Monthly Archives: September 2015

Do faculty members enjoy creating course content?

Over the next few years, I believe that four forces are going to significantly change the nature and delivery of course content in ways that will significantly impact how it gets created in the first place.

Open Education Resources

The emergence and quickening adoption of OERs as a way to improve quality and decrease cost offers an alternate approach to using expensive textbooks. It also allows for easier remixing of course materials to better suit specific subject topics, desired sequencing of lessons, and more-modern pedagogies. More content will become accessible in ways that aren’t pre-packaged or locked into specific vendor systems.

Learning analytics

The technical capabilities are emerging to begin to store and correlate learning activity data among learners and learner demographics. While the vision seems promising, only a very small percentage of existing course content is designed to take advantage of learning analytics. Existing “static” course content will need to be retrofitted with this technology, or new content will need to be created with a specific design focus on which analytics should be captured based on how they could be used.

Adaptive and personalized content delivery

Students will soon have the ability to navigate through course content via increasingly differentiated paths. In some cases, students will be cycled back through a given topic for reinforcement necessitating the need for additional remedial course content that delivers the material in various different ways in an attempt to find a way that works for the given student.

Competency-based and other similar flexible forms of instructional delivery

Flexible delivery of course content will break down the current approach of delivering a course in a “whole semester” package. Instead, existing content will need to be broken apart into lessons or modules that support specific learning topics or objectives. Or new content will need to be created in support of this goal.

…Or really any combination of any or all of the above. But how are we going to make it happen?

I’ve met many faculty who enjoy teaching. I’ve met some who are passionate about mentoring and outreach. Some prefer research, and that’s great, too. But rarely have I met a faculty member who actually enjoys building the lessons and materials for his or her classes. Some really get into it, but it still seems surprisingly rare. Though they may enjoy delivering the materials and reviewing or curating existing materials, actually creating materials seems to be something different. I wonder what the reason for this is. Could it be some combination of:

  • Creating something new always takes effort
    • In many cases, is creating something new even the best approach?
  • Using someone else’s materials is easy
    • And the costs of using the content are borne by someone else (ie: students)
  • Faculty members may not have the skill sets or software systems required to produce video, develop advanced web and mobile interactions, or capture and store analytics
  • The right employer incentives are not in place to spur or recognize the value of content creation efforts
  • Especially in LMSs, creating course content can be laborious (ie: clicktastic) – and LMSs tend to have a nasty habit of breaking links to other course content especially when copied between semesters – maybe faculty have been burned during previous efforts
  • Even if one built their own content outside of an LMS, how/where could/should it be stored?
  • Something else that I’m missing?

This leads me to think – should instructors even bear the primary or sole burden of building (ie: not designing of creating) course content? Or could their talent be better used instead to guide its creation through the effort of other teams who do the “hands-on-keyboard” work (eg: video creation, HTML, clicking through screens to build test question banks, etc)? Should we instead put more effort into working on new models to support collaborative course material creation among faculty members, instructional teams, maybe even among institutions? Or put more resources into teams that help faculty to build (and share, and disseminate) content? Or am I thinking about this all wrong?

I’ll add that (in my opinion) instructor interaction matters more than the content. But there must be many thoughts and opinions out there on this one. Comments and responses welcome.