One should probably avoid drinking from a firehose

In my reading of the “5 common pitfalls”, #s 3-5 stood out to me as being a) quite interconnected and b) quite relevant to my biggest frustrations with the classes I’ve been teaching so far and the big opportunities I see for the hybrid format. All three of these involve developing course materials and assignments that are engaging (relevant to student interests and appropriate for their learning styles), interactive (student isn’t just a passive recipient of text/audio/video), and cooperative or collaborative (students work with and learn from each other and me).

The class I want to hybridize is a large lecture+lab course on environmental science. I feel pretty good about pitfalls 1 and 2 because I also teach (and therefore can borrow from) the online version of the course, which is pretty well designed, delivered, and received by the students (although it is in need of many updates and improvements itself, including areas relevant to all 5 topics). The on-campus classes I have stepped into are very traditional, sage-on-the-stage intro science lectures, and that is not a role that is comfortable for me. I would much prefer to act as a guide or mentor of students’ (more self-directed) learning processes. I love that about the online classes. I picture the hybrid format as the best of both worlds–I get to step off the stage and encourage students take ownership and (partial) navigation of their learning, but I get to supervise that a little more closely and intervene sooner when they are veering off-course than I do in the online courses.

The super-mega-pitfall that I see hiding in the shadows next to #s 3-5 is the work required to avoid those individual pitfalls. There is so much good information out there–pre-existing content and ideas/tools for creating good content)–and we’re learning about repositories and even curated collections of those materials in this course, but the amount of time needed to go through that material and customize the existing good stuff and develop new good stuff is really intimidating to me.  I am having a hard enough time keeping up with the existing courses without making changes, let alone overhauling them at the same time. (Note: this is a particularly challenging term for me with a new course and the most students ever. My energy and optimism will hopefully tick back up next term.)

The answer of course is to not drink from the firehose, but to go inside and turn the kitchen tap for an appropriate portion of water. In the case of course development, I suppose that means tackling one learning objective at a time.

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2 Responses to One should probably avoid drinking from a firehose

  1. leeseung says:

    It also came to my mind that time management will be an issue. Especially, when I read pitfall # 1 and 2, I thought that having a priority and keeping balances would be important. As images and visuals are critical in the delivery of course content in my class, sometimes I find myself spending hours just to find couple of right images.

  2. Kathy Mullet says:

    I really like the analogy of drinking from a firehose. I agree that that there is so much we are learning or can do it is overwhelming. I definitely recommend the one step at a time approach.

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