MindMap Navigation for Online Courses

We’re now a couple of weeks in to a new course (T151) and whilst I’m wary of posting too much about it just at the moment, there a some spinoff thoughts I do want to capture here.

The course is, in part, based on a model of weekly Topic Explorations, where I pose four or five questions and then provide a list of resources for the students to explore, as guided by the questions. An 800 word or so piece then captures some of my observations about the topic.

The structure was informed by a model my colleague John Naughton had used on a different course, and also resembles that of David Wiley’s Blogs, Wikis and New Media course.

One of the questions that came up in a course forum a day or two ago was the course legacy, in terms of access to course materials. The resources I link to from each topic exploration are all web based resources, although some of them are authentication required subscription journal articles, with access provided via the OU Library libezproxy service (the links are also constructed around DOIs, wherever possible).

As part of the Week 0 activities for the course, I provided a quick overview of social bookmarking services, suggesting that students could bookmark those resources that were useful to them, with the advantage that these resource links would still be available once the course had finished and access to the course materials on the VLE withdrawn. (Why we can’t provide a Moodle export version of the materials for students to put in their own Moodle installation at the end of a course, I don’t know? Eg I think NineHub lets you import Moodle courses into their 1-click setup hosted Moodle installations?)

One idea I did entertain was just bookmarking and tagging all the resources so that they could be pulled into the course automatically via an appropriate feed, or alternatively pulled by students into their own space, wherever that might be. The feed powered approach would also make a WiggLE possible ;-)

That’s still possibly on the cards, but instead I began considering another possiblity: delivering the course via an interactive mindmap.

One of the advantages that this offers, also picked up in a forum post, is that it addresses the issue of how and where to take notes: you can take them on the Mindmap. That is, the Mindmap becomes a navigation surface, and a note taking service.

So for example, here’s a fragment of David Wiley’s course, mindmap style (created using Freemind) showing in particular the first week’s resources (see the orginal course material here):

The red arrows identify links – click on a link and the corresponding page will open in a web browser. The course can be viewed and navigated in a far more powerful way than a hierarchical website, becuase mulriple nodes at diffferent levels, and mutliple leaves of the tree can be viewed (or collapsed) at once. The mindmap tool also allows the user to rearrange the spatial layout to suit their own needs. And of course, if they are viewing the mindmap in an interactive mindmap editor, they can add notes as subnodes to any of the resources.

Over the next few days, I think I’ll do T151 in mindmap form, and maybe offer it up as a resource. After all, the course is going out in pilot form, so it’d be foolish not to… ;-)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

11 thoughts on “MindMap Navigation for Online Courses”

  1. “Why we can’t provide a Moodle export version of the materials”, work in progress!! Not sure its aimed at students though. There’s also some work with service delivery teams around letting students have “read-only” access to their websites for x years after the course ends. Not sure how long x is, nor when this will be released – if it isn’t already.

  2. Interesting. I’ve never found electronic mind maps very useful, though I’ve used paper ones for many years. Software ones seem rather too constrained in contrast to the ways people actually think, especially visually. And of course you have to learn to use the software, whereas a few coloured pencils or pens plus paper is pretty much standard for everyone except very young children.

    I imagine that this tool use might snowball quickly if people get engaged. I quite like the idea of a snowballing mindmap! It might lead to some interesting and “allows the user to rearrange the spatial layout to suit their own needs” looks like a great opportunity for creative and unexpected navigation routes.

    I’d love to spy on this one, from a ‘systems thinking’ perspective.

  3. Nice idea. I have been using FreeMind to do a host of things. We have used it to outline software functionality and I have also been using it to plan workshops and presentations. Never thought of this particular application but it seems to fit reasonably well.

    In relation to students gathering links and preserving them, I have found that I don’t bookmark anymore because it is just too cumbersome. Especially if you want to use them in references later. I have been using Zotero for a while (www.zotero.org). Developed with Mellon funding at George Mason. A few extra seconds – ok a minute – filling in some fields and when you want to reference it, you just select the format.

  4. I’ve used mindmap to organise my law notes. I found it extremely useful for this purpose; I’m still adding to it as new cases are being reported.

    If anyone knows how to import it into blogger I’ll give examples.

    1. So what else might be useful? I was thinking I could probably pull out any links to external websites contained within each section? Or would that clutter things?

      Freemind also supports ‘rich content’ notes on nodes, so it would be possible to present the whole of the material in the Freemind context. I think there may be a bit of hassle in parsing the docs though, so I’m a little wary of starting that right now… (Hmmm, thinks: maybe I could set it as a challenge for DevXS.org?;-)

      I guess it would also be nice from an OU point of view to be able to ‘brand’ or watermark the mindmap somehow, at least insofar as splashing the OU/OpenLearn logos…?

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