I wrote a post about how I provided some Choose your own adventure-style learning for my students last semester. In the comments, Doug McKee indicated that it sounded like it would wind up being much harder than a “normal class” and asked if that was a fair assumption to make.
The question seemed worthy of a follow up post to my prior blog entry about Choose your own learning.
The inherent challenges of course design
I will say upfront that it is challenging to assess what additional time was required, since it was my first time teaching the course at the undergraduate level. Whenever I do that, I spend an enormous amount of time crafting learning outcomes, developing rubrics for each assignment, and on instructional design.
Someone who had taught a class previously, but just wanted to add the component of choose your own adventure would have a lot less work to do than I did last semester.
Questions to address before adopting this approach
Here are some of the areas I've identified that would require additional planning and thinking for a choose your own adventure type approach:
How will you handle exams, when not all students in the class will take them?
- I taught the course in a three-hour block, so it was easy to schedule the exams as the last activity for the night. Those not taking the exam just left after the first two hours of instruction.
How strict will you be about the class policies you set up for this approach?
- I had a form that students completed with their points designation, which states that changes could not be made after the fact. I wound up making changes on a number of fronts and would probably figure out other wording to use in the future to reflect what are likely to be my true actions when changes are warranted.
How can you structure the potential options for earning points to be sure that all learning outcomes are assessed?
- My course had four modules and one comprehensive exam or assignments. I required that students take at least three of the five exams and earn points for some assignment related to the fourth module they potentially wouldn't be taking an exam on.
How will you structure your grade book to show progress toward total points in the class?
- I was transparent with the students that the way the grade book was set up, they would have to do figuring on their own of how they were progressing toward a desired grade in the class. I didn't have a way to set up individual reports for students, based on the ways they selected to earn points during the semester.
- This didn't wind up to be too problematic. Half of the class was comprised of accounting majors, who were all quite comfortable with projecting their own grades, individually. The remainder of the students were highly mature and also either kept a close eye on their points, or weren't as concerned about their grade in the class.
How will you track students' selected assignments?
- I used a form that the students filled our during the second night of class (after hearing about it and receiving the dome during the first session). Then, I made a photocopy for me and handed the originals back to the students. This became problematic when I scanned the documents and recycled the copies.
- I didn't notice until too late that the items each student had checked did not show up on the scanned copy, except in a few cases. Even then, the documents were difficult to sort through and manage. Some students also lost their originals throughout the semester and had to rely on memory for what they had chosen.
- Next time I use some kind of choose your own adventure style, I will use a Google form for collecting the students' point selections. I'll have each student include their email address on the form and will set up a mail merge to send each student their selections.
Yes, using a choose your own adventure state of teaching took some additional time, versus having a standard set of assignments. However, I can refine my processes over time and probably carve that down to something almost negligible in the long run.