This post was written by Susan Gedutis Lindsay, Associate Director of Instructional Design in the Digital Learning Department.
There are many—dare I say “innumerable”—ways to organize digital learning materials to support student learning. The structure you choose should be driven by the learning goals that you set for the student. As a result, your course design will vary, depending on whether you are teaching a performance topic, a technical topic, or a historical topic. Right now, we are working with liberal arts professor Kate Dacey to create an online Rock History course for Fall 2014 and she has chosen a great lesson structure worth sharing.
Before Kate wrote a single word for the course, we worked together to design a consistent structure from lesson to lesson. This has made the writing process easier and more straightforward for her, but also will make the learning process consistent for the student once the course is offered next Fall. It can be hard for students to create mental structure in virtual space. Using a consistent lesson structure helps them to navigate that often-challenging virtual classroom by ensuring that they know exactly what they will do and what is expected of them every week.
Here’s an overview of how Kate has organized every lesson of her 14-lesson Rock History course. It serves as an excellent model for how to organize digital learning materials on ol.berklee.edu, as these ideas of consistent lesson structure can be used for online, blended, or even on-ground courses.
ROCK HISTORY: LESSON STRUCTURE
Every lesson will follow a similar structure. Each numbered item below represents a page of the lesson. There are 14 lessons total, with approximately 10-12 pages of text, images, audio, and video per lesson.
1. OVERVIEW OF LESSON PLAN AND MAIN OBJECTIVES
Author presents a 300(ish)-word overview of the lesson, which combines information from the book as well as additional material that the book has left out. Author’s overview focuses on issues, ideas and trends. In combination, the media team will create a 3-5 minute video “time capsule” of the period, focused on events and artists.
- OBJECTIVES – These are listed on the introduction page, telling the student what they will be able to do by the end of lesson.
- READING ASSIGNMENT – For each lesson, the student reads one chapter of the course text, as well as possible additional readings where required.
For each lesson, a timeline page will emphasize important events, recordings, and people mentioned in the textbook.
3-5. READING OVERVIEW AND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Following the timeline, the students read 1-3 pages of online text that highlights and amplifies important concepts covered—or in some cases not covered—in the reading. These pages are intended to be chock full of images, audio, and archival video where possible. Titles of these pages include “Timeline Spotlight,” “In Their Own Words,” and “Rock Pioneers,” the latter of which highlights specific artists of the period.
6. SONIC VAULT
In every lesson, the Sonic Vault includes brief definitions of important terms and concepts presented in that lesson, supplemented with rich media (images, streaming, audio and video). In Chapter 1, for example, the following terms benefit from such an interactive presentation:
- Jump blues (jump band music)
- Doo-wop (vocal harmony groups)
- Chicago blues
- Tin Pan Alley
A brief quiz assesses students’ ability to identify and/or define key terms and apply them to the discussion of music. Completing the quiz is a prerequisite for accessing the discussion and musical analysis sections.
8. DISCUSSION QUESTION
Discussion questions are intended to spark student thinking about the meaning of what they read, express their opinions on topics being covered, and explore the topics more deeply by actively writing about their thoughts and impressions.
9. MUSICAL ANALYSIS
The final section of each lesson consists of in-depth musical analyses of one or more recordings from the period, including a PDF and a narrative analysis. (Whenever possible, the course focuses on music mentioned in the text.) In Chapter 1, for example, the textbook authors discuss Goodnight Irene, Choo Choo Ch’Boogie, and Love and Marriage in detail, and Hoochie Coochie Man, Have Mercy Baby, Hound Dog, Hey Good Lookin’ and Cold, Cold Heart in passing. (Many of these recordings are also covered in Sonic Vault section.) The goal is to highlight distinctive harmonic, melodic, rhythmic, and timbral features of the recordings, using nomenclature from the Berklee harmony and arranging curriculum.
10. WEEKLY ASSIGNMENT
In each lesson, students do one of the following, depending on the requirements of the content:
- Write a brief essay (ca. 250-300 words) analyzing a primary source document.
- Write a brief essay (ca. 250-300 words) analyzing a recording.
- Create a listening guide for a recording discussed in the text.
- Compile a bibliography or discography for a performer, songwriting team, or band.
- Submit an outline, prospectus, or preliminary bibliography for the required term paper.
A summary page reviews where they have been and prepares them for where they are going.
For more information on how to build your own course site, check out CTMI’s Inside Berklee Courses Resource Center.
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