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Course Development Issues

Brigham Young University

To what extent have you been able to use previously developed materials in your re-design instead of creating new materials?

Before we began the redesign, we anticipated developing most of the materials for the course ourselves. We had completed a fairly extensive search of instructional software related to the teaching of writing and found that although there are several course management packages developed specifically for the teaching of writing classes, there were very few instructional materials available. And those few that are available did not really suit the objectives we were trying to achieve in the course. Since our campus is wholly devoted to using Blackboard as a course management tool, we were particularly interested in finding applications that would run with Blackboard. During the past six months, we have found some instructional materials that will fit our course and are compatible with Blackboard, and we will be using these in the fall. Allyn & Bacon/Longman has developed an online version of the New Century Handbook, the writing handbook we use that can be installed with Blackboard as a “cartridge,” and it includes exercises and interactions, particularly on the grammar sections of the book.

What kinds of activities took up the most time in your course development effort?

As part of our redesign we developed our own online instructional materials, which consisted of an online version of our custom textbook along with exercises and interactions. We were surprised to learn that what took the most time was not the development of the media (web pages, flash animations, videos), but the traditional redesign and re-conception of the course according to current practices in instructional design. Before we began any programming, we tried to articulate very precisely the objectives of our course, and then we wrote scripts for the programmers based on sound instructional principles that would achieve these objectives. In other words, we planned out the entire process before any actual programming of media. Although this approach demanded a lot of time, it turned out to be very effective and efficient because once the scripts were handed to the programmers, the development of media proceeded very quickly with few changes.

From the beginning, we expected the scripting process to take the most time, but it ended up taking even more time than we anticipated. We tried to apply the “rule of three,” that development projects take three times as long as you anticipate, but we probably should have applied the “rule of four.”

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