A Large Course Redesign Turns ARTS 100 Online

College of Humanities and Fine Arts
Large Course Redesign Experience moves course from face to face to online. This interview is with Asa Mittman, professor in Art and Art History. He was asked by Dean Joel Zimbelman to move a course into the summer schedule for asynchronous online delivery. Hear what he has to say about this experience.
Asa Mittman

What course did you redesign for this project?

Arts 100, Art Appreciation: Multicultural Perspectives. This course is a basic introduction to the world of art, looking at works from the present, back to the earliest moments of human creativity, 40,000 years ago. It covers many major works in the West and East and also lesser-known works that reveal facets of the cultures by which they were produced. The course is structured around major themes that are common to various periods, rather than following chronology.

What problems did you and your department hope to solve with this course redesign? What were your intended outcomes?

I/we wanted to see if we could successfully run an art history course online, given tightening budgets, need for larger course enrollments, limited access to large classrooms on campus, and already over-full schedules. This course is designed to accommodate large enrollments, and is streamlined to do so as smoothly as I could figure out, under the current confines of the GE course requirements (especially the writing requirement).

The online format allowed me to pre-record all the lectures, so that they can be used over and over in following semesters, thereby saving considerable time in the long run (also allowing students with busy schedules, full time jobs, families, and the like to listen to them at any time, day or night).

In addition, the quizzes are all automated, so that the student takes one, the computer grades it against my key, tells the student her score, and inserts it into the online gradebook. The gradebook is set to add up all the scores and calculate the final average. One really helpful addition I made part-way through was the addition of a semi-automated makeup system for missed quizzes.

How has working with TLP helped you redesign your course?

The folks at TLP were great — really helpful, and they put up with my grumbling and griping with real patience. I am a pretty advanced web user, and have worked with Blackboard in various versions for years, but they really know the ins and outs of Vista, which is a deeply imperfect system but one which can to a degree be gamed to make it workable.

How did you change your ideas about the intended course redesign over the course of this project? What evolution took place that helped for the online environment.

The most significant aspect of the course that I changed was the creation of a podcast assignment. I wanted the students to be able to generate content, not merely receive it. In discussions with Ann Steckel, I realized that not only could I have them record lectures about works of art, but could have them upload images of the works, and locate them on a Google map. This led to the further realization that this could then be made available to the public. I set up a netvibes site that has since received 3,012 views: http://www.netvibes.com/csuchicoartpodcasts#General

I also found out I could do was insert pop-up quizzes right into the recorded lectures. These really enhance the course, I think.

How would you help others who are about to undertake a course redesign prepare for this experience? What advise could you give them?

It helps to have a very clear idea of the finished product before you start developing it. This saves a lot of time in redoing work. Also, this is NOT an in-person, face-to-face course, and while there are things that cannot be replicated, there are also things it can do that a regular course cannot. I’d suggest not trying to make it just like the in-person version, but rather, playing to its strengths instead.

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