By Dr. Bjorn Mercer
Program Director, Communication, Philosophy, Religion, World Languages and the Arts, American Public University
This is the final article in a three-part series about how the Disney movie creative process could be adapted to improve course development.
In Part I of this series, I discussed how dailies — collaborative meetings that go over animated scenes — were used in the production of the movie “Frozen II.” In Part II, I reviewed the collaborative process of online new course development in higher education. In Part III, I will go over the details of how to use dailies to create better, more engaging and high-quality college courses.
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How Dailies Can Be Adapted for Higher Education Course Development
After the Course Manager has asked for materials from all the faculty and some work has been done on the course, a few meetings should occur that are similar to dailies. For course development in higher education, faculty will not actually meet daily, but will meet several times over three to six months. The dailies should also be part of already established faculty meetings, so faculty know what the meetings are going to cover, when they are and what to expect.
Part of the collaborative components that needs to be carefully curated with the dailies is the number of faculty members that should be in attendance. Ideally, everyone will be there at the dailies: part-time faculty, full-time faculty and additional support staff such as instructional designers. However, how many people are in attendance, especially at an online meeting, needs to be carefully considered.
One of the challenges of any online meeting is if too many people are in attendance, the meeting can get bogged down in conversation. As a result, attendees feel like their time is wasted because they cannot contribute.
In addition, part-time faculty typically have other jobs. For them, attending dailies, in addition to department and teaching meetings, might be too much of a burden.
A good strategy is to have full-time faculty and support staff attend the dailies. Curricular suggestions from part-time faculty members could be included from their emails or regular meeting notes.
The Basic Structure of Dailies
The basic structure of dailies can be individual to the faculty member who is leading the meeting or the project lead. During such meetings, the Course Manager can discuss:
- The course objectives and how they are mapped to everything in the class
- What content will be covered each week
- The weekly objectives to support the learning each week
- Any theories, articles and complex subjects that will be covered each week
- The assessments to demonstrate student learning
Benefits of the Dailies
There are many potential benefits to using dailies for improving the overall quality of the curriculum in online college classes. As the Course Manager reviews what will be in the class, the Course Manager will be able to interact with peer faculty and get their ideas and suggestions on how to improve the course.
In addition, peer faculty will be able to exercise quality control over the course content and ensure the material is going into the course is accurate, logical, and student-focused (to possibly combat some overly academic faculty). By attending the dailies, faculty members will be reassured that can assure that the course being created will fit nicely within the sequence of an academic program.
Challenges of the Dailies
The first challenge of using dailies to improve course development is stress. Presenting a course that you are creating and describing to your peers the content can be very stressful.
There are many worrisome questions for a course manager:
- Is my class good?
- Am I presenting this information accurately?
- I often have different academic opinions than other faculty. Will they criticize my writing?
Because dailies are stressful, there needs to be a high level of interpersonal communication. Faculty members need to have already established rapport with their peers over months or years.
Also, the culture of the department needs to be one of collaboration and friendliness to ensure that these types of meetings will be successful. And when I say friendly, faculty do not have to have vacuous smiles. Instead, they should be cordial and provide feedback that is presented in a constructive and non-judgmental way.
The second challenge of the dailies is getting other faculty to give good feedback. People are hesitant to give feedback to their peers, especially in a public setting.
That is why after the daily is done, the Course Manager will ask for additional feedback via email. This strategy will allow faculty to provide feedback if they do not want to speak during the meeting and provides them with an opportunity to offer more pointed information, rather than embarrass the Course Manager during the daily.
The Need for Higher Education to Change Its Course Development Process
As stated earlier in this series, higher education needs to change to remain relevant and contribute to the success of U.S. society and business. Because of numerous factors, confidence in higher education has waned over the last generational time period. As a result, colleges and universities need to demonstrate to students, parents, and employers that a college degree still has value and is worthwhile to earn.
Faculty at all colleges and universities need to do better when they create courses, especially for online use. By using the collaboration lessons from “Frozen II” dailies, higher education can significantly improve curriculum. The only way to improve learning outcomes for college students and prepare them for future careers is to have the best possible curriculum in the classroom that allows faculty to teach, allows students to learn, and leads to lives being changed.
About the Author
Dr. Bjorn Mercer is a Program Director at American Public University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music from Missouri State University, a master’s and doctorate in music from the University of Arizona, and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. He writes about culture, leadership, and why the humanities and liberal arts are critical to career success. Dr. Mercer also writes children’s music.
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