Course Organization and Design Spotlight #2

Faculty Info

Name: Peter Harper
Academic Program: Art
Average Number of students per section: 32
Featured Courses:

  • Art 102: Multi Cultural Children’s Art
  • Art 220: The History of the Art of Rock’n Roll, and
  • Art 382: The Art of Social Media

Had you taught online prior to the rapid shift to virtual instruction in response to COVID-19? 

Yes, since Fall 2019 (one semester prior to pandemic).

What is key to designing and organizing a course?

The reason I mention all three courses is, I’d like to talk about Course Organization and Design. This is important because, the key to designing and organizing any course is, understanding that there is no one structure that works to design all classes. As an instructor, you have to be able to get a feel for the course you are teaching, and a feel for the tools that are available to you, then construct a your course accordingly.

What practice or technique have you implemented in your course?

When designing a course, my first steps were as follows:

  1. In a separate google doc, I assigned each week with an achievable assignment. If it was not possible to complete the assignment in a week, I carried the assignment over to a second and/or third week.
  2. I wrote out the step by step instructions, for each assignment, and included any links to video instructions made by myself, found on YouTube, and/or provided by the Library.
  3. I transferred that information into a weekly module format and assigned the proper tools to fit the assignment
  4. The courses are all designed to engage students in discussions with one another, research content online, create hands on projects, and compare and contrast assignments so they can grow as they progress.
Peter Harper | CSU Channel Islands

Why did you choose this approach?

My reason for choosing this approach was because it felt like the most efficient method possible. Designing an online class, especially for the first time, can feel a lot like being lost in a maze. But knowing your assignments and writing them out in a google doc is simple, and allows for visible progress to be made in, what can feel like, a long process of creation.

How have students responded to this practice or technique?

Because of all of the planning that went into writing out the instructions, students have been able to maneuver through the modules with an exceptionally high success rate. In all classes I have taught, tethered or not, there have always been a few students who have struggled to some degree. For these students, I have created a welcome environment and have been able to get most the stragglers caught up.

Describe any change in your own philosophy of teaching and learning due to virtual instruction?

I have found that virtual instruction, vs tethered teaching can equate to the same amount of learning. It is a little bit like entering your house through the front door or the back door, you still get into the house, however, the path you take to do so is just a little different.

What’s your advice to EDUCATORS preparing for a virtual Spring 2021?

The best advice I can give to educators preparing for the spring is, start writing the class now. The heaviest part of the workload is in the writing/creation of the class. Once the semester is underway, maintaining and grading will feel like the normal work flow. You DO NOT want to be writing the class, grading the class, assisting the lost students, and fixing your own errors as you go.

What’s your advice to STUDENTS preparing for a virtual Spring 2021?

The best advice I can give to students is, the moment you are confused about ANYTHING, contact your instructor and ask for help. 

Is there something you plan to change for Spring? What and why?

Each semester, after my courses have been written, I have found myself tweaking things here or there, but there won’t be any major structural changes to my courses in the spring.

Which 3 resources and/or tools do you consider essential to effective virtual instruction?

My favorite tools for virtual instruction are, not in any particular order, VoiceThread, Zoom for office hours, discussion boards and assignment pages.

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