I wanted to write a quick post outlining the process of a ‘course sprint’. I think this methodology can be of use to emerging groups of on-line educators creating open education resources (OERs). This course sprint process was inspired and informed by the Book Sprint process developed by Adam Hyde of FLOSS Manuals.
The course, ‘Look at Open Video’, was created for the School of Open at the Supermarkt as part of the Open Video Forum December 2012 in Berlin. The forum aimed to bring together participants interested in open video in the context of a euro-african culture and technology project Mokolo. The event was supported by xm:lab. For ongoing information on the project see ovf.xmlab.org.
One part of the Mokolo project is to create open educational resources (OER). Many of the participants at the OVF are part of a wide group of IT learning centres in Africa. There is currently limited incentive or resources for African IT Hubs to take up Free Software video solutions. There is a real need for resources which can be used to facilitate Hackathons using open video technology.
The end goal is the creation of an Open Video Handbook. However after discussions with the organisers, it was soon clear that this wasn’t possible within the time frame of the Open Video Forum.
I suggested that instead of create a course as part of the School of Open giving an introduction to the world of open video. The organisers readily agreed that this event could be a collaboration with Creative Commons. The goal of creating a course was realistic for a first iteration of open education resources for Mokolo. It was also a great way to spread the message of the project to a wider audience with the help of School of Open.
Course Sprint Process & Contents
While ‘iterative’ development is more often applied to writing code, it also makes perfect sense when generating documentation and educational resources. We can draw on the philosophy – “Improve code iteratively: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” - to rapidly create OERs to bring them to a state ready for feedback and improvement from a wider community of peers and educators.
The course in two parts. In the first half we took apart video files to investigate codecs and containers, get practical with sections on creating open video files and get into understanding and creating subtitles in an open and accessible way. In the second half, we took it much deeper with examples about using open video on the web, moving video metadata around and we dived into command line video manipulation and key-frame Datamoshing which is a surreal but fun way to learn about how digital video works (have a look at this is if this is the only thing you check out).
As mentioned, this course sprint process was inspired and informed by the Book Sprint process developed by Adam Hyde of FLOSS Manuals. Book Sprints create full books in 3-5 days with 6-10 participants in a very intensive process. For this situation, the outcome, commitment levels and timescale for the course sprint were different. This made a Book Sprint impossible – after all – this was happening over one weekend in Berlin!
The process of deciding our audience, structuring content and allocating the chapters to writers was accelerated into a two hour process. There are many processes used to help activities at these stages, and I’ll just outline one activity. By this stage you should have a clear idea of both the target audience of the course materials and how long your course can be in terms of chapters / tasks. We estimated we could complete a course of around 10 tasks over the weekend.
Developing a Matrix for your Table of Contents:
After a quick open discussion of the course material I give out several post-it notes. The notes were of two colours. Orange for big ideas and green for detailed ideas. Big ideas are chapters, sections and areas of knowledge. Green are smaller tasks, specifics and are rooted in detail. During the process I help participants get ideas flowing on to the notes and prevent them getting bogged down in details.
The notes are then collected and arranged at in a holding zone next to a matrix on the wall. I explain what the matrix means. The vertical axis indicates at what point should the material covered? Put it at the top of the matrix if it should go at the beginning of the course. The horizontal axis represents relevance to this project.
The next stage is to place all notes in the matrix. Place the note to the far left if you think it it is vital. Place it towards the right if you think it is not relevant to the target audience or can’t fit in this course.
To start the process I take notes at random and ask the group where they should go. After 10 mins of doing this as a group we moved to getting up close and personal to the notes, with everyone getting up and involved in placing notes on the matrix. When all notes are placed in the matrix, I encourage people to start grouping the notes into areas and to share the reasons for moving the notes around.
The matrix activity starts with people acting individually or as pairs and as it moves to end stages I encourage bigger group discussions. If we get bogged down I move things on to another area letting people know that this activity is just to get a general shape, not to decide a final table of contents.
As you can imagine this is a very quick way of both getting an overall shape of the course and getting a feeling of what stays in the course. I could go into details of how we got a final table of contents and how to help people not get stuck in details, but that’s a story for another time!
Feedback Process, Community and Assessment
I’ve found that the most valuable part of the process of creating a P2PU course is the feedback that you get from your peers as they try to complete the course. The review process is a good chance to pause for a bit and get your course licked into better shape before rolling it out to a wider audience.
To make it easier, there is a course review process being tested out by the School of Open – have a look at the review process.
The most direct help that you can give is to try out elements of the course, make comments on the tasks, try the assessment tasks. Then please report back the barriers you encountered, technical barriers, lack of resources, etc. What would make it easier for you to move forward? What extra encouragement would be useful? What is just too difficult for you? Are there tasks that are too long and would be better being broken down into smaller ones?
If you can, please help us out by reviewing the Look at Open Video Course! It’s ready for you here. Add your feedback as comments to tasks.
The P2PU course is the best place to give feedback but as it is also hosted on FLOSS Manuals it is available in many different formats.
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