In Fall 2021, I participated in the UCCS Faculty Resource Center's Online Course Design Badge class. This program is designed to certify faculty to design fully online courses, which doesn't really align with the kind of teaching I actually do (1-2 shots for my liaison areas and ENGL 1410 themes), but I felt like my online teaching strategy had been a little more ad hoc than would be ideal. So I signed up!
Overall, I think this was a really helpful course. It was a lot of fun to design a semester-long info lit class, and I also feel like it taught me to navigate the way a lot of the faculty I work with have set up their Canvas Courses (there were quite a few instances at the start of the pandemic where I had to send very confused emails to people while I tried to find relevant docs to better inform my one-shot instruction). In this post, I'll go through the modules in my mock class and a little about the process of the badge course.
This was designed as an online asynchronous course. In theory, there would be a bunch of videos, but in the version linked above I have placeholders because, to be totally honest, I ran out of time to record any of them.
My main inspirations in this class were the Information Behavior Class I took in library school (shout out to Trent!) and Alexandria L. Lockett's keynote at the 2021 Conference for Antiracist Teaching, Language and Assessment hosted by Oregon State University. The course is generally highly reflective. The primary learning objective is for students to focus on themselves and how they approach information.
In setting up the syllabus, I set a few expectations. While I want to be flexible with students on grading (and in future iterations of this course I would definitely want to explore upgrading), I set a cap on the number of times they can ask for a grade reassessment. I also note that the deadlines are suggestions that match the scaffolding of the course but as long as everything is in by the last Friday of the semester, they can still be successful in the course. My Knowledge Organization prof used this policy, and I loved it as a student. I also set the expectation that I don't check my email on the weekends. This is true in my life now, and I value it. Most of the first few pages of the syllabus are UCCS boilerplate, but I tried to find ways to make that boilerplate kinder and more accessible. I commit to providing screenreader accessible readings (remediating pdfs for accessibility is a skill I possess and one I would exercise if this were a real course but the pdfs currently in the Canvas shell have not gone through this process). I also note that I do not use academic surveillance technologies. Finally, I commit to working with students on accommodations even if they haven't gone through disability services for formal accommodations. I remember struggling as a student with short-term accommodations after I got a concussion (well, both times I got a concussion), and I remember my friends struggling with accommodations more generally when I was in college. That sucked. I don't want the experience of this course to suck.
The first module borrows most heavily from the Information Behavior class I took in Library School. I expanded on our info fast assignment to include a follow-up assignment where students are instructed to more carefully observe what information sources they use after abstaining from technological sources. The readings I selected are a greatest hits from my paperpile of articles I find myself coming back to on information behavior.
I tried to craft prompts that I wouldn't have hated as a student in the discussion board assignments. Discussion boards were always my least favorite assignments and I wanted to avoid stuff like this:
So each of the Module 1 discussion boards includes the prompts "What did you think of them [the readings]?" and "What was surprising?" I also have the option to submit either text, audio, or video if a student prefers one or the other. I really wanted to emphasize in the structure that people consume and create information in many ways, so there are multiple paths for each assignment.
Module 2 gets more theoretical. It's also more reading intensive. Like in Module 1, I focus the discussion boards on self-reflection grounded in the readings (and for the week 4 prompt, it took every fiber of my being to not say "total bullshit" instead of "total bunk"). The core assignment is to outline a qualitative research protocol. I want students to understand how the authors we read in this module develop their ideas and conclusions, so I have them dig into those methods. I found the final for my Qualitative Research Methods in Education really useful, so I scaled it down for this module. I also have students explore autoethnography in addition to a qualitative method of their choice to continue the self-reflective focus.
I love Wikipedia. I think it's great. I love that the world's most significant compendium of knowledge is built on the infrastructure of nerds needing to correct each other. And I want to make more of those nerds.
Module 3 is just a quick, one-week dip into Wikipedia editing. I include a few readings, but the main goal is for students to get editing experience. I don't actually require them to make the edits, though they are encouraged to do so if they want, but I have them go through identifying where a page needs help and finding sources to do that.
If I were to extend this module, I'd want to bring in a guest speaker to talk about editing projects in the world. I really enjoyed the EDI Keynote at ARLIS/NA 2022 featuring Black Lunch Table and their Wikipedia editing work, and I'd like to bring that to this class if possible (and if I could provide an honorarium).
This module is inspired by Danielle Roper, my Theater & Performance in Latin America professor. She was the first person to say "this could be publishable" about my research, and frankly that was huge for me. In this module, I have students go through the journal review form we recommend in the library when we run our scholarly publishing workshop. This is a college-level course, so I have them look at academic publishing avenues, but I also have them assess whether scholarly publishing is the best avenue for sharing their work.
I also introduce the final project in week 11. I built in three weeks for them to work on their final without any readings assigned. I make it clear in the assignment to propose a final project that they should develop something relevant to them above all. I will create or customize a rubric for each project (I would plan to have templates for a research paper, a business or workplace proposal, and probably also a video submission to work from so I'm not doing everything from scratch here) to ensure they're graded on their merits. Because this is a bigger project, I have it offset from other finals assignments in the hopes that that will make things easier for students.
SIKE, we're not done yet. There's one last reflective exercise. In the video for this module, I'll go through my syllabus through the lens of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy and describe the work we've done over the quarter through each frame's dispositions and knowledge practices. I also have the student evaluate their work throughout the semester in the same way in one last discussion board.
Reflections on the Teaching Online Program
The Teaching Online Program's Online Course Design badge is highly iterative. There were definitely some elements that were already familiar to me (I already had a teaching philosophy ready to go, and I'm familiar with Bloom's taxonomy), but I found the process useful overall. I've definitely carefully pulled out some of the blocks from the course like I was playing giant Jenga and used them in one-shot development. The course alignment process was particularly beneficial.
Overall, I'm glad I did it, but I wish I'd done it over the summer. I might have been able to record some of those videos then.
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