«Instructional design and processes for course content development and quality assurance should be defined right from the start.
With ‘Plant Response to Stress’ (PRESS), we have developed a new, interdisciplinary distance learning course which helps students to find out about many aspects of plant sciences. This course offers students a rich multi-media environment which integrates videos, flash animations, simulations, interactive exercises and self-assessments. It introduces them to a variety of learning experiences – from expository teaching to learning by their own independent exploration. Regular assessed exercises challenge students to understand the connections between the lessons and to develop their own ideas.
It was only possible to develop this comprehensive course in a very short time by consistently applying various processes and workflows from the beginning:
- Instructional design was developed and systematically applied from the start.
- The broad course content was defined very early on.
- An editorial committee was responsible for assuring the quality of the course content on an ongoing basis.
A clear priority in this course were content development and didactics. We therefore tried to find a solution for the technical implementation that would help in maintaining and managing the contents – the solution we found was the Learning Management System that consists of dLCMS (dynamic Learning Content Management System) and OLAT (Online Learning and Testing).
Further information about the project can be found at http://www.plantresponse.unizh.ch
Demo access: https://www.olat.unizh.ch/olat/auth/repo/go?rid=6160392&par=73346125885326
On the entry page, click on ‘Gastzugang’ (guest access) in the navigation on the left. You will be automatically taken to PRESS.
I had not been aware how much of a challenge interdisciplinary work can present.
From the start, our aim with PRESS was to develop an interdisciplinary course. An interdisciplinary approach is a special challenge – one way is to present each specialist discipline and leave it to the students to build up the broader picture on their own. This is frequently seen as an interdisciplinary approach.
It is more difficult to develop a really integrative course which examines the continuity of plant response to stress from the cellular level to the level of the ecosystem. That was our approach. It is quite amazing to see the different vocabulary and questions which, for example, a microbiologist and an ecologist use to address the same problem – the didactic skill which PRESS had to apply was to bring both together in one narrative.»