Ask a student what makes a good college course and you’re likely to get an answer that revolves around individual student experience. Most learners want learning experiences that invite them to engage actively with course-related topics, provide them with opportunities to give and receive meaningful feedback, and make direct connections between course assignments and students’ current and future lives.
Ask a college administrator the same question and you might get a more program-level answer. Good courses get consistently good course evaluations, provide measurable evidence that students met designated learning objectives, and do not act as bottlenecks (in other words, they don’t have high DFW rates and students can get them when they need them).
Ask a course designer what makes a good course and you will get a combination of the two. We respect the student experience; in fact, we know that active, student driven, personally relevant, and social learning are the cornerstones of student success (and the entire point of course design, quite frankly). We also know that proper student advising and navigation through potential bottlenecks is important.
However, designers also appreciate innovative and interesting course designs. Why? Because they inspire others. Because they challenge assumptions of how things are done. Because they stimulate scholarly conversation and drive growth in the research and development of our field.
In the last year, Virginia Commonwealth University – supported by the learning innovation specialists at Academic Learning Transformation Lab – has launched a handful of REALLY INTERESTING open online course experiences that span disciplines and student levels. To name a few – Thoughtvectors. The Great Bike Race Book Course. Collaborative Curiosity. These are all openly networked connected courses (emerging from the likes of DS106, CCK08, and ConnectedCourses) but with a very unique VCU flavor. If you aren’t familiar with the concept of openly networked connected courses, I’ve written extensively on it. Try here or here or here.
However, how do you document the inspirational impact of a course design? I’m not talking about impact among participants (although that is definitely important and will be coming); rather, I’m talking about its impact among the research communities for the purposes of triggering growth and development.
One relatively fast way is to map it. Above, I’ve used Story Map by KnightLab, a freely available digital resource, to demonstrate the academic footprint of Collaborative Curiosity: Designing Community Engaged Research (CMST 691). Sponsored by VCU’s Division of Community Engagement, Collaborative Curiosity is on open online course taught by Valerie Holton and Tessa McKenzie that has sparked wide (and somewhat wild) global interest across the educational fields of educational technology, digital pedagogy, higher education, and community engagement. I have my suspicions as to why so many people are so interested in this course, but for now I will present you with a (partial) footprint.