Planning Media for Your Course – April 2018 Online Learning Webinar

by Christine Scherer

Instructional Technologists Aaron Bannasch hosted the April Online Learning Webinar to demonstrate ways to plan to create media for your course. If you have a question about creating media for your course, contact distanceeducation@northwestern.edu.

The text outline for the webinar is provided in this post and you can view the archive of the webinar by visiting the Blue Jeans recording.

Before you begin

Creating something new, even if it is only partly new, is a process. If all you want is something that is already fully formed, and that thing already exists elsewhere, there may not be a reason to recreate it; use the fully formed thing instead. However, if you have looked and not found something that fits your needs, you may have to begin a creative process. In this webinar, I will talk about creating assets for your course site. Some assets may fit an existing model or template, and for this reason, it is easy to standardize an approach to creating them and budget time and resources. This webinar does not cover the creation of assets that fit an existing template, such as traditional video lectures. Other assets may not have an apparent final form when you begin, so for these, you should follow the suggestions described in this webinar.

Why create an outline?

The creation of any type asset for your course site will require an outline of the significant details that you want to include. An outline does not have to be a list of text, although that is sometimes the most convenient or familiar way to begin. You could choose to sketch an idea on the back of a napkin, or in a favorite notebook, or on the whiteboard in your office. To help get started with your outline, you can share a simpler form of your idea with your team. Many industries use terms such as “elevator pitch” or “one-liner” to succinctly describe an idea, justify it to others, or determine if someone is interested in your idea. You can start by sharing your elevator pitch or one-liner with your team and then move on to a more detailed outline.  The purpose of creating an outline is to place the work of thinking about the thing you want to create on the front end, so the task of assembling it becomes easier. You don’t build a skyscraper by showing up at a vacant lot with a load of steel, glass, and concrete and start putting pieces together; you start at a drafting table and make a detailed blueprint. The great thing about working with digital media is that, unlike a blueprint for a skyscraper, the first draft and the final creation can have almost the same utility, so in some cases, you can save yourself from most if not all of the work of building the final output.

Filling in details using a rapid prototyping tool

Most likely, your initial outline will need additional detail and iterative refinement. This is something you can do on your own, but if you’re working with a team on a course development process you can ask others to help with these tasks. When creating a detailed outline, choose a tool that works well for you and your team to share versions and drafts with each other and to provide feedback. This might be a simple Word document, a PowerPoint presentation, a whiteboard in a conference room, a sketchpad, an email conversation, or some combination of those or other tools. The important part is that you can use the tool or tools consistently, that they are available to everyone involved, and that you can keep track of versions for when you need to go back and review the progress you’ve made with each iteration. Also, the tools you use for your prototype should support the different needs of your asset. If your asset needs to have visuals, use a visual tool. If your asset needs spoken narration or text instructions, use a tool that is good for editing text. If your asset is time-based, use tools to estimate or measure the amount of time of the various parts. If your asset is nonlinear or has multiple ways to interact, you’ll likely need a tool that is capable of mapping complex decision paths. It may not be apparent at the beginning of the creative process, but working with your team you can reveal these potential needs.

Some questions you might ask as a team during each feedback session could be: Does this outline align with course learning objectives? Does it convey the concept accurately? Are there parts that confuse you? At this point, does the outline make you think of any potential medium you would recommend for the final creation?

Depending on the amount of time you have to work on creating an asset your team may be able to provide multiple rounds of feedback. There should be at least one of feedback before moving on to building a prototype, but the more you can afford the better the final creation will be. Keep in mind that an acceptable form of feedback could be to halt the production entirely; a created asset may be good enough for student use as a simple text description and simple sketch.

Choosing a more sophisticated tool

During your iterative feedback sessions, you or your team may start to have ideas about what the final creation could look like and what tools could be used to create it. When you have a detailed outline, script, or storyboard that the team agrees on you can then convert that into a more sophisticated final creation. Depending on the type of creation, you may need to be involved in some of the tasks. Or, if it’s something the other members of your team can complete on their own you can choose to participate only in occasional feedback or feedback on the final creation. Most likely, if you created a detailed outline, the process of putting everything together should be automatic. However, the process of actually building the final creation can introduce new choices that couldn’t have been decided on during earlier drafts. This is why every part of the creative process is collaborative and iterative, but it is also why agreeing early on with your team on what is an acceptable final creation is so important.

Advantages of a detailed outline

The advantages of using a detailed outline, especially when creating an asset that you determine early on will use a specific format or tool, is that you can be simultaneously building the final creation as you iterate the drafts of your detailed outline. The example I will use in this webinar will be a Panopto video with a certain amount of segments. I can use the features of Panopto, such as the table of contents and presentation timeline to plan my creation. I can outline the entire Panopto video using the table of contents, and then add descriptive detail to each segment of the Panopto video. The overall description for the video can be my elevator pitch or one-liner. Potential questions or activities within the detailed content of each segment can become prompts for connected assessments. References to external sources can become links. A well made Panopto video can start with an elevator pitch, grow into an outline, be filled in with additional detail, and then enhanced with visuals, citations, and assessment activities. This isn’t the only way to create an asset, and you may choose to start with a different component, such as an assessment activity or a visual aid, and expand your creation from there. However, if you are seeking to optimize your creative process for convenience and simplicity, fitting into an existing structure can help eliminate potentially unnecessary components and reduce the number of decisions you and your team need to make.



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