Online Course Criticism Blog

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Pink's "Design" Aptitude

The first of Pink's six "senses" that he believes necessary for success in the Conceptual Age is "design." Design, as depicted by Pink, centers around the facilitation of experience by the artful creation of artifacts.

In Chapters 1 and 6 of Constructing Educational Criticism of Online Courses I make a similar connection between instructional experiences and instructional environments:

In online courses the virtual environment is distributed across multiple venues and includes the instructional experience arising from the interactions each learner has with other learners,instructor(s), and materials. There is an instructional experience that is unique to each individual, but there is also an aggregate instructional experience arising from all the interactions of all the individuals in the course. Although online courses exist at moments in time, the instructional experience and the broader learning environment produce artifacts that can be studied (Thompson, 2005, p. 101).

Pink's view of design privileges the visual arts (although consider his exploration of a design problem from the 2000 presidential election that a good technical writer or instructional designer could've avoided). Design is presented as a marriage between utility and significance.

In Chapter 3 I consider design as the dichotomy between arrangement and intent (or "description vs. design") that Belland,Duncan, and Deckman (1991) suggest:
"Criticism may provide insight into the unifying theme(s) and design(s) which help to hold [online courses] together in all [their] richness and complexity" (Belland, Duncan, and Deckman, 1991, p.157).

While a connoisseur/critic may be successful, based only on her experience and observations, in applying Eisner’s (1985, 1991) basic approach by describing the arrangement of elements within (and including) the “whole” of an online course, providing counterpoised interpretational perspectives on the arrangement, evaluating the educational value of the arrangement, and articulating themes arising from the arrangement, she can only infer the designer’s intent unless she is able to obtain information directly from the designer (Thompson, 2005, pp. 36-37).

Pink's "portfolio" exercises for cultivating an aptitude for design can be applied in the context of instructional experiences and environments as well.

A few examples:

1) The admonition to carry a notebook in which particularly well-designed instructional environments and experiences are reflected upon.

2) The "Put It On the Table" exercise, in particular, would be a rich source of such reflections.

3) Finally, Karim Rashid's quote on p. 92 could easily refer to the artifacts and experiences of instruction as a focusing mantra:

"Experience is the most important part of living, and the exchange of ideas and human contact is all life really is. Space and objects can encourage increased experiences or distract from our experiences."



References



Belland, J., Duncan, J., and Deckman, M. (1991). Criticism as Methodology for Research in Educational Technology. In D. Hlynka and J. Belland (Eds.), Paradigms Regained: The Uses of Illuminative, Semiotic and Post-Modern Criticism as Modes of Inquiry in Educational Technology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Eisner, E. (1985). The Educational Imagination: On the Design and Evaluation of School Programs. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

Eisner, E. (1991). The Enlightened Eye: Qualitative Inquiry and the Enhancement of Educational Practice. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

Thompson, K. (2005). Constructing Educational Criticism of Online Courses: A Model for Implementation by Practitioners. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Central Florida: Orlando, FL.

Friday, August 19, 2005

"A Whole New Mind" Necessary for Online Course Criticisms

I have been reading Dan Pink's book, "A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age" during the past week, and I am struck by the degree to which Pink's proposed aptitudes for success in today's "conceptual age" matches with my intent in creating the Online Course Criticism Model.

Using the old right brain/left brain dichotomy as a metaphor for two complementary approaches to thinking, Pink makes a business case for developing six aptitudes that will beef up the atrophied "right brains" most of us have so as to better complement our over-developed "left brains."

I'll post some reflections on the individual aptitudes (i.e., design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning) later on. Check out http://danpink.com for more.

Complete Dissertation

My complete dissertation includes the following sections:
  • Reading This Dissertation
  • Introduction
  • The Case for Connoisseurship
  • On Criticizing Online Courses
  • On Conducting Case Studies of Online Courses
  • The Lenses We Wear Determine What We See
  • Presenting the Online Course Criticism Model
  • Applying the Model
  • "Conclusion:" The Road Forward from Here

All frontmatter and backmatter are included as well.

Complete Dissertation [pdf size=2.61MB]

An Example Criticism

One example online course criticism is provided in Chapter 7 of my dissertation. I will stress that, although this example is consistent with the Online Course Criticism Model, this is only one way of writing an online course criticism. Other critics will undoubtedly produce criticisms that are different in style, tone, and organization depending upon their unique perspectives and the characteristics of the courses they study.

An Example Criticism [pdf size=598k]

Summary of the Model

The Online Course Criticism Model is summarized in Chapter 6 of my dissertation. As noted in the overview, the model includes a conceptual framework, procedural guidelines, and required elements for inclusion in the written criticism.

Summary of the Model [pdf size=751k]

Overview of Online Course Criticism

Online courses are complex, human-driven contexts for formal learning. We might want to study them in order to learn more about:

  • Essential components of online courses
  • Effectiveness of online courses relative to other modes of instruction
  • Best practices in instructional and management strategies of online courses


Studying online courses is fraught with challenges. This difficulty is exacerbated, however, by the fact that “online course” means different things in different contexts. The label is routinely applied to situations as varied as a traffic school course taken to avoid increased insurance premiums, a skill improvement tutorial available to U.S. Army tank drivers while deployed abroad, a certification course offered by a professional association to real estate agents, and an English course taken to complete a university’s degree program.


Online course criticism (Thompson, 2005), is a mode of inquiry that provides practicing online course professionals (e.g., instructors, administrators, instructional designers, etc.) with an approach that they can use to study online courses from a variety of contexts. A form of educational criticism in the tradition of Stanford curriculum scholar Elliot Eisner (1985, 1991), online course criticism depends upon the heightened perceptions of an expert practitioner and a rigorous qualitative research case study methodology as the bases for portrayal and appraisal of individual online courses. This rendering progresses in a narrowing spiral fashion. That is, the actual course is represented in a rich but limited description followed by progressively narrower treatments of interpretation, evaluation, and a few overarching themes. From the themes presented, readers may choose to generalize to other courses.


Individual online course criticisms are valuable in that they reveal some of the nuance and complexity that a connoisseur sees in specific online courses (what Stake, 2000, refers to as intrinsic case study). This is useful in that readers of criticisms who are not experienced with online courses (especially those whose opinions about online learning are influential) may become better informed. However, even greater value may be found in larger collections of online course criticisms from which more general patterns begin to emerge (comparable to Stake's conceptualization of instrumental case studies).


The Online Course Criticism Model includes:

  1. A conceptual framework for the rationale underlying online course criticisms
  2. Procedural guidelines for practitioners to follow in creating online course criticisms
  3. Required elements to be contained in the final written criticism


References

Eisner, E. (1985). The Educational Imagination: On the Design and Evaluation of School Programs. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

Eisner, E. (1991). The Enlightened Eye: Qualitative Inquiry and the Enhancement of Educational Practice. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

Stake, R. (2000). Case studies. In Denzin, N. and Lincoln, Y. (Eds). Handbook of Qualitative Research. Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA.

Thompson, K. (2005). Constructing Educational Criticism of Online Courses: A Model for Implementation by Practitioners. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Central Florida: Orlando, FL.

Welcome to the Online Course Criticism Blog

This is the companion blog to the Online Course Criticism Model web site. (The web site was getting lonely, so I decided to get it a friend.) [Update Note: The web site has now been replaced by this blog entirely.]

Actually, I was beginning to get comments about the Online Course Criticism Model, and the web site is not set up to deal with comments/questions from visitors. This blog is.

So....

Ask/comment away!!!