Just before Christmas I gave a talk at the department awayday that I’d intended to do in the style of a participatory lecture but, as is the way of these things, it turned into a total palaver and lost most of the lunch-addled audience within the first 20s;-)
Anyway, anyway, one of the parts of the talk was to get everyone to guess what course was being described based on a tag cloud analysis of the course description on the corresponding page of the course catalogue (got that?)
Here’s the relevant part of the presentation:
(The course codes were actually click-revealed during the presentation.)
Note that the last slide actually shows a tag cloud of the search terms that brought visitors into the OU website and delivered visitors to the specified course page, rather than a tag cloud of the actual course description.
See if you can spot which is which – remember, one of the following is generated from the actual course description, the other from incoming search terms to that page:
I’m not going to explore what any of this “means” in this post (my blogging time is being increasingly sidelined, unfortunately:-( suffice to say that whilst I was giving the original presentation I heard my self strongly arguing something along the lines of the following:
It’s pointless writing the course description on the course catalogue web pages using the terminology you want students to come out of the course with (that is, using the language you expect the course to teach them). What the course description has to do is attract people who want to learn those terms; so YOU have to use the words that they are likely be using on Google to find the course in the first place.
It strikes me that a similar sense of before/after language might also apply to the way we phrase learning objectives at the start of a learning activity in everyday, why we’re bothering learning thisat all, type language, and then clarify the learning outcomes in jargon heavy, terminology laden, worthy sounding terms at the end of the activity?;-)
See also: Measuring the Success of the Online Course Catalog, which looks at the design of a course catalogue from an SEO/actionable analytics point of view.