Over the course of this term, I have been working to implement the online course for "History of Documentary." This is the first online course that I'll be teaching, and my concern throughout the process has been to determine how to engage students in the course while not simply replicating the in-class experiences online (replacing lectures with group online hangouts).
Continuing Ed warned it would take about 200 hours to develop the online course. This was accurate. This is doubly time consuming because I'm forced to create all the elements by the time the D2L page for the course goes live (May 1).
At this point I don't have student feedback. But here are my thoughts on the various project elements:
What Worked: I think I've established a variety of assignments for students, and have developed a matrix which will encourage student participation. Students will be assigned to take the lead on various blog responses, leading and directing the conversation. I also want the students to relate the readings to outside finds, requiring them to link to media artifacts for each post. I have a T.A. assigned to the course as well, and part of his job is to help encourage and stimulate conversation over the term. Students are also curating media artifacts and doing a film review as part of their term assignments. The one project challenge was attempting to find a way to do "collaborative" film viewing. I didn't want to require the students to purchase Coaches' Eye (as is being used by some others) because the app is only workable on smartphones and tablets; what if students didn't have the technology? After repeatedly saying, "I want Soundcloud for video," my T.A. and I stumbled across a new service called VidSocially, which is, briefly, Soundcloud for video. We're doing beta testing with the developers to see if it will work satisfactorily in an academic setting, but there is an ability to keep videos and comments private, and students can imbed their comments into the video as it is running. I'm optimistic it will work.
What Didnt: I'm still very dissatisfied with having to use D2L for the course management system. The aesthetics are ugly (even with the customizations from Continuing Ed), it isn't intuitive, and I don't think it encourages feedback in a way that other services do. However, since I had a course designer from Continuing Ed I had to use a system which had institutional support. I'm hoping I'll be pleasantly surprised after the summer as far as engagement goes, but I'm not certain that will be the case.
What Would You Do Differently? I'm not entirely happy with the screencast solution. I ended up with 14 for the course, and they increasingly were feeling like I was just recreating the lecture in an online format. I'd like to be able to investigate more creative or interesting ways of getting students access to this additional information.
If you'd like to follow our VidSocially experiment, go to their webpage (http://www.vidsocially.com/home.php), sign up using Facebook and start following me (http://www.vidsocially.com/user.php?u=59). We don't have any class videos up yet, but ideally shall shortly. The course is live during June. I've also attached a screenshot of our D2L page in development; the final page will include a larger landing page and links to the various assignment.