Monthly Archives: November 2013

Top-Down Course Project Planning: Specific Learning Objectives

Tying objectives to modules, topics, activities and discussions…after the fact…represents “Bottom-up” course design.

What you  need to implement to save time and increase success measures is “Top-down” course design. Such a strategy would…

  • Ensure that students’ learning experiences relate to Specific Objectives
  • Ensure that all Specific Objectives receive priority and focus during the semester
  • Require you to connect learning activities to objectives before assignments could be published
  • Require you to assess individual students’ progress towards mastery of each objective
  • Flag for attention and prompt teaching and learning changes in your course delivery when student performance lags

Top-down planning matches professional project management “Best Practices.” Think of each course as a “Project.”

Top-down planning also separates Specific Learning Objectives from grades…and requires “Evidence-Based” performance standards.

Build every course from a Specific Learning Objectives framework, and filter every lecture, assignment and activity to ensure a direct connection to course SLOs.

Allow Students to Choose Personally Relevant Homework Assignments

One Assignment List fits None

A personalized, tailor-made curriculum is where online learning is headed.

The Learning Management System (LMS) that is first to market a viable solution will score big.

But, requiring an instructor to develop content tracks for 30 to 150 plus students a semester will never happen.

The Learning Management System (LMS) must provide a path for students to self-develop and tailor their own learning.


An example

Our case study, online Elementary College Spanish courses, use an eBook and online service, iLRN Quia.

Student activities include work related to the eBook textbook, and to the Electronic Student Activities Manual (eSAM).

But students come to Elementary College Spanish with divergent backgrounds…

  • Heritage speakers – fluent in an American dialect
  • Students fluent in “Spanglish”
  • Students who attended, maybe mastered, High School Spanish
  • Students from Latino households who understand some of the language, but don’t speak Spanish
  • Students who know little or no Spanish

Why should students in each category complete the same assignments?

There are more activities than any student, even a student rated at the Advanced Plus Proficiency could complete. (Of course, there would be no need for an Advanced-Plus level student to complete any of these activities.)

What the savvy instructor does is select activities to be graded as homework. But, the student is free to pick activities from the list.

Grading Algorithm

Grading relies on an algorithm…

Students receive scores for two sections of the homework…

  1.  The eBook activities
  2. The eSAM activities

Students may also complete other activities, but these remain upgraded.

Scoring the Homework…

The iLRN Quia system corrects the homework.

Students receive points based upon the percentage of homework they complete from the eBook section and the eSAM sections of each chapter.

Students target achieving a combined score of 150 points out of the 200 points possible…from any combination of the two sections. Any scores lower than 150 points are prorated.

This allows students the flexibility of picking the homework assignments that suits them.

A locked spreadsheet allows students to plug in their textbook activities score and their eSAM homework activities score to see the homework grade that they earn.

This way, students avoid the tedium of completing assignments if they do not need practice with a specific topic.

Allowing students to self-select homework activities from a Homework Activities Pool…providing self-correcting assignments…and providing a self-serve grade calculator delivers homework flexibility that students tailor to their needs.


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