Blogging the course design process – leftovers and sausages

I’ve mentioned this in passing before, but it deserves a full posting I think – my colleague James Aczel is keeping a blog as he chairs the production of a new course in our Masters in Online and Distance Education. The course is H809, "Practice-based research in educational technology", and the title was even voted on by readers and students. I would like to see more courses keeping blogs during the design phase, because a) it might help create a buzz around the course before it starts, b) it acts as a useful resource once the course has started and c) it probably aids the design process itself if you have to explain and reflect upon it.

There are two views on this. The first is that, like James, you should make the process open. Another colleague of mine has commented that the course production process sometimes feels like a big feast where we have all these great ideas and discussions, and then what we give students are the leftovers. While I think that’s a bit of an extreme way of putting it. Most OU courses are not light on content, so if it is leftovers, it’s a lot of leftovers, but he means intellectually I suppose. Keeping a blog is one way of inviting everyone to the feast.

The other view is that the design process is a filtering one. While we may have lots of great discussion, we also have a lot of needles digression also. What the final course represents is not some much leftovers but finally crafted perfection. Continuing our food analogy, course production is like making sausages – you can enjoy the end product but seeing how they’re made would really put you off.

I’m going to take a middle route between these – part of what we do as educators is devise our best guess about what students will need and want. This is the finished course. But increasingly we are appreciating that one size doesn’t fit all (education may be the last bastion of this approach), and exposing the process at least helps broaden your perspective. Keeping a blog represents a good middle route too I think – James is being open about the design process, but he will also filter what he blogs about (he’s not going to write "X spent half an hour talking rubbish again today", for instance). I would hesitate to make blogging a compulsory part of producing a course, since then it just becomes a burden, but if it does turn out to help the process or recruitment, then I’d certainly encourage it. 

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