Tuesday, January 15, 2008

content layers

In reading Collin's comments about the good, bad, and nasty of presentations (particularly PowerPoint), I scrambled to recover an online course "content model" that Coach and I developed about two years ago. I'm still looking for the document. Our basic premise was that an online course consists of layers of content -- visual, texual, aural, and whatever can be imagined in an online environment. The nature of this content and how it emerges as instructional knowledge is dependent on how the course is designed, pedagogical decisions, technologies used, the learners involved, etc. The model broke down when we moved to the point of evaulation -- determining how effective or useful content is at its multiple layers. We kept bumping into the subjectivity of visual evalution.

What I find interesting in Collin's comments about Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (Amazon) is that the author supposes a general sense of what makes for a good and bad presentation -- a sort of universal heuristic that can be applied to informational presentations. So I'm wondering, can such a heuristic be used as a baseline for evaluating content in an online course? Like presentations online courses are collections of visual, oral, and verbal elements. And like bad presentations that we're forced to suffer through, poorly constructed online content is typically a combination of elements dropped into a platform template with little thought to structure, purpose, context, etc.

It may be less a univeral heuristic than it is an understanding of common sensibilities -- an emphasis on simplicity, clarity, and elegance. Oh, but there is so much (mis)interpretive possibility in those three words.

I hope to have some time to recover the content model. It may actually help me with a few questions I posed to Louise and Carol about disciplinary definitions of content.

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