Working as an InTeGrate Team
Developing Curricular Materials as a Team through InTeGrate
You may have worked as part of a team to develop curricula before, or perhaps this is a new experience for you. As part of InTeGrate, we are asking you to work as part of a very specific kind of team, with members from three or more different institutions - often very different kinds of institutions. We believe that, by developing materials as part of a diverse team, you will create materials that can be widely adopted and adapted. We know that this is challenging! Teamwork requires strong communication as well as compromise to design materials that address your collective goals. Materials development teams who have been working together have found the following suggestions to be quite helpful in their work together:
- Spend time reaching consensus on the goals of your materials before you start developing them.
- Remain open to learning from and getting feedback from your teammates - remember that you are all in different institutions with different characteristics.
- Be prepared for your work to change in order to support the goals of InTeGrate generally and your team specifically.
- Be realistic about your timeline for completing work, and be open with your teammates about your other professional and personal obligations.
- A shared web space for you to work collaboratively with your team,
- An email list that you can use to communicate with your team so that communication is archived,
- A reporting page for you to keep track of your progress and feedback on your materials,
- A support system for teams which includes a team leader, an assessment consultant, and a webteam liaison.
- Suggestions and support for meeting synchronously despite your different physical locations.
The rest of this page describes these components of the support system.
Please use the webspace provided for your materials to 'do' your work. Drafts of goals, outlines of course schedules, and ideas for activities should all be recorded in the web space as soon as you have them. Evolve and refine your curriculum within the webspace. Having the webspace for your course/module serve as the repository for your ongoing work will not only ensure that all the developers are on the same page, but also allows your assessment consultant to view your progress and provide feedback in a timely manner. If you find your team emailing drafts back and forth, you can be sure you're not making appropriate use of the tools. Write it on a web page rather than in Word (if possible), and if that's not possible for a given document (e.g. a spreadsheet or figure) use the webspace as the common repository for exchanging your documents. From your first sketchy thinking about the structure of your materials--the brainstorming and useful link collecting--through the production of polished final web pages, do as much of your work as possible right in the pages set up for your module or course. Here are some of the key reasons:
- Your work will be appropriately visible and available across the project. It's important that not only your team members and assessment consultant are 'in the loop' with your ongoing work but that project leaders outside your group be able to see what you're working on. Project leaders will be working hard to make sure that the strong potential synergies that exist across the project are realized. They expect to be able to see your ongoing work by looking at your web space in order to share key information that they may be learning from other elements of InTeGrate.
- Information in your teams' space serves as the definitive copy of your ongoing work. This means everyone always has access to the most recent version of all work (no tracking down old attachments) and that your work is always securely backed up.
- The final product will be a website, so doing work in any other format means a potentially painful translation step later. The formatting and page layout are important parts of the process and this is best done when it's an inherent part of your design. This applies not only to the details of formatting each page, but also to the larger structure of information across a series of pages. Past authors have found it difficult to create satisfying page layouts from content written purely in Word. Ideally, 'developing the curricular materials' and 'building the website' are just a single integrated task rather than two separate ones.
- Your work will be easily accessible for editing help. Doing your work 'in place' means your webteam support person will be able to offer guidance, troubleshooting, and formatting help. They can apply fixes directly to your pages when needed.
Keep in mind that your work will need to meet the copyright requirements for distribution to the community. Read about Copyright and InTeGrate Authoring to be sure you're addressing these requirements throughout the materials development process.
Keep all ancillary materials (datasets, images, handouts) in the team space on the CMS. In general, all of the material you create should be a web page unless there's a strong reason not to. The obvious exceptions are materials that the student (or faculty member) will need to work with locally on their computer: a spreadsheet to manipulate, a lab hand-out that will need to be customized for the local institution. The ongoing drafts of these materials should still be stored directly on the site. Upload new versions as they are created and link to them from the appropriate location (near their imagined resting place in the final site). The CMS will allow to save old versions alongside the new ones for posterity.
If one of your final products will be a Word document (because the information can't be presented on the web or the faculty member will need to adjust it locally) then doing your interim work in a Google Docs document may be simpler than working directly in Word and posting the changed file to the CMS as you go. However, always embed a direct link to the Google doc in the 'right place' in the CMS (e.g. a lab handout in the ActivitySheet that describes the lab). Set the security on your document to "Anyone with the link" by hitting the blue Share button in the upper right and selecting that option. That way other people involved with the project can see what you're doing without having to bug you about adding their email address to the Google Docs access list. Security is already in place for the project and will ensure that only the 'right' people can see your team space and get to the link. And of course in the end you'll need to save the document in a format others can download (.rtf or .doc format) for posting in the finalized site.
Your team's email list includes all of your module co-authors, plus your assessment consultant, web team member, and team leader. Please use this email list for all team communication. This will ensure everyone stays in the loop and that project leaders can check in on progress via your list archive. If some of the email ends up being peripheral to some of the recipients, they should rely on their email program's rules/smart folders/filtering tools to shunt list messages to a separate inbox, so they can stay in the loop without having their inbox overflow. Not familiar with how the these tools work? Now's the time to spend a few moments experimenting. If you receive lots of email (and who doesn't) then it will be time well spent.
Materials Description and Timeline form. As your work progresses, you'll respond to prompts on your reporting page to summarize the ongoing status of your work. Though it's in the same space as your teaching materials, this page will never be made public.
Working with Your Team Leader
The role of the team leader is to serve as the executive editor of the materials developed. The team leader helps review materials for overall flow, specifics of content that is presented, sequencing and timing. Additionally, the team leader guides the team through the data collection process during implementation of materials and designing a plan for revision of materials. Team leaders are Tim Bralower, Anne Egger, David Gosselin, and David McConnell.
Your assessment consultant is an essential part of your team. They are trained to be an expert in using the Materials Development and Refinement Rubric, which is used to ensure that the materials that the team creates are within the goals and scope of the InTeGrate project. Consider them a partner in the materials development process so that you don't receive any surprises when your materials go up for review by the assessment team. They can help you with any questions you have about the design rubric, writing learning outcomes for your materials, etc. They are included in your email list. (Learn more about working with your assessment consultant.)
Not only can your webteam contact help you with the mechanics of using the CMS (from formatting hints to help on deciding on whether particular content should be a web page or available as a downloadable file), they can also offer suggestions for effective ways to collaborate and can direct questions you may have to the relevant people. The webteam liaison also assists the team with getting started with the data collection process that occurs while team members implement their materials. They are your conduit for passing along any challenges and suggestions you have in using the tools to support your team. Keep them in the loop so that we all know what's working well and where we can improve.
When you meet synchronously, have one person authoring in the CMS and others watching via screen sharing (to prevent the danger of overwriting each other). There are a number of tools that offer free screen sharing and a number of ways do to synchronous discussion (phone, Skype, chat, etc...). Have a discussion with your teammates early on about what will work best for all of you. Some options:
- Blackboard Collaborate: group video, screen sharing, chat, whiteboard, (weak) audio. This is a commercial product for which SERC has several licenses. Talk with your webteam person about getting access.
- Google Hangouts: group video chat and screensharing. You will need a Google+ account and all the extra bonus social 'stuff' that gets larded on with that.
- Join.me: free screen sharing. quick to set up (no account needed) so especially good for ad hoc meetings.
Know of other good options? Let us know.