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All done and final video!

I have finished building my OER shell for GEOG 201, which I have already started using this term.  The video discussion of the course ran a little long, but not too bad.  As with all of my courses, I plan to keep adding and refining material as I find it, but the course is in a usable format as of right now.  I am teaching this as a hybrid course so there is only one lecture each week plus online discussion exercises.


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When You Said it Would Take Time, I Didn’t Know You Meant TIME……

“Wait!  Did you say that I could set up OERs for a class and possibly get an iPad?  What a great idea!  Count me in, and I’ll find a couple of colleagues to help with this.”  We desperately needed to pool resources anyways because the class we teach does not have a book.  There literally is not a textbook that would account for more than a couple of lectures.  The class Ocean Life Foundations is a general biology course for non-majors but is in the marine biology series.  There are lots of marine biology texts on the market that cover groups of organisms, habitats, and environmental impact but none that focus on cellular biology in a marine environment.  Most marine texts have only a couple of paragraphs dedicated to these topics.  If we decided to use a general biology book, it would cover the cellular biology but not the marine biology topics.  So, should we have students purchase 2 or 3 textbooks with a cost of over $200 when they would only use a few segments?  The resounding answer was “of course not!” 

Some students have difficulty with a class that does not come with a textbook, even though there are textbooks they could borrow from the Science Resource Center if they desired.  This means that we are regularly digging up resources to post on Moodle.  With the demands of teaching, busy schedules, and personal lives, we really haven’t had much time to share what we’ve found with each other.  Consolidating all of these resources will make it easier for each of us to incorporate new ideas and activities into our teaching, as well as making access to resources much easier for students.

Now that we have started the process of acquiring OERs, I have discovered how incredibly TIME consuming it is.  I find it is like being sucked into some kind of portal where I start in one place, follow a pathway, and end up in a totally different place with no idea of how I got there!  Along the way I’ve found other paths that I didn’t want to follow because I liked the current path but that I should investigate in the future.  Now how the heck do I get back to where I was?  I’d be hitting the “back” button forever!

Other problems we’ve encountered involve what would be expected when you try to merge three instructors with three different classes into one cohesive Moodle site.  We each cover the course outcomes but using different examples, ideas, and topics. What we’re creating is a site with many different topics that can be pursued depending on the instructor’s interest and expertise.  Now the main concern is organizing the material into cohesive groups and attaching labs and assessment activities.  And with the children running and screaming in the background, did I mention how locating OERs sucks me into a time portal?

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Mid-Project Update

                This term I began teaching a fully online technical writing course on Moodle (still using a textbook, mind you), which has given me a much greater sense of just how much I can do on Moodle. As a result, I’ve added a number of resources to my Writing 115 OER shell, including discussion forums, video resources, external website links, and a slideshow Flash video.

                The shell for my OER course is now built for the most part, but I continue to add materials, activities, and more thorough descriptions of assignments. When I first began this process, I viewed Moodle as little more than a place to post .PDF handouts and the course syllabus, and a platform for taking attendance and entering grades. Now I’m beginning to see it as a far greater tool for learning than I’d previously thought. My approach to this OER fellowship has changed to where I’m now imagining the course as not only being textbook free but as also being classroom free/fully online. With that in mind, I’ve added hyperlinks to web resources, including lessons and videos, created discussion forums, embedded materials, and added assignments that students can upload directly to Moodle—assignments that I can then read, grade, comment upon, and return to students without ever having to use pen or paper. This is a pretty great discovery.

                In terms of challenges, some of the readings I’ve used in my face-to-face classes were not available for OER use, so I was forced to drop some of my original selections in favor of others that are more freely available (primarily older essays).  This has taken a bit of flexibility on my part, but in the end I feel it has been well worth it. I’m still in the process of adding and replacing some readings, but doing this has made me rethink my reading selections in general, especially around their availability.  

