AL491 was designed as a self-paced online course in order to allow students the greatest extent of flexibility. Based on student feedback from blended courses, flexibility was the most important feature for online assignments. Each carefully structured new unit in the course was unlocked as students progressed through the materials. Within each unit, assignments also automatically unlocked as students worked through them, allowing them to work at their own pace.
Given the self-paced nature of the course, the instructor felt it was very important to implement features that would allow students to meet each other and to interact with one another. She expected students to log into the course at least once per week until they completed all units, however, she already knew at the beginning of the course that some students would only be able to work on weekends because they completed internships out of state during the week or that some would join one week into the course because they studied abroad. The goal was to create an open and engaging, albeit virtual, classroom atmosphere where students could learn with and from each other.
The course design team developed two widgets, small applications that can be used with Angel and can be integrated into any MSU course free of charge. The first widget, called Introductions (http://widgets.cal.msu.edu/intros.html), is a community-building tool that allows instructors to provide a place for students to introduce themselves including a picture upload and optional video profile. Profiles are then displayed in a grid-based page allowing for all students in the course to browse other profiles.
This tool allowed the students to meet each other and created a sense of community. It also gave students the opportunity to look for peers in their area for some of the collaborative assignments.
Students also engaged in virtual video conversations with their instructor, using an application called Conversations (http://clear.msu.edu/teaching/online/ria/conversations2/), a tool developed by the MSU Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR) designed to allow teachers to create a series of audio/video prompts for their students. This application allowed the students to interact (albeit asynchronously) with the instructor and allowed the instructor to meet her students face to face. It greatly decreased the anonymity that is so often a negative aspect of online courses.
A second widget that was specifically developed for this course is Lists (http://widgets.cal.msu.edu/lists.html). It allows instructors to place a dynamic list of links or statements into a course page. Students can add their own entries as well as vote other entries “up” or “down” the list. This tool allowed the students to share their multimedia projects and vote on the best class project. It was also used throughout the course to find and share information about specific themes and topics.
To provide students with yet a different way to brainstorm and share ideas on certain course content, some units featured Wallwishers (http://www.wallwisher.com/), online bulletin boards where students can post brief notes.
As the course centered on fairy tales, the course design team felt it would be fun for the students to write a fairy tale together. The course used the never-ending story script by CGISpy (http://www.cgispy.com/scripts/stories.html). It provided the students with a fun way to put their newly learned knowledge of typical fairy tale characteristics and features into practice and add new twists and turns throughout the semester.
OTHER TEAM MEMBERS:
Scott Schopieray, Academic Specialist, Arts and Letters, Assistant Developer
Brian Adams, Visiting Specialist, Arts and Letters, Technology Developer