Prototyping (OLDSMOOC W5)

Prototyping. Image used with permission http://www.flickr.com/photos/cannedtuna/6491204853/

Prototyping has been the subject of week 5 of the OU’s MOOC ‘Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum’ and I have taken a back seat.  The back seat in a long bus, watching the drivers down the front and my fellow passengers, some seemingly asleep but some being very energetic. (There are also some empty seats I notice).

In my last post I talked about pacing and timings and at the time of posting I was frantically trying to catch up on week 3 which I had spent on in Spain on holiday.  This week the demands of the MOOC have coincided with some real life e-learning tasks such as getting a project bid in to the Leadership Foundation, writing a workshop and training schedule for the rest of the semester and writing a planning document for my department. So not much time for prototyping.

My last experience of prototyping  was about nine years ago when I was working in the Middle East and we commissioned a well-known Indian company to create some interactive Flash learning objects to be used in our mathematics modules.

The software developers supplied us with storyboard templates – simple Word documents  – which we completed.  It was a very laborious process which was made more laborious because the developers were in India and we were in the UAE.  We couldn’t simply fudge something and think they would pop their head around the corner of our office when they got to that tricky part and ask for clarification.  The contract was quite tight if I remember rightly in that we were not supposed to ask for revisions after they made the applications unless they had failed to follow the instructions on the storyboards. 

None of us were Flash developers but the feeling amongst our team was that in the time it took us to storyboard the learning objects we could have taught ourselves Flash and made it ourselves.  This of course wasn’t true but conveys how tiresome the task was.

Anyway, the product was delivered and we took a look. Oh dear.   So many things were not as we wanted.  It did conform to the storyboards but we had sometimes made assumptions when we should have spelt it out and drawn more pictures.

I haven’t had to prototype since then, maybe because I have moved into a non scientific environment where we don’t seem to need custom-made products, maybe because I now favour using only things we can edit later.  (This was another issue with the Flash Mathematics program we commissioned, we had to pay for it to be modified).  But the main reason is that I now favour using Open Educational Resources and try to steer away from commissioning new applications.

In another position, at another institution, I might think differently but certainly where I am now this seems to make sense. Encourage the tutors to use only things they can create and modify themselves.

If I’d had more time to engage with Week 5  I might have heard that prototyping is used not only for teachers to talk to developers but for them to design their own learning activities, but alas I haven’t had time and don’t know what the latest thinking is.  I do know however, that if/when I need to consider prototyping there is a wealth of info on Cloudworks. Also, to return to my thoughts on pacing and timing, it may be that I will find time in a few weeks and decide to do week 5 then. I may be on an empty bus but hopefully will be able to pick up some stuff at the bus stops along the way from previous travellers.

So for week 5 of OLDSMOOC this is my learning journal.

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