Metacognitive Summary – Preparing an Engineering for Educators Course

Weekly Writing 8 (5.1) – Lori Sowa

Preparing a course that I’m not sure I’ll ever teach is a little bittersweet.   If the opportunity does arise – I’ll be light years ahead in terms of preparation and quality of learning experience than if I were to be told at the last minute that I will be teaching this next semester (which is fairly typical).   However, due to my current employment situation, there’s a good chance that I’ll never teach it.   The work will not be for nothing, however, since I can see the application of this process in many scenarios both  inside and outside of academia.

One significant aspect of preparing an online course that I hadn’t thoroughly considered before is the freedom to decide  what material is better suited to synchronous delivery/discussion and what is most effective through asynchronous means,  and then to craft the course content with this as the guideline.   It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.   This is in stark contrast to  traditional face to face courses, where there are very specific guidelines about “contact hours” (i.e. a three credit course requires 3 contact hours per week).   With this in mind, I will likely design a course that does not require weekly synchronous meetings, but perhaps a 1-2 hour synchronous meeting every 2-3 weeks.   The freedom this provides makes so much sense from a pedagogical perspective, and provides for much greater flexibility and creativity in designing learning activities and ways to deliver content.   I would, however, advertise the course with a set day/time for the synchronous sessions up front since they would be required.

Having co-taught a couple of courses designed to prepare teachers for K-12 engineering, and spending some substantial time reading literature on the subject, I feel better prepared to design a course like this which does not come with a standard textbook.   Most of the other courses I’ve taught in the past have very set content, so this course has been really fun, and challenging,  to develop.   Whether it would be effective or not remains to be seen.   But, if I were able to teach this course, I’d like to incorporate data-collection measures into the course, and follow up with teachers after the course, to get an idea of whether or not it was successful.   Defining success would be much more straightforward with well thought out learning objectives to fall back on.   But gathering the teacher’s perspective on the relative success of the course perhaps a year after its conclusion would be interesting to measure.

Fink (2013) describes three general strategies to teaching: team-based learning, problem-based learning, and accelerated learning.   I’m not sure that my approach to this course will follow the accelerated learning technique described, although I will likely include aspects of it, but I do think that much of the course will include problem-based learning that is conducted through small teams during the synchronous sessions.   The major units that will likely preceed the unit I’m developing here are real-world problem solving skills (such as units, conversions, estimates, and assumptions) and model-eliciting activities (open-ended, interdisciplinary problem-solving activities – here’s a link for anyone who might be interested in these). While some content will  be provided beforehand through relevant links and some synchronous lecture, the synchronous class sessions will mostly involve students working in teams to solve problems that require some level of self-directed research and reasoning.

The asynchronous blog would be a substantial component of the course.   I’ve built a blog for a course through Blogger before, and it worked reasonably well.   I’d like to revisit that tool now that I have a better idea of what I’d like to do with it, but I’d also like to explore WordPress, which seems to have a steeper learning curve and a cost issue to contend with.

Overall I’m happy with how the course design is coming together, but there’s still substantial work to be done to go from grand ideas to concrete, well-defined content.  And seeing how it works in practice is a whole different ballgame.

Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Fancisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

14 thoughts on “Metacognitive Summary – Preparing an Engineering for Educators Course

  1. Owen

    Hi Lori,

    I was struck by your statement about designing a course that you may never teach. Is that because UAS won’t be offering such a course? Would there be another institution that might be interested? My thinking then went to the idea of how not only has the educational landscape changed for those seeking learning experiences, but it is also changing very rapidly for content experts and those looking to deliver educational experiences. I know of an adjunct at a school in Pennsylvania, I think, who put together a MOOC on gender roles in comics. Now, she’s the defacto scholar in that field, or at least has a significant voice. She used an open platform, Canvas, I believe, and developed her own content and offered it to the world. Something to think about.

    Just a quick note on WordPress – you can create free wordpress content through I have spent some time in google sites, aka blogger, I find I like wordpress a bit more – but both can work really well.

    Nice piece, as always.


  2. Bob

    Please do not ever think of work as wasted. I think Owen is making a really valuable point about repackaging the course and presenting it anyway. Moreover you are better, smarter for the work.

    Higher ed is in crisis and that will only become more acute. However, education will always be important and valuable. I suspect that you have some real entrepreneurial potential in offering training in STEM for K-12 teachers.

  3. lsowa Post author

    Thanks for the comments. UAS has eliminated its Pre-Engineering program, which is essentially my position. So, most likely I will be working as an engineering professional next year rather than teaching. While this is highly unfortunate in many ways – I appreciate your sentiments and do believe I’ll be teaching again some time in the future. The demand for this type of course in particular is not going away!

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