A Friendly Guide to your Blueprint

Rather than jumping in and developing your course piece by piece, we request that you begin by creating a map of what your course will look like as a whole. We call this map the blueprint.

Your blueprint is a catch-all tool. It holds all module topics, assignments, assessments and resources that you plan to use in the course. In the unlikely case that there is an interruption to the course development process, it is important that an expert can pick up your blueprint and continue working from it.

As you create your blueprint, aim for a student workload of 7-10 hours per week. If you wish to determine how long it may take students to complete certain tasks, please refer to the Student Workload Calculator (developed at Massey University in New Zealand).

Below, I will walk you through some of the major elements of the blueprint, including:

  1. Learning Outcomes,
  2. Assessments, including rubrics,
  3. Learning Activities,
  4. Learning Resources, including Open Educational Resources and
  5. Copyright.

1. Begin With the End in Mind: Learning Outcomes

Start by organizing your content into distinct sections. For example, you may decide to break your course into several modules or units, each consisting of weekly lessons and topics.

For each topic, it is important to develop learning outcomes. Learning outcomes define what students need to:
  • Know,
  • Do, and
  • Value

after having completed your course.

Learning outcomes are specific, relevant, measurable, student-centered statements describing the knowledge, skills and attitudes you want learners to take away.

A popular tool for writing effective learning outcomes is based on the work of Benjamin Bloom. Though more than half a century old, Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning can be an invaluable resource during your design process.

Blooms Revised Taxonomy.gif

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy. From http://www.edudemic.com/blooms-taxonomy/

For a more in-depth discussion about writing effective learning outcomes and using Bloom’s taxonomy, please turn now to “Writing Powerful Learning Outcomes” which can be found under the //Planning 4: Learning Outcomes// tab.

2. Assessments: Show What and How You Know
You have learned in “Writing Powerful Learning Outcomes” that assessments are optimal when they arise out of learning outcomes. Hence for every learning outcome, create at least one assessment that allows you to measure the degree of the learner’s mastery.

When developing assignments distinguish if they are for a formative or summative evaluation purpose:

  • Formative Evaluation: This evaluation provides students opportunities to provide evidence of what they know, can do or value at specific times during the course. Instructors provide feedback to guide students towards further understanding and skill development throughout the course. Formative evaluation tools include readings, self-graded quizzes, discussions, videos, chapter questions, case studies, and so forth.

  • Summative Evaluation: Among the most common summative evaluation tools are the final exam or the final project. Summative evaluations provide evidence that students know, can do or value what has been taught.

Our courses usually have a Final Exam or a Final Project, but it is not mandatory to provide a Final Exam. There are no parameters as to the weighting of a Final Exam.

It is reasonable to have 4-6 tasks students hand in to their Open Learning Faculty Member for marking over the whole course. Put another way, Open Learning Faculty Members can be expected to mark 4-5 hours per student per course.

Rubrics Create Clarity
Students like to know what it takes to get an A. Instructors appreciate well-deigned marking criteria. Rubrics are an ideal tool to fulfill both parties’ needs for clarity.

Blackboard Learn as a built-in rubric tool that allows us to create custom rubrics for all the formative and summative assignments in your course. To view examples and to learn more about rubrics, please visit iRubric at http://www.rcampus.com/indexrubric.cfm.

3. Learning Activities: The Pathway to Fulfilling Learning Outcomes

After having committed your learning outcomes to paper, the next step is to design learning activities, graded and non-graded ones, that set students up for successfully reaching the desired learning outcomes.

You may be wondering what learning activities are available to you in an online or distance environment. The good news is that thanks to an abundance of user-friendly and mostly free technology it is now possible to design e-learning activities that are at least on par with their classroom-based counterparts and are in some instances actually superior.

The guide, Tools for Effective Online & Distance Learning & Teaching: Discovering What’s Possible (under the tab Inspiration 2 - eLearning Tools), was designed to inspire you to create relevant and innovative learning activities for your course. Check it out if you have not already done so.

Learning activities may include creating/engaging with:
Graphic images
Blogs and wikis
Surveys and polls
Study notes and tools
Board/card games
Digital storytelling
Art activities
TV/video projects
News and current events
Mind maps
Word clusters
Field Trips
Online presentations
Consulting Reports

Have fun creating.

When you are ready to capture your ideas in a structured thinking space, write them up in The Blueprint//.//

4. Selecting Learning Resources

Course resources typically include textbooks, journal articles, audio recordings, videos, maps, simulations and other multimedia resource.

Please Consider Open Educational Resources (OERs)

In 2001, MIT was one of the first universities to provide course syllabi and content under an open license to anyone, anywhere in the world who was interested in what they had to offer. Soon many other universities followed. The Open Courseware Consortium is now a repository for all courses currently available for free from universities from around the globe, including MIT, Tufts, University of California at Irvine, University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins. You may find a course, similar to yours from which to glean ideas and resources. Do a quick search at www.OCWConsortium.org and discover what's available.

Over the years this idea of "free learning" morphed into what we now know as Open Educational Resources. OERs are open licensed courses, textbooks, journal articles, images, audio and video files that are available for free, with no strings attached, to instructors and students alike. In the first two months of 2014, BC students saved a total of $50,000 thanks to professors choosing open textbooks for their courses (reference: http://open.bccampus.ca/2014/01/10/a-great-start-to-2014-open-textbook-project-saves-b-c-students-over-50000/).

More free textbooks are added continuously. By the end of 2014, open textbooks will be available for the 40 highest enrolled post-secondary subject areas in British Columbia. For a current update, please regularly check the BC Campus Open Ed website at http://open.bccampus.ca/find-open-textbooks/?subject.

For a brilliant summary, visit TRU Library's Introduction to OERs.

In 2015 UNESCO published "A Basic guide to Open Educational Resources."

Please Visit our TRU Library

The TRU library boasts an impressive collection of online journals and ebooks. In fact, it offers:

"250,000 books; 51,000 e-books; 13,000 videos, 30,000 periodicals; 90 article databases; and an extensive collection of government documents, pamphlets, microforms and audiovisual materials. Resources and services are accessible through the Web as well as by email, phone, fax, mail or in person." (http://www.tru.ca/distance/services/resources/library_services.html).

When choosing journal articles or book chapters for your course please check to make sure that they are available in the TRU library so students can use our in-house resources as much as possible. This can save Open Learning a considerable amount of time and financial resources.

Our designated Open Learning librarian, Brenda Smith, would be happy to meet with you to discuss your needs and offer her professional support.

Connect to the TRU Library here: http://www.tru.ca/library/services/distance.html.

5. Copyright is Everything

Here at Open Learning we take copyright very seriously. If a learning object does not have its copyright cleared, it cannot be used in the course. Period.

This includes:

  • Books
  • Journal articles
  • Newspaper and magazine articles
  • PDFs
  • Multi-media
  • Audio and video files
  • Images, graphs, photos (for more information, please read “Using Pictures, Graphs and Other Images in Online Learning)

We have our own Intellectual Property (IP) department to take care of all our copyright needs. We use the following Requisition form to keep inventory.

Your Instructional Designer will likely be filling out this form. Your job as the SME is to provide the pertinent information in the Modules or Units.

An average Open Learning course has about 30 learning objects that need to be cleared. 70 items would be considered a large course.