Remembering My Hat

27th January 2011

Weaving an OU module

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 18:42
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Isn’t that beautiful?! Thank you very much indeed, saoriweaver, for the creative commons licence allowing me to post it here.

As well as being beautiful, it’s a pretty good metaphor for something I’ve been mulling over about producing distance learning materials.

As academics, we tend to obsess over the content of the module. What is the disciplinary knowledge that we want students to end up knowing?  In this image, that might be the thick dark pink ribbon about half way up. But actually in order to make a course/module/learning opportunity that really works for students-at-a-distance, you have to weave in lots of other threads.

The threads that go left to right (weft?) can be imagined to be the aspects of the module which are cumulative – those that develop and build up over the course of the student’s study. So as well as the academic content, those include:

  • the narrative arc or logic of the move from one topic to another
  • the information literacy skills we want to teach
  • the other study skills
  • the assessment (continuous and building up to the final assessment)
  • the difficulty level (getting more challenging as the module progresses)
  • and perhaps the degree of independent learning we expect.

The threads that go up and down the fabric (the warp?) can be imagined to be the aspects of the course which don’t need to build on what has gone before so carefully but are things that need to be kept going throughout the course. So, depending somewhat on the course, but often:

  • a balance of examples drawn from social care and from health, from all the nations and regions of the UK, and of different types of people.
  • addressing, and making reasonably-clear-without-labouring, the Learning Outcomes
  • the rhythm of the students’ journey through the materials – e.g. helping them have a sense of their progress through the Unit and the module, being aware of how often we are sending them ‘away’ from the core text to any Reader or articles through the OU library, perhaps having a reasonably predictable pattern such as the OU classic ‘sensitising case study, then theory, then activity applying theory to a case study’
  • audio-visual material
  • online activities, increading collaborative ones with other students
  • keeping thinking about accessibility issues (not just for disabled students, but also for the technophobic or those with limited access to computers, including students who are prisoners).

This weaving needs to go on at several levels. At unit (a.k.a Learning Guide, a.k.a ‘about 1 week of study’s worth’) level but also at Block level (usually 4-5 weeks worth of study) and across the whole module or whatever it is.

I’m sure there are more strands I’ve forgotten – suggestions very welcome.

No wonder producing a module feels so insanely complex. But also so creative.

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