Consistent Structure from Course to Course
When I design FLT courses, I deliberately follow a consistent structure and format in order to reduce the learning curve for students as they proceed from course to course, to maintain a fairly consistent level of difficulty, and to facilitate my own development process. Every course is made up of twelve modules of new content with due dates on the same day each week, followed by two or three weeks of review and work on the most extensive assignments.
Modules consistently include:
- an overview page that explains the content and tasks of the module in text form,
- a lecture video in the form of a narrated slideshow,
- two or three readings from textbooks and scholarly journals,
- supplemental materials as needed,
- one or two discussion prompts, and
- links to the folders where they will submit assignments as needed.
I use different approaches to hold students accountable for reading and watching the module materials, so some courses also include a weekly quiz and/or cumulative reviews. Typically my courses have three or five major assignments, and each of these has its own folder on the course page that provides students with detailed guidelines, a rubric, and often graphic organizers or examples to support planning.
Asynchronous, but Highly Interactive
The MAFLT faculty have consistently found that asynchronous approaches to online instruction are most beneficial for our students, but I often include at least one live virtual meeting in which learners can present their work to their classmates, discuss their intentions, and get feedback. Although live meetings are rarely feasible, I offer other means of sharing work with peers including the discussions with a requirement to respond to each other, presentations that they record using screen sharing and recording software (according to tips and tutorials provided in the courses), group projects or peer review pairings at least once in each course, and a shared folder in Google Drive. Each course provides optional General Course Discussion threads that offer the students spaces to ask questions and share relevant news or materials that they find during the semester. Course pages in D2L follow a similar structure in each course, which always includes a box in the top right corner offering my name, my email, phone numbers where they can reach me at any time, a link for my ScheduleOnce site, and a link to my “personal meeting room” in Zoom, the video conferencing platform that I use for office hours and virtual meetings.
Interconnected and Complementary Content
Within this consistent framework that simplifies and streamlines the online learning experience, each course is designed to present content and tasks that complement the others. I tend to view FLT 807 Methods and FLT 860 F/SLA as appropriate courses for new students and use them to orient them to the program as well as to provide foundational content. Over time, I have modified assignments so that completing a task in one course should scaffold a similar task in a subsequent course (e.g., the activity designs in FLT 807 Methods to FLT 815 Culture). My Special Topics course has had three different forms. Reflective Teaching, taught in FS13, focused on reflective teaching and included journaling and action research. Literacy in a Foreign Language, taught in FS14 and FS15, offered a deeper investigation of reading and writing as communicative modes as well as broader issues in literacy and biliteracy. Sociolinguistics and Spoken Language, taught in FS16 and FS17, offered a comparable extension of methods in regard to speaking and listening modes as well as broader issues in language variation and language policy. The Experiential Module types that we suggest are in turn designed to build on tasks and content that students have encountered in their coursework. For example, action research projects can draw on the final assignment for FLT 860 F/SLA, ethnographic projects can draw on the final assignment for FLT 815, and materials and curriculum design projects should draw upon assignments in almost any course, including mine as well as Dustin’s FLT 881 Technology in FLT and FLT 817 Program Design and Administration.