Ceci n’est pas une donut

a diagram of a torus with a caption in French saying This is not a donut.I signed up for a SUNY Learning Engineering Fellowship Program a while back, because it looked interesting and potentially useful, and I found the term intriguing. It’s a nine week summer program, when I also have to take three or four weeks of vacation, so maybe I should have thought that through a little better. Maybe i can negotiate some comp time for working on my weeks off.

The program is built in OLI’s Torus platform, and part of it is learning how to use the platform on both the learner and author ends. It’s a bit challenging to try to learn both learning engineering concepts and the ins and outs of a new software platform at the same time, but I understand why we’re doing it this way. I can’t complain, given what I put ds106 students through.

For my project, I plan to work with the scholarly, popular, trade concept. One of the SUNY Gen Ed outcomes for info lit is to be able to evaluate information with an awareness of authority, validity, and bias. The concept fits well with the outcome. I think it’s also important for community college students to learn, since half of our population transfers to 4 year schools and half goes into the workforce. The concept is also in need of an update. Instructional materials on scholarly, popular and trade publications pretty much all focus on aspects of print publications, which made sense in the 80s but not so much now.

I want to update terminology as well, to name the categories academic, professional and consumer. I think I’ve only ever encountered one student who knew what a trade journal was. “Popular” is misleading as a term. “Scholarly” still works, but many library catalogs and databases connect the term with peer review, which is a subset, so I’d suggest changing the category to academic.

So far, I’m thinking the lessons that need to be learned are

  • categorization is a means of evaluation, and recognizing authority, validity, and bias
  • the categories are distinguished by their intended audiences
  • the categories can be blurry, as interest in some content may cross boundaries among academic, professional and consumer audiences

For the purposes of Torus, these lessons need to be expressed in terms of learning outcomes, and outcomes may have sub-outcomes. Assessments and activities within the system are tied to outcomes and sub-outcomes, and then instructional materials need to be developed to meet those assessments and outcomes. The engineering aspect comes into play when we analyze assessment data with an eye towards improving the course.

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One Response to Ceci n’est pas une donut

  1. Eric Likness says:

    Outcomes definitely is one of those things that screams: “Instructional Design” when I see it written out. Not that it’s a bad thing. Some ID applies I would say to many subject matter(s). But, when it comes to the Arts of Arts&Sciences, its harder to measure an outcome. Other than say, like DS106 a portfolio at the end that “shows the work”. For literacy, I would say that’s harder to measure still. Unless maybe the attitude, competency is measured prior (formative evaluation) then measure after (summative evaluation) to see if there was an effect.

    Learning Engineering is definitely at thing at CMU/Pittsburgh. Herb Simon/Allen Newell back in the day spun up a whole cadre to work on measuring things. And it’s continued up to today.

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