                Another challenge I faced was creating files that can be opened with free software, i.e., files not reliant on proprietary software. For example, I use a Powerpoint presentation to illustrate strategies for critically reading texts. I had originally posted this to the Moodle page as a Powerpoint file, not taking into consideration the possibility some student users might not have Powerpoint software (or any software capable of opening a Powerpoint file, for that matter). To remedy this, Jen suggested I use a website called Slideshare to convert the Powerpoint file; I used it and read up how to embed a slideshow into Moodle, but for some reason that I never figured out, I could not make the file appear. So I took a different approach and converted the slideshow into a Flash video (using free software called Ispring) and then simply adding it as a file rather than embedding it onto the page. This ultimately worked well, I think. And, despite my frustration at still not being able to embed the Slideshare slideshow, I read up on (and watched numerous YouTube instructional videos about) Moodle in general and ended up learning quite a lot about embedding videos and other resources using Moodle’s HTML editor. I’m now feeling much more confident about my Moodle knowledge and realizing just how vast Moodle’s capabilities are.       

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Mid OER Check

Last term I worked on collecting resources for my six modules. I have parts of all six now. I also have fully completed one module on Note Taking. And I spent some time developing the template I want to sue for the modules. Since I have the Moodle development shell my modules will be posted there. So I have accomplished several things and made progress on my OER EL115 course. I just have to remember to blog about it!

So far, the biggest challenge has been finding open source readings. The ones I find need to be heavily edited to match the content we use at Lane in the course and to fit our student population. Also, I want them to be consistent in voice if possible. So I am spending quite a bit of time editing. It has been easy to find videos, self-assessments, and other materials, though.

This term I plan to put all of the materials into the module format I am using and get them posted on Moodle. And I have made notes on my calendar to remember to blog!

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March OER Update

Thank goodness this is not a blogging fellowship! I would fail! :)

Work is coming along on my OER course. I have been able to move fully away from a text and am actually much happier with both the depth and breadth of the content that I am able to provide my students. The library’s option for students to check out e-readers or to download electronic books onto their computers free of charge has been a huge help! In the course I am working on, I have always allowed a great deal of latitude in the selection of one of their assigned readings. The e-readers have allowed me to keep that option open without an added dollar cost.

My next goal will be to upload some of the articles, books, videos, etc. that I have collected into the Moodle shell for the OER. I am teaching this course Spring term, so the “real” Moodle page is live and I would be happy to give anyone access to it who would like it!

 

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The Progress Report

Ahhh, the progress report. Those little words that strike fear in the hearts of many a high school and elementary school child. But, not so much for me as I am happy to “report” that my “progress” is coming along swimmingly.

What have I accomplished so far?
I have accomplished a great deal of research, which is the way I typically approach any project. Sitting off to the side of my desk is a notebook filled with colorful printouts of various websites and online places to which I can direct my students, once I move to the next stage: setting up the class.

What challenges have I overcome?
One challenge was figuring out what was and how to do a webcast. I have that somewhat down now, so that when I am at the end of the project, I will not be delayed by having to learn how to finish the presentation.

Another challenge I have worked through is finding the time to devote to this project. I hear excuses every day of every term about the lack of time students have to devote to their schoolwork; I agree there is a shortage of time out there. However, nothing was ever earned by making up excuses—one must work through the obstacles. So, I have made some sacrifices: birthday celebrations shortened, grandchild time shortened, and sleeping time shortened. It is all working out.

Another challenge continues to be the idea of working in the virtual world for a humanities class, which, by its very nature, requires other humans. It seems counter-intuitive to think that a student could have a full rounded, dramatic literature experience completely on his/her own online, but through my research, I believe this is now quite possible. Part of this class will be to go and view a live performance. Through a very small, but productive informal poll, I have found that the majority of students have not spent any time going to their local community theaters or to any larger productions in metropolitan areas. This requirement should help students value the energy that is exchanged in a live performance-something uniquely human and not available online.

What are my remaining goals?
I need to structure the class, so that it does not resemble the “cookie cutter” online class of discussion, quiz, read, discussion, quiz, read, etc. That is not what reading dramatic literature is about. Therefore, researching some new online methods is still in my “to do” basket.
Once that is complete, I need to upload the class in a Moodle shell and make my webcast.

Overall, I feel that my time has been well spent and that the majority of the work (research) is completed. Now all I need to do is to sort it out and organize it.

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Midterm Update

Now that the start of teaching my OER course is near, I have it almost ready to go.  I have the majority of the readings on Moodle and have built all of the assignments.  All I have left to do is put together lecture slides and then fill out the readings as I identify anything that is missing.  I am completely confident the course will work as an OER course.

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