I am excited about the class this semester on developing online courses.
The course I would like to develop would be for either a college class, or with increased readings, a graduate class for preservice teachers or teachers. My idea is a little different from any of the classes taught at Kent. The class I develop will be called something like “The 21st Century Classroom.” In this course the learning goal for the student to create a presence online using the main 21st century tools: website, blog, wiki, RSS, even twitter and social bookmarking. Many of those tools are taught in courses I am taking, however, none of the courses I have taken at Kent bring them together. We would read on why these tools are useful and then we will put together a website that incorporates everything together. When the student finishes my course, the goal is for them to have their own website, linked to these other tools, useful for their first/existing class. It won’t be all tools; there will be learning outcomes as well.
The first thing I am struggling with is the website. The website needs to be easy enough to produce for non technical students and students without any website training. Also, since most teachers haven’t had any training in design, the website should have some built-in design templates. In the other classes I’ve been in, most of the teacher/students use Blogger or wikis to create their projects. Neither of these programs have well designed templates. I wanted to use Blogger because it is completely free, but it is very limited in what it can do and the templates are, well, ugly.
I think that the look of the website is important. It’s the difference in dressing in a nice suit and dressing in a mismatched shirt and tie with shorts. People tend to take the suit more seriously.
Therefore, I have chosen WordPress as the website students will use for their project. Although in my course we will all use the same theme, WordPress has thousands of beautiful themes that students can explore and use after the class is over. This takes most of the burden of design off the students so they can focus on content.
Another reason I chose WordPress is because there are some really good (from beginner to expert) tutorial videos on WordPress, as well as support forums and online tutorials that are very helpful. Therefore, more technically challenged students will have some training if they choose to use it.
WordPress is free, but it has some drawbacks. The main drawback is that the free version will place ads on the site. (Someone has to pay for all the support and the templates.) The user can have the ads removed, but it costs almost $30 a year to do so. I, myself, pay the $30 and find the price worth it but I realize students may choose to live with the ads. I don’t think WordPress overdoes it though. WordPress also offers other “upgrades” in their store that students may use in the future. On my personal blog, I pay $12 a year to use maryannesays.com instead of maryannesays.wordpress.com.