This help page is intended to help new contributors to Wikiversity write lessons (as distinct from other resource types). The page is primarily aimed at inexperienced (web) educators with little or no previous experience of writing (online) educational content. There are many resources in the main namespace of Wikiversity which can also be classified as "teacher training" or which help with the creating of learning resources - however these will be more advanced. This help page is nothing more than a help page which covers the basics. It will help contributors who want a fast track to creating learning content for Wikiversity.
What is a lesson?
Possibly the most unpretentious definition ever of the word "lesson" comes from the Moodle help system:
- "A lesson delivers content in an interesting and flexible way. It consists of a number of pages." (Moodle)
This is just a very basic starter kind of structure you can use. It is a structure so common that it is cliched and laughed at, but it should not be ignored, especially if you don't know what else to do. If you use this structure (good), then try not to use the same labels as section headers (bad) - use other words instead, and then people probably won't notice what you're doing.
- Preparation / teaser / introduction: warmer; motivational; make the audience feel an urgent desire for the material they are about to get; statement of goals; very short; get ideas from TV show teasers?
- Presentation / model / instructions: the main content; you lay your cards on the table.
- Practice / consolidation / interaction: the learners begin to recycle the material presented or carry out the instructions, first in more closed/passive/rule-following fashions, but then with increasing open/active/creative exercises.
- Production / evaluation / the bit at the end: less agreement between educators what this is about - might be a phase where learners show full independence with the learning material (project), or a formal assessment for the teacher to check on learning success, or some kind of feedback session or link into the next lesson.
Watchpoints for writing lessons
- Identify the audience.
- And be precise about it. Wikiversity is not Wikipedia.
- Encyclopedia articles are written for a non-existent single, abstract, culturally and ideologically neutral, theoretically educated adult.
- Lessons should be written with a very precise and real audience in mind all the time. The audience will differ for almost every set of resources. Picture to yourself how your audience will react to each section.
- Identifying an audience is much harder in an online environment - unless you are lucky enough to have your audience in the same room - but you must bear them in mind all the time. Don't over-estimate the audience. Don't invent the audience of your dreams - be realistic.
- And be precise about it. Wikiversity is not Wikipedia.
- Connect with the audience (style, interest, fun, interactivity)
- Trying to connect with an online audience is rather like trying to tell jokes to a camera. All the same, you have to try. You don't want to be a newscaster. Your style of writing should talk to the audience in a way that makes them feel involved and personally understood. Use techniques to maintain interest, both in the joins from one paragraph to the next, and an overarching technique that keeps the beginning and end of the lesson tightly together. Give the reader reason to keep reading. Lessons can be fun - fun isn't allowed on Wikipedia - but it's critical to a good Wikiversity lesson, if you can manage it. Interactivity can involve things like quizzes, discussions and collaborative writing - but maintain variety and keep each activity small.
- Use structured sequences
- Start with what is known and move to the unknown
- Lessons start with establishing common ground, such as revising what was learnt before, or finding out what is already known and then responding to this. Learning requires a foundation to build on - if you can't find that foundation, you won't be able to create a learning situation. This is one reason why you really need to identify and connect with the audience any way you can.
- Use variety
- Use a variety of methods; different parts of your "structured sequence" should use different methods. Also use different media types (video, audio, text, images). Sound and vision are the only two senses the digital learner can rely on, but a real-world class can benefit from all five senses - multi-sensual experiences promote learning.
- Repetition and redundancy
- Don't feel you constantly have to move on and teach new stuff, cramming as much knowledge into the lesson as you can. That kind of thing is for encyclopedias. Instead, keep (1) your learning goal and (2) your audience in mind, and try to create as many possible different lines of connection between these two things as you can. For example, use different methods to teach the same point (if it doesn't go in one way, it might go in another). Don't be afraid to repeat yourself, but preferably say it in different ways unless you want a laugh. Recycling material after suitable time periods helps memorisation. Methods of repeating and revising material include interactive sections such as quizzes and productive activities - as well as, ummm, saying it again.
- Bridge theory and practice
- Examples and case studies are good.
- Somewhere along the line it is good if you get some kind of feedback from your audience. Learners can leave messages on the lesson talk page, your own talk page as facilitator, or they can send you email - as you prefer. They can also indirectly contribute feedback while creating content. Try to motivate user response, even if it's just a userbox or your personal seal of approval which you promise them in return.
- If you have spare time
- Read things which tell you how to be funny while warning you how not to be stupid - it will make you a more interesting writer.
- Too much collaboration too soon is really, really bad.
- Wikis are temptingly collaborative, but collaborative online education is massively difficult to pull off successfully. A collaborative resource with 0-1 participants lies somewhere between funny and sad; it does not educate. Ditto 100 people crammed into the state of confusion created by misdirected participatory requirements. Many good resources on Wikiversity - perhaps the majority of the good ones - are written and completed in an individualistic manner for a passive audience. Write something for a passive audience first, then graduate to the next level. When you start with collaborative lessons, bring your own classes for the first ones, otherwise you or your materials may die of loneliness, or you may never become aware of the mass confusion you caused.
- Don't try to be what you're not.
- Be yourself and not somebody else - teachers have naturally different styles, and trying to adopt someone else's style can turn a good teacher into a bad teacher. If you are new to teaching, you may not be aware of your style yet.
- Don't follow methodological fads.
- Especially not the one you just read or went to a course about. Unless it naturally fits your style. Or unless you can take the risk of massive failure (remembering always that failures are great learning opportunities, provided you live).
- "Build it and they will come" is not a good principle of web education.
- Try: hard work, quality, a bit of marketing such as proper resource categorisation, really nice piccies and layout, bring your own class anyway just to make sure, and if all else fails, tell them the answers to the next test are numerologically disguised in the text.
- Collaboration is not wiki-heaven.
- Collective resource creation (if it works) brings conflict. Guaranteed. But it could be educational if you manage to steer things in the right direction. Just be prepared, get your expectations right and bring a sweat bowl.
- Try not to do everything at once.
- Did this page have a lot on it? Never mind. If you got half of it first time round, that's great. Go and make a resource, and another, and then come back here and pick up some more ideas, or leave your comments and experiences on the talk page.
This section is under construction.
Courses and other resources on Wikiversity which help with lesson creation
For the most part, these pages will be of interest only to experienced educationalists or trainee teachers. Reading these resources will require a significant investment of time.
- Instructional Design
- Designing Constructivist Learning Experiences
- Designing instruction for cognitive behaviors
- Designing instruction for psychomotor behaviors
- Designing instruction for affective behaviors
- Designing instruction for interpersonal behaviors
- Developing high quality educational resources
- Composing free and open online educational resources
- Assistant teacher course - by User:Fasten
- Experiential education
- Learning and learning about learning in Wikiversity - by User:Cormaggio
- Design and Develop Learning Resources / Networked learning / Flexible learning - by User:Leighblackall
- Learning to learn a wiki way
These resources are down-to-earth.
- C. M. Dragomanovich, What makes a good lesson (2 pages; recommended)
- Teachnology, Teaching tips
- Honolulu Community College, Teaching Tips Index
- John Baez, How to teach stuff (1 page)
- National Weather Service Training Center, Hydrometeorology & Management Division, Anatomy of a lesson (1997)
- The National Capital Language Resource Center (Washington DC), Structure the Lesson (2003/4)