Getting Ready to Author Digital Assets
If you have been assigned the role of authoring online learning materials (what we call "digital assets")—or you are considering whether or not to begin such a project—then this short course is for you! We have designed this course to illuminate some of the unique opportunities online learning environments provide students while, at the same time, alerting authors to the workload implications and the ways in which time and other resources are sometimes used inefficiently. We discuss cognitive principles as they apply to online learners, offer numerous design and development tips, share sample lessons and activities, and provide you with checklists and other handouts.
1. Welcome to GRADA
2. Before you begin
In this lesson, we provide some discussion prompts we recommend you review with your chair or supervisor before you formally begin authoring your digital assets. Sample items include intellectual property rights, decision-making authority, and assumed ongoing maintenance responsibilities.
In this lesson, we explain why jumping in and starting to author some of your content without having a high-level vision puts you at risk for completing more work than your project requires and diminishing your credibility as an author. We also discuss the benefits you, and your students, will enjoy if you solidify your vision of exactly what you want your students to feel and be able to do before you start actually building any content.
4. Designing online assessments
Although the types of assessments students complete online may differ from those they complete in a face-to-face environment, the planning steps are the same. In this lesson, we review how to plan for online assessments and then provide various online assessment options. We also list various types of quizzing questions, including some less familiar options.
Embedding short assessments throughout your assets can have a tremendous impact on your students’ learning. Adding frequent prompts that require students to retrieve information you just covered is an easy and effective way to boost students’ understanding of a concept and prevent them from believing they understand more than they actually do. In this lesson, we discuss how to use something called retrieval practice to improve learning and then show a few examples of retrieval practice in action.
5. Designing online content
6. Designing with multimedia
This lesson introduces a design framework to help ensure resources spent creating digital assets result in learning experiences that are valuable for students. Valuable assets are defined and an activity is presented that tests your ability to improve the design of sample assets based on best practices.
7. Pulling it all together
A full lesson from some grade 7 & 8 mathematics courseware is presented along with a summary of how various aspects of the design checklist are demonstrated in practice. It’s worth noting that this content was targeted to 12 and 13 year-old students so dynamic content and their associated multimedia principles were used more extensively than it is in many university-level projects.
A full lesson from a Master’s level History of Mathematics course is presented along with a summary of how various aspects of the design checklist are demonstrated in practice. In contrast to the Grades 7 & 8 materials, static content is the default with dynamic content being used more selectively.
One of the primary goals of this course is for authors to walk away having a good sense of the workload requirements for their project. Unfortunately, we haven’t found a surefire way to accomplish this task, as authors regularly underestimate how long authoring will take despite warnings to the contrary. We start this unit with two high-level tips that we strongly recommend you do whether or not you trust your planning skills in this area.