2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator

2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator

Monday, July 8, 2013

Don't Tell Me What to Do: Using Templates to Improve Course Design

How do you balance standardization of templates with freedom of expression in teaching?

Certain administrators, supervisors, and bosses have told me that I am a challenge.  Why?  Well, it may be that just about every conversation I have with a "boss" begins or ends with me saying, "Don't tell me what to do."  Even if I WANT to do whatever someone requests of me, I want it to be completely my idea and my decision.  It is no wonder that my mother laughed her butt off when I complained about my son's newly applied "assertion of his independence" because she has been waiting all her life for this payback.

My resistance to standardization of templates kicks in when I think that it might inhibit my creativity.  Even if I grit my teeth and agree to a template, I want it to be a template that I designed, and herein lies a huge problem.  I am the Queen of Control Freaks, but I am not naive enough to believe that I am the only control freak in my district.

How deep should we go with templates?  Building-specific?  Department-specific?  Course specific?  I have seen some good course designs in classes at my school, but their layouts do not reflect the way I think or teach.  For example, some teachers organize their content by standards, and they train their students to think about the course that way, too.  It works for them, but it doesn't work for me.  Some teachers like to group their content thematically--what do they lose when someone forces them to convert to organizing by standards?


On the other hand, what about the students and parents who try to navigate our LMS?  As a mother, I know how frustrating inconsistency of webpages and online lessons can be.  I want my audience to be able to easily navigate my class lessons in Blackboard.  Does this mean that I should make my class page look like every other page?  Does this mean that I should separate my content into  standards, themes, or genre?  Where is the balance between ease, consistency, and freedom of expression in teaching?

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  My takeaway from the pre-conference session Using Templates to Improve Course Design really gave me a lot to contemplate.  See what I did there?


Stephani Itibrout

English Teacher, Blended Learning

Follow me on Twitter: @itibrout

BbWorld Blogger 2013

1 comment:

  1. I can completely relate! I am also a control freak. When I look at my course designs they differ from topic to topic. I understand the need for consistency and think that designers should pick a "template" and stick with it for the entire course. It gets confusing when the student needs to learn a new format for each unit. However, when it gets to course to course or building to building, I think some inconsistencies are inevitable. A language arts teacher is not going to be able to organize by standard as easily as a math teacher might, for example. While it can be frustrating trying to figure out each course's different structure for a teacher/student I think as long as information is clearly labeled and accessible the end user is fine. As we move through the web from site to site, they aren't all designed exactly the same but we can usually find what we're looking for and when we can't....we move on pretty quickly! I think the same idea applies to course design.
    Great post by the way! I obviously love talking course design! :)