Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Designing a course based on what I know

The last time I taught it was an intro course for campus honors students with a total enrollment of 15. The course was a success and it was fun to teach. I tried to teach it again this semester but was told that course had already been allocated and was asked whether I wanted to teach an intermediate micro course. I've taught that course quite a bit in the past. The students are much less motivated and in general instructor evaluations for the course are low. Also, I wasn't prepared to do that (I didn't want to use my old materials and hadn't done anything new in this course since 2001 other than some Excelets I had designed to accompany a textbook) and consequently I didn't think I would learn about the teaching and learning issues. So I told the department no.

But in the back of my head, I've been thinking about what it would take to make this course a success. Would it be possible to really click, armed with the knowledge I've got now, say if I had 60 students and no TA. (If the department offered some grading assistance, I'm not sure how I would use it.) On the one hand, I've got all these technical tricks up my sleeve - digital ink movies from my tablet PC with high frame rate screen capture, then voice over and then the whole thing converted to Flash; embedding such a mini-lectures inside a WebCT Vista quiz question, so that the one can meld presentation and assessment; designing Excel exercises where students "construct" graphical solutions to economic problems and have those automatically graded; customizing those exercises so each team of students gets their own personalized version; providing content surveys that again blend content and assessment but in this case put in a story telling component to the course; and having students make such content surveys as a course project, an alternative to a term paper.

Methodologically, this is quite an arsenal. The issue is mapping that arsenal onto the subject matter of the course. There is a lot of math modelling in the course. And there is no way around that. In the freshman course I did that only very little and concentrated much more on the story telling aspect. That was a winning approach. I'd like to do the same here but want to cover the requisite material. Landsburg's text may offer part of the solution. I'll have to take a look at that. However, I really would like to at the least assess student work online and I don't particularly want to rely on a textbook when I do that, because whatever I develop will be tied to something a publisher knows.

In subsequent posts I'll elaborate on possible teaching experiements in this course.


Burks Oakley said...

Lanny - Speaking as a full-time administrator who teaches an online class every semester, I really encourage you to go ahead and teach this class.

You will gain real credibility with your faculy - you will speak from a different perspective - "this is how I do that" - rather than "this is how you might want to do that".

Try it - you won't regret it!

-- Burks

Lanny Arvan said...

Burks - that is a good thought. I do think teaching is important.

One thing I was lamenting about is teaching a course with 60 students adn trying to keep that from just being me lecturing.

The other is on whether designing a lot of course materials (obviously a time intensive process) is necessary for somebody like me specifically teaching a microeconomics course the way I want to teach it. Still musing on that one.


Lanny Arvan said...

So the comments do post here but the link doesn't seem to show up in the blog. That isn't fun.