Ever wonder why it is more difficult to remember long strings of information than shorter bits? For over 50 years, studies have suggested that our ability to accurately recall information is capped at about seven numbers or items (Miller, 1956) If we break up the information into little packets, or chunks, we are more capable of remembering greater amounts of information (Simon, 1974). For example, remembering a number such as 5138675309 is much easier when broken into chunks, i.e. 513-867-5309. More current research suggest that our limits may be closer to four chunks of information (Cohen, 2001).
When developing courses at CDL, the Curriculum and Instructional Design team strives to organize information to allow learners to easily access the information in a way that enables them to recall it better. Key to our course models, like the Hassenger and the Humanities Model, is organizing information in amounts that are easy to recall. For example, a quick overview to a given chapter or course module can act as a roadmap for students, and serve to reinforce their learning experience throughout.
Implicit within our courses is this type of underlying structure, or template, which encourages course organization into four to seven course modules, or chunks. This makes the content easier to access and recall and can assist or even improve learning. The Humanities course model also offers various modalities of presentation, so the learner can choose which presentation of the material best fits his or her learning style.
In the Communications for Professionals
course, a professional, collaborative online environment is created to challenge students to tap into their existing knowledge and experiences, and incorporate newly learned skills when presenting themselves in a professional venue. It is intended to build self-confidence and professionalism into their communications.
This activity is designed to encourage participatory learning. The course instructor is charged with channeling the students interests and aptitudes into a more professional focus. By molding online and collaborative abilities and interests into academic pursuits, an authentic learning environment is created. While focusing on discipline-specific learning goals, the instructor scaffolds the learners through a series of activities that increase in complexity, thus shepherding the development of higher-order thinking skills.
Scaffolding activities: A series of role-play introductions to specific work environments, where each work environment is introduced by a first -and report from current employees and business owners (via video).
Collaborative social environment: A course blog was created specifically for the course, while also being open to the academic community. By placing the students in a collaborative social environment like a blog and scaffolding the activities, the students can role-play authentic learning activities.
One simple rule to follow when working on the web is that if we can increase the ease of access to something, we can automatically increase its use. Building on this idea, we can make the learning environment even easier for our students to participate in and succeed.
In the course Communications, Technology, and Convergence, we embed a webpage directly within a discussion page. Originally, the design of the activity required the students to open another browser window or tab, download a pdf reader, and toggle between pages to participate. All of this took away time and interfered with the students’ ability to seamlessly progress through the activity.
By embedding the page within a discussion webpage, students can refer to the paper instantly without leaving the activity. This allows the students to focus wholly on the content of the article, and how it relates to the questions proposed in their discussion section. And, with one click, they can print and/or view the paper in full screen mode.
The Global Workplace: Its Impact on Employers, Workers, and Their Organizations
The Global Workplace course examines recent global trends, especially the transformative effects of information technology and the increasing importance of service work on the economy.
Students participate in several class discussions to establish an informed position on some of the issues of the global workplace. Using posts from every discussion, the course instructor creates an image using Wordle, a free wordcloud generator, and posts the link to the wordcloud for students to see each week.
Before the end of each learning module, students are able to visualize those thoughts, ideas, concepts and themes generated through their discussion participation. The word collages therefore become evocative of the most pressing and controversial issues in the global economy today.
In foreign language courses at CDL, we encourage students to interact with visual content in order to immerse them in the language by providing context and meaning to their learning experiences.
The traditional ‘flash card’ approach to teaching and learning foreign language relies primarily on memorization and subsequent translation. Through the use of visual and dynamic content (shown above), instructors and students can rely on ostensive learning. That is, students are able to manipulate and change visual images in order to learn, define and translate any given vocabulary word or phrase.
The use of visual tools can augment the curriculum of any language course by offering students a chance to interact with the language, and derive meaning through the provision of familiar context.
The fall of the Berlin Wall.
Privacy, Security and Freedom: Social Concerns for the 21st Century is a course that explores the sociological and philosophical aspects of privacy, security and freedom in the 21st Century in the context of both theoretical and practical, policy-oriented aspects of these social concerns. To that end, one course exercise requires students to develop a hypothetical scenario on a security issue — school security or computer network security — and a policy that addresses the concerns raised by the scenario. Students choose one of the two options and then work in teams to develop the scenario and the policy.
First, the teams meet in their own discussion areas to share research results and to reach consensus on details of the scenario. Each group then begins the collaborative writing of the scenario in Buzzword, an online word processing tool that allows multiple users to edit the document at the same time (or not). These documents are then posted and each team can review and comment on the other’s submissions.
Next, the teams develop the security policy. They return to their designated discussion area and again share research and reach consensus on a policy approach that, in their opinion, will best address the issue. The teams return to Buzzword and fashion a new document, working collaboratively, until all agree it is ready to be submitted to the instructor. Each team can review and comment on the other’s submissions.
This activity not only gives students an opportunity to apply in a practical way the sociological and philosophical aspects of security they have studied, they also have the opportunity to work as a team, including all the real-life implications of developing policy with people who may not have a single shared perspective.
From an introductory Algebra course, an activity based on the mathematics of weight loss encourages students to reflect on the relationships inherent in linear equations. As students gather and evaluate data from a given set, they are also asked to predict future values, observe potential erros, reflect on their results and consider how certain conditions can produce a different (and possibly unexpected) outcome. Students are also asked to synthesize their previous assumptions about the data with their newly acquired knowledge, which ultimately highlights one of the most important applications of mathematics: Creating models of real world processes and events. By asking students to think of mathematical models as general solutions to problems, the models can then be reused to solve any number of problems – even those outside the world of mathematics.
In this course, Geology and the Environment, the final course module offers students a choice of two different types of capstone assignments to complete by the end of the term. Students choose to participate in either the Lifestyle Project, or to write a research paper. The Lifestyle Project requires students to turn in a journal each week, in which they collect and analyze data about their own lifestyles and the impact of their lifestyle choices on the environment. Each student chooses three different categories of behavior in which they are interested in changing their habits: The use of electricity, water, heat or automobiles, food types and consumption rates, waste production, and environmental awareness. Each week, one category is addressed with the goal of reducing environmental impacts through a gradual but definitive change in everyday habits. Each week, the project becomes more rigorous as students the demands of each category increase.
This course, Energy: the Issues and the Science, includes an overview of the physics of energy. A number of animations are created to graphically illustrate some of the scientific concepts of physics, many of which students might feel are abstract. Concrete explanations of potential, kinetic, and rotational energy are provided via graphic animations, with the goal of increasing students’ understanding of each concept and establishing relationships between course concepts. Upon starting each animation, the student hears narration that accompanies the action of the graphic. The animations can be viewed as many times as the student deems necessary.
Discovering Math Across Generations is a course designed to give adults an opportunity to expand mathematical understanding and problem solving capabilities using a learner-centered approach.
This course asks students to work with a math partner age 6-12 years of age throughout the course term. By teaching their partners, the student will be able to deeply process, understand and master math topics such as algebra, geometry, number sense, logical thinking, probability and statistics.
Students also rely on a learning style survey and participate in reflective journaling throughout the term. The course offers constant choices from allowing students to select learning activities that meet their individual needs and interests to determining which online tutorials and resources should be explored to create their own learning path. The survey:
1. Allows each student to determine their dominant style of learning,
2. Demonstrates which learning strategies should be employed to ensure success, and
3. Highlights which study skills and problem solving skills should be embraced.
The use of a social networking site, delicious.com, provides an opportunity for each student to search, store, organize and share links related to their particular learning style and math-related needs for use during and beyond the course term.