There are many technical issues to explore when setting up an on-line course. The most important resource with respect to all aspects of technical course design was our superstar instructional technologist at Albany Law School, Darlene Cardillo (here is a link to her technology blog: http://albanylawtech.wordpress.com). What follows are some of the important issues explored and lessons learned:
1 – What platform was available to “host” the course? I had used Blackboard in the past, but Albany Law School did not have access to this. In the end, TWEN was selected after Darlene’s recommendation. I had some comfort with TWEN, having used some of its functionality last semester, but I definitely needed a tutorial on the possibilities it had for an on-line course. My next posting will provide details on how I am using the TWEN tools to deliver the course.
2 – What other software and hardware did I need? After deciding that I would not be having students log-in for live video chats (this eliminated the need for a webcam/camera in my computer and the need to download software (such as Skype), I did decide to try using slide presentations with my voice over to convey certain information for some weeks. To accomplish this, Darlene set me up with Adobe Presenter and a microphone. I also got a small recorder that saves recordings as mp3 files for easy uploading to the course site. This will allow me to post “podcasts” of interviews I might conduct during the semester.
3 – Practice. I like the Adobe Presenter software since it allows me to record audio one slide at a time and save it. I didn’t count on the amount of time it would take me to record the audio. For week one I had 17 slides. I figured it would take me 25-30 minutes to record the audio. Wrong. It took me 90 minutes. I realized that when I went to record a “lasting memorial” of my words, I sought greater perfection than the more informal patterns of speech in front of the classroom. I re-recorded individual slides more times that I care to relate. I resisted though the temptation to “script” the slides. I thought it would take too much time and my presentations/discussions in class are not “scripted” as such. I wanted to words and speech patterns to seem real, yet polished. The ninety minute investment was worth it – except, I did not save the presentation correctly, lost it, and had to start over again. Hard lesson in what not to do!
4- Size of the files for posting. Generally I have not had problems opening pdf files I have placed in the weekly resource files. However, some difficulty was experienced opening the pdf of the slide presentation made with Adobe Presenter. I may not have compressed the file when I saved it. It was also advised that Adobe 9 was required to open the document. Aaron Cabbage at Westlaw who works on TWEN design/development has also recommended saving the slides in the future through Slide Share (http://www.slideshare.net ) and then posting a link from the TWEN site. I may try that next.
Patty Salkin, Albany Law School