I was intending not to write any more posts this year, but this post struck a nerve – What’s Competing for Internet Users’ Attention? (via Stephen’s Lighthouse) – so here’s a quick “note to self” about something to think about during my holiday dog walks…:
What else are out students doing whilst “studying” their course materials?
Here’s what some US respondents declared when surveyed about what else they were doing whilst on the internet:
A potentially more interesting thing to think about though is a variation of this:
In particular, the question: what other media do you consume whilst you are using OU course materials?
And then – thinking on from this – do we really think – really – that contemporary course materials should be like books? Even text books? Even tutorial-in-print, SAQ filled books?
Newspapers are realising that newsprint in a broadsheet format is not necessarily the best way to physically package content any more (and I have a gut feeling that the physical packaging does have some influence on the structure, form and layout of the content you deliver). Tabloid and Berliner formats now dominate the physical aspect of newspaper production, and online plays are increasingly important.
OU study guides tend to come either as large format books or A4 soft cover bindings with large internal margins for note taking. Now this might be optimal for study, but the style is one that was adopted in part because of financial concerns, as well as pedagogical ones, several decades ago.
“what arrived in the post today” – Johnson Cameraface
As far as I know, the OU don’t yet do study guides as print-on-demand editions (at least, not as a rule, except when we get students to print out PDF copies of course materials;-). Print runs are large, batch job affairs that create stock that needs warehousing for several years of course delivery.
So I wonder – if we took the decision today about how to deliver print material, would the ongoing evolution of the trad-format be what we’d suggest? Or do we need an extinction event? The above image shows an example of a recent generation of print materials – which represents an evolution of trad-OU study guides. But if we were starting now, is this where we’d choose to start from? (It might be that it is – I’m just asking…;-)
One other trad-OU approach to course design was typically to try to minimise the need for students to go outside the course materials (one of the personas we consider taking each course is always a submariner, who only has access to their OU course materials) but I’m not sure how well this sits any more.
Now I can’t remember the last time I read a newspaper whilst at home and didn’t go online at least once whilst doing so, either to follow a link or check something related, and I can’t remember the last non-fiction book I read that didn’t also act as a jumping off point – often “at the point of reading” – for several online checks and queries.
So here’s a niggle that I’m going to try to pin down over the holidays. To what extent should our course materials be open ended and uncourse like, compared to tighly scoped with a single, strong and unwavering narrative that reflects the academic author’s teaching line through a set of materials?
The “this is how it is”, single linear narrative model is easier for the old guard to teach, easier to assess, and arguably easier to follow as a student. It’s tried, trusted, and well proven.
The uncourse is all over the place, designed in part to be sympathetic to study moments in daily rituals (e.g. feed reading) or interstitial time (see Interstitial Publishing: A New Market from Wasted Time for more on this idea). The uncourse is ideally invisible, integrated into life.
The trad. OU course is a traditional board game, neatly packaged, well-defined, self-contained. The uncourse is an Alternate Reality Game.
(Did you see what I just did, there?;-)
And as each day goes by, I appreciate a little more that I don’t think the traditional game is a good one to be in, any more… Because the point about teaching is to help people become independent learners. And for all the good things about books (and I have thousands of them), developing skills for bookish learning is not necessarily life-empowering any more…
[Gulp… where did that come from?!]