Summary: Course Specific Learning Object Needs

As a new addition to the MELO project at U-M, I’ve been trying to capture the conversations, ideas and challenges we face with this project.  Yesterday’s meeting brought together all participants to discuss the muddy points, challenges or specific needs of each course that will be using Learning Objects (LOs) to improve students’ learning experiences.

I took notes on each course’s needs based on the presentations the MELO participants made and the resulting conversations.

Here are a few of the highlights from each discipline-based conversation:

Psychology

This course is designed to introduce students to a breadth of scientific models and theory in evolution and, as such, includes the need to use LOs for very specific introductory concepts. When searching for appropriate LOs to adapt to this course, the psychology team came across overlapping LOs for some subjects and missing LOs for other subjects. Based on this, the team decided to find ways to make new LOs that specifically address two topics: Schedules for Reinforcement and the Hunger Mechanism.

The psychology team also believes that creating a template based on successful LOs (flash or applet based) will be a useful tool for future adapters of LOs in their discipline. MERLOT was exclusively used in the search for  these LOs and the MELO group discussed the considerations that must be made when choosing a non-peer reviewed LO from the open web. Participants may find OER collections repositories useful sites to find LOs including OER Commons and OCWC. This team will also be conducting a controlled experiment to test the effectiveness of the LOs in their courses.

Organic Chemistry

This subject requires a large repertoire of skills-based knowledge, especially math skills, to succeed in understanding, interpreting and implementing the methods taught in the course. This course requires a lot of overlapping knowledge between prerequisite and succeeding courses. The organic chemistry team decided to gather as many LOs as they could find in the initial stages of this project. They will then review specific LOs, choosing the best, to adapt and use in class. They will be integrating chosen LOs into their lab sections and testing the performance of these lab sections against other sections not using LOs.

The MELO group advised this team to work closely with the chemistry team in the project to jointly assess LOs that can effectively address the need to practice overlapping skillsets or knowledge in the courses. As a course with such a dependency on prerequisite skills, organic chemistry may also benefit from interdisciplinary LOs that this project seeks to explore.

This team also wanted to make new LOs that specifically address the educational setting at the University of Michigan. They were advised to create a small pilot group of LOs instead of trying to address all the topics with new materials to test and learn from these newly created LOs.

History

This course is smaller and more lecture-based than many of the other courses represented in the MELO project. As such, the history team would like to use LOs to encourage more student engagement in class, making it more interactive. As a history course, its goals are to encourage intellectual assessment of historical documents and to provide students with the transferable skill of information literacy.

LOs would be used to engage students outside of the lecture and prepare them to collectively tackle facts, findings and discussion questions during class time. This team addressed the issue of LO delivery: whether to go high tech with Jing wrappers or lo tech with text documents. One method discussed was to create a dynamic online syllabus with links to LOs and other digitized resources in the document. This document could also be interactive, with students engaging in finding LOs and other resources to build subject-specific scaffolding for each other.

Writing

The writing team chose to approach LOs from the perspective of how to adapt LOs to their specific teaching needs rather than create new LOs. Their teaching goals include teaching effective writing, creating robust thesis statements, conducting rhetorical analysis and critical thinking. Their interpretation is that LOs can be treated as scaffolding for an assignment to be given in class with the goal of breaking down the process of writing into topics and issues that are manageable to students.

The MELO group discussed the challenges of offering LOs as optional assignments. In a previous iteration of this project, the psychology team offered engagement with LOs as an option in the course and many students didn’t choose to use these as supplemental resources. This affects the project’s ability to assess the effectiveness of LOs as a tool to improve student outcomes.

Statistics

This course has benefited from the integration of LOs from its involvement in previous MERLOT-based projects. The goal of this team is to assess or use LOs that complement the resources already available to students enrolled in this course and provide wrappers for LOs that create a more generalized and beneficial experience for students regardless of their skills coming into the class. The team choose to work with a specific LO, “name that scenario” to offer students an opportunity to engage more deeply with a topic based on their own level of knowledge, not on the teaching schedule of the course. The team will also work to formalize the use of LOs in the course.

 Note: I was unable to attend the Chemistry presentation and it isn’t represented in this summary. The Romance Languages team were not present at this meeting. This post is composed of my notes from the conversations and are from my perspective. Comments from MELO participants to clarify any statements are welcome.

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