Authoring case-study

Michael Record runs a popular Technical Authoring evening class at Broward Community College in For Lauderdale, Florida. He’s using a very effective mix of online and classroom teaching to do it, which he’s very kindly given me permission to profile here.

The core of the course is the course blog. There is one entry per week, telling the students what to expect in the next class. Michael also uses the blog as a handy access point for essential downloads and links.

Each lesson starts with a quick Yacapaca test of between four and fourteen questions about the previous week’s content. Here’s the start-of-course quiz. Michael points out:

I don’t know how much sense my questions will make to outside observers. They tend to reflect points I want to emphasize, points that were important to my textbook’s author, and points specific to assignments I created.

I certainly had no trouble following it, though it clearly is his own course and not something you could just pick up and teach from. If I were teaching a similar course here in the UK, I guess I could re-use somewhat more than half half Michael’s questions and save myself a lot of work.

Another interesting point from the UK perspective is that Michael is following the Mastery teaching principle:

I also think it notable to offer this–the weekly Yacapaca tests are not linked to the students’ grades. Teaching is a recursive process to me. I teach, assess, and reteach, until students master content. Their grade is based on the final mastery of the content, not on how much of last week’s class they can recall during the first ten minutes of this week’s class. Yacapaca is invaluable for providing me a snapshot of what has been mastered and what needs to be retaught.

Note the word ‘snapshot’. This is a word I hear repeatedly in the context of Yacapaca. Multiple-choice tests, especially, deliver assessment results quickly without getting in the way of your teaching. But don’t expect them to give you a deep understanding of a student’s inner being.

One of the really cheering things for me is the way Michael continually tweaks both the course and the assessment:

Since I am constantly revising and improving my syllabus, the content changes slightly from semester to semester. In a typical week, I’ll use 7 questions from the previous semester’s test and write three new ones. This way the weekly test is a true assessment of whether students mastered the material from the week before.

I say ‘cheering’ because Michael is exploiting one of the unique features of Yacapaca. When we first decided to store questions separately from quizzes, I knew we were making the system more complicated than it absolutely had to be, just to knock out a quick quiz. I reasoned that over time, authors would want to reuse questions in different combinations, and that when they did they would appreciate the extra flexibility this approach offers. This is exactly how Michael is using Yacapaca.

The course tests are grouped into two semesters, which you can see here (Yacapaca login required)

You will also find them in the English category. Do remember when looking at these that the course blog explains the material being covered, and each quiz covers the previous week’s content.

Two final points, at the risk of stating the obvious:

  • This was all done on zero budget, using resources (Yacapaca and the WordPress blogging system) that cost nothing except time.
  • Like most readers of this blog, Michael is a professional teacher, not a writer or professional author.

Click to enlarge

9 thoughts on “Authoring case-study

  1. It’s really interesting following the blog and seeing how the author explains the course to students in bite-sized chunks. Especially as this is an evening class and it’s often hard to motivate students to turn up by mid-term. My problem at St Mary’s isnt getting them to turn up, it’s getting them to focus on a result thats up to 2 years away. Still wondering how best to do that – after 13 years of teaching!

    Reply
  2. Looks good – but would be even better written using the e-portfolio system. Translates quite nicely into this arena and gives students a single port of call. I have quickly knocked up and example. Log into yacapaca (from student login) with username ‘belvedere’ password ‘academy’ and select e-portfolio.

    I have written a couple of complete UK NC units this way and it works fairly well. We also have started using moodle and will be placing moodle links into the e-portfolio text for blogs etc.

    Reply
  3. That’s really cool, Mark! I edited your post to emphasise that you need to log in from the student login page yacapaca.com not as teacher, hope that was OK. I like the way you set up a dummy student so we can all see this.

    Reply
  4. It’s really interesting following the blog and seeing how the author explains the course to students in bite-sized chunks. Especially as this is an evening class and it’s often hard to motivate students to turn up by mid-term. My problem at St Mary’s isnt getting them to turn up, it’s getting them to focus on a result thats up to 2 years away. Still wondering how best to do that – after 13 years of teaching!

    Reply
  5. Looks good – but would be even better written using the e-portfolio system. Translates quite nicely into this arena and gives students a single port of call. I have quickly knocked up and example. Log into yacapaca (from student login) with username ‘belvedere’ password ‘academy’ and select e-portfolio.

    I have written a couple of complete UK NC units this way and it works fairly well. We also have started using moodle and will be placing moodle links into the e-portfolio text for blogs etc.

    Reply
  6. That’s really cool, Mark! I edited your post to emphasise that you need to log in from the student login page yacapaca.com not as teacher, hope that was OK. I like the way you set up a dummy student so we can all see this.

    Reply
  7. Definitely the way to go. I,ve tried using the e-portfolio, just as a trial with Year 10 students and after seeing these examples it has renewed my enthusiasm to take this further but in a simpler way. Congratulations to those who are blazing the trail and showing us how effective this resource can be.

    Reply
  8. Pingback: The Online Resume of Michael J. Record | Michael J. Record, MS

  9. Pingback: Web 2.0 » Professional Development Day at BCC

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