Thursday, 23 October 2008

Online Course Design Guide


Students will learn about the application of Stochastic Models in Systems Biology.


This course will enable students to:

  1. … use stochastic models from the literature.
  2. … build their own stochastic models within a development environment.
  3. … evaluate the effectiveness of their own models and those in the literature.

Design Principle

  1. Materials created must be better than/ add more to a textbook
    1. If not then we should use the textbook?
    2. Online readings are usually printed out and so reading materials should be supplied as hard copies (except where postal delays are an issue).

Media Choices

Students are paying a lot for the course, and have limited time for study and so:

  1. They need to see value for money;
  2. They have restricted access to resources – particularly libraries;
  3. They should not have a long reading list.

This suggests a single course text, supplemented by the use of primary resources and online content.

Darren Wilkinson has developed a similar module in Newcastle for their MSc programme. He has written a textbook based on the content of that face-to-face module. There are no other obvious alternatives except books of mathematical modelling that contain chapters on stochastic models.

Using a core text removes the need to put a large volume of material online.

The focus of the online materials should be learning support and student guidance. This will use;

  1. Guided readings from the text and primary literature.
  2. A wiki to build a collection of student knowledge and ideas – written in their own terms.
  3. Discussion boards for students to ask questions of tutors and to share answers.

Learning Support

Learning support will be provided by the online tutors who will act as e-moderators in the discussion boards. One tutor will be the course author and he will be assisted by another tutor who is familiar with stochastic models of biochemical systems.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Internal Review

We had an internal review meeting for the online stochastic modelling course and it became clear that the reviewers and the course developers had very different expectations. This means the plan needs to be better documented so that the reviewers can understand the perspective of the course developers. The reviewers are subject experts and from their point of view the course needs more content, but from a course implementation point of view this is not possible for pedagogical reasons as the course already tries to cover a large amount of material. To correct this problem we need to add more to the course specification and the implicit factors in the design need to be made explicit. To do this we need to write:

  1. A clear description of the audience for the course.
  2. A clearer course aim – this might be separate to the existing specification.
  3. A set of course objectives these could be distinguished from the learning outcomes of the specification.
    1. Sub-objectives should also be defined on a unit by unit basis.
  4. An outline of the content to describe how these objectives might be achieved.
  5. A description and justification of the media to be used.
  6. A discussion of learner support – the tutor requirements.
  7. A review of existing material – this will include the reasoning for choosing to base the course around a set text.