Remixing the curriculum – compiling resources from a variety of sources such as free online texts, proprietary information from publishers, and self-created media such as podcasts – is starting to push its way into K-12 and higher education. Get ahead of the curve with these tips for remixing your own online course materials.
Gathering the Ingredients Before Remixing
Like any course development process, there is a good deal of research that goes into remixing the contents of a new or existing class curriculum. Beyond your own knowledge and expertise, providing high-quality resources for your students is the key to a successful class. This is just as true for a course which relies heavily or exclusively on free online resources. There is no need to dive right into the deep end though.
Consider including a small selection of remixed materials at first and expand each time you teach the class. Start shopping early and evaluate materials you find with the same eye towards fulfilling or supporting your course objectives that you would normally use. Where you look for these materials will depend on the content of your course, but some general places to start searching for learning resources, free texts, and videos are:
- Open Culture
- University of the People
- Open Courseware Consortium
- Washington State’s Open Course Library
- MIT Open Courseware
- Khan Academy
Free Online Texts
- ipl2 (Internet Public Library)
- Project Gutenberg
- Planet eBook
- High Wire
- Online Books 4 Free
- E-Books Directory
- Flatworld Knowledge
- E-Books Directory
- Textbooks Free
- YouTube Education
- Vimeo Education
- TED: Ideas worth spreading
- iTunes U
Remember, as will all sources from the Internet, you will want to confirm the validity of each one that you choose to include in a class. To a large extent, there is no easy way to tell how credible a source that you find online is. Use your professional judgment when choosing.
Choosing the Right Blender
Once you have determined the content of your course, you will need to figure out a vehicle for delivering it to your students – or, to use the metaphor in question, mix all the ingredients together. This can, of course be done using a traditional LMS platform such as Blackboard or Moodle, but while those platforms are generally robust enough to do the job, neither one will do the job elegantly and seamlessly. There are several new options available that might just help you put together a killer curriculum that is as good looking as it is informative. These options range from text-based, to process-based instructions, and visual representations. Play with them to see which one suits your content, teaching style, and students’ level of self-directedness.
- MentorMob – This robust new platform allows you to create “learning playlists” of resources that can lead your students through an entire process – either a single lesson, or the entire course.
- Pearltrees – This Firefox extension allows you to capture content from the Web and graphically organize it into meaningful patterns. It also has a nice option to create collaborative trees which form a sort of hybrid semantic map.
- Delicious – One of the first curation sites, Delicious, allows users to collect web-based resources into stacks which can be shared within the community and added to by others.
- Curated.by – Curated.by operates by creating “bundles” of tweets which contain links, images and videos collected around a specific topic. The site provides a repository of all of these bundles which can be shared.
- Scoop.it – This curation program allows users to create and share their own themed magazines designed around a given topic.
- Storify – Storify is used by many journalists. It has a powerful drag and drop interface to allow users to search multiple social networks and pull pieces from different sources into one place and add their own text to tie it all together.
- Bundlr – Bundlr combines elements from several other tools to allow users to “clip” specific content from multiple sources and visually organize it in new ways.
- REDUX – This video-based site allows users to create their own channels which combine Internet videos to create unique collections.
- Bagtheweb – This program allows the collection of information into “bags” which can then be linked together into larger networks, including the “bags” that others have assembled.
- Paper.li – Based on the newspaper metaphor, Paper.li allows users to assemble their curated content into virtual newspapers that include social media information as well as traditional website clips and media.
- iBook Author or iTunesU – If you are interested in creating course content that your students can download and access on a portable device, these two offerings from Apple might do the trick. They both have limitations, like needing to use a Mac computer to create an iBook, but they are both elegant and can handle a range of multimedia add-ons to your curriculum.
- Pinterest – While not much used for education at the moment, this new social interest sharing site allows you to create message boards containing a variety of content that you “pin” from around the Web. Though new, it certainly has some educational potential.
Putting It All Together
No doubt you will want to supplement the materials that you find for free online with offerings from your favorite textbook publisher or that you create yourself, such as video podcast of your lectures. Generally speaking, these resources can be combined into most of the formats above (Apple, for instance, has agreements with the major textbook publishers already in place). If you are creating your own media, aim for a universally accepted format such as PDF for text, Jpeg for graphics, or Flash for video or animation. Hosting any videos that you create on YouTube or Vimeo will make integrating them into your remix very straightforward. Always verify with your institution that your plan is acceptable, as some have more stringent rules about content than others.
Specific instructions for creating projects using each of the tools mentioned above are beyond the scope of this blog, but information about using each is available online, either through the site associated with the program or on YouTube. Don’t hesitate to mix and match either. Using a site like MentorMob to collect your resources allows you to embed the playlist that you create on another website or right into your LMS. Feel free to post the creative ways of remixing that you invent in the discussion below.