site. Instead, s/he must link to the blog, post a comment and refresh the Wix page to see his/her comment posted in the newsfeed. To me this seems like an extra step; I would have liked to have a blog function through Wix. There are many other Wix apps to choose from and these all support a dynamic learning environment.
Literacy Through Art includes the development of an ePortfolio by each student using Wix. I like the idea of creating a space wherein each student can house, reflect upon and share his/her work. I think that seeing each student's ePortfolio would teach me a lot about his/her unique qualities. It is my hope that the students would continue to maintain and add to their ePortfolios after the course is finished.
The assessment piece in my non-LMS learning environment puzzled me for awhile. It is my goal with this course to have assessment practices which reflect best practices and do not contribute to a culture of grades as reward & punishment. I hear too often of students being attached to their grades as if they were an extension of their identity. Good grades = good person; bad grades = bad person. My assessment practices will include self- and peer-assessment opportunities based on rubrics which are presented before the assignment begins and are tied directly to the course's learning outcomes. A link to each rubric will be included on the assignment page. These will be directly connected to course learning outcomes.
When I began to develop this course I thought that I would use Evernote as a dropbox/feedback tool. I soon came to realize the limitations of the free version of Evernote, the biggest being that I cannot share feedback with my students using the same notebook. I then considered using DROPitTOme but once again, the problem was that I could not engage in a conversation with the student about their work. After an inspiring discussion with my course instructor and colleague the answer became clear - one that was always right in front of my nose: Google Docs! Of course :) My solution is to create a Google Doc for each student with a title following this format: STUDENTNAME_LITTHROUGHART_ASSESSMENT. Students will copy and paste their assignment to the Google Doc. I will copy and paste the rubric below the assignment, highlight the appropriate boxes and add comments. The student can respond to my comments, make changes to the assignment, etc. Peers can also be included in this process. I could also have students self-evaluate using the same rubric. S/he could highlight the rubric in one colour and I could add my thoughts in a different colour. Once the student is ready to publish her/his work, s/he will post it to her ePortfolio. The ePortfolio then becomes part of the assessment process where the student can reflect upon his/her work, ask the world for feedback and celebrate her/his learning.
Because clear and concise learning outcomes are key to effective and meaningful assessment practices, I reserved a page for learning outcomes. These I sourced from Capilano's Creative Writing program and modified to suite my intention behind and goals for Literacy Through Art. I envision high school students taking my course. If this becomes the case one day, I would modify my learning outcomes to match those of the school district offering the course.
For the purposes of my final project for OLTD 504, I'm satisfied at the stage of development Literacy Through Art is at today (April 14, 2013). Work is yet to be done on my course should I offer it officially. I will organize content and scheduling into modules so there is a clear flow to the class. Each would have a theme and the assignments would be connected to the appropriate theme. I'll include resources in each module including video clips, examples of work and connect these to discussion questions. I would fill out the calendar according to the pace I wish to set, add more assignments and rubrics, self- and peer-evaluation tools and schedule meetings in collaborate. As noted above, I would adapt the wording of the learning outcomes so they are in line with district course learning outcomes. I would also attach examples of completed assignments.
The execution of this final project has shown me the ways in which non-LMS tools can structure and personalize learning and offer robust tools for presentation, moderation, support and assessment. My experience with D2L demonstrates that these goals can also be achieved using a traditional LMS. The differences that I embrace and appreciate are the flexibility and creativity offered using a non-LMS such as Wix.