The following is the full week-by-week calendar for the Spring 2016 OMS CS6460: Educational Technology class. Numbers in parentheses indicate the recommended number of hours to spend on each task. Note that these are merely recommendations. Based on your background and the nature of your project, your personal experience will likely vary. This calendar is intended to help you understand the work you should be putting into the class and monitor your progress as you go forward.
The first week of class is the "getting to know you" phase. You're getting to know the class structure, the assignments, your classmates, your mentors, and the field of EdTech in general. By the end of the week, you want to feel comfortable with the expectations of the class and confident interacting with your peers on the class forum.
This week begins class's work in earnest. Your goal this week is to start to settle on what general area of Educational Technology you want to explore in this class. At this point, areas can be very large: you could be interested in higher education, or intelligent tutoring systems, or gender in education. By the end of this week, you want to have a general idea of the area of Educational Technology on which you want to focus.
Last week, you identified a general area of Educational Technology on which you want to focus. This week, try to distill that down into a specific problem or question. You might be interested in solving a certain problem by designing a tool or technology that can help people learn or work in educational institutions. Or, you might be interested in exploring a particular phenomenon related to education, like how people learn in certain settings or how certain variables affect the learning process. This week, you want to decide the narrower problem or question you want to explore, with a special focus on understanding what work has already been done in the community on this. This week, you'll also want to start looking for teammates if you're interested in working on your project in a group.
This week, it's time to put what you've been learning about the previous three weeks into a general plan of action. The first week, you got familiar with the overall landscape of Educational Technology. The second week, you zoomed into a particular area of that landscape. The third week, you zoomed in further to a particular problem or question in that area. This week, focus on deciding what you want to do to contribute to the area of this problem or question. What are you going to build? What are you going to investigate? How is it going to contribute to this area? Continue to explore your area, with a focus on understanding the current state of the art and the open problems or questions to address.
Last week, you made the case that you have ideas for how to contribute to a particular area of Educational Technology. Why, though, should the community listen to you? This week, your focus is going to be on verifying your knowledge. How do you prove to the community that you have thoughts to which they should listen? This is about more than just having ideas; this is about connecting those ideas to the community's current solutions or theories, explaining how it builds or improves on the current status quo, and demonstrating your ability to evaluate others' ideas in this area as well. You'll need to continue doing some research this week, but your focus should be on depth rather than breadth.
This week, you'll plan the rest of your semester. You've spent the last five weeks dedicating yourself to deeply understanding a certain corner of the Educational Technology landscape. This week, plan out how you will contribute. What problem are you solving or question are you answering? How will you go about accomplishing that goal? You'll want to continue researching your area this week (and by now, you should have come to the realization that there is always more to read about your field), but your main emphasis this week is on planning the rest of your semester. Plan out the big goal, the week-by-week progress, and the intermediate milestones that you'll use to get feedback from your classmates and mentor as you go along. Make sure to plan out contingency plans as well; if something goes wrong, you want to be able to course-correct.
And we're off! This week you start your real project work. Early in the week, your mentor should let you know that your proposal is accepted; he or she might also suggest some corrections or improvements. These go beyond the simple grade on the proposal: the proposal is an agreement between you and your mentor for what you will do the remainder of the semester for your course project. From this point on, what you do week to week will be heavily contingent on the nature of your project. Remember to complete your Weekly Status Check every week from now on; this is how your mentor will keep up with your project progress, adjust accordingly if your plan has to change, and intervene if there are difficulties among team members.
This week, your first intermediate milestone is due. The intermediate milestones are your chance to get feedback and report your progress. The kind of progress you report and the kind of feedback you solicit will be heavily dependent on the nature of your project, but make sure to make it clear to your mentors and peers what kind of feedback you would like to receive.
As you keep working on your project, try to keep in mind what kind of feedback you want to receive while giving feedback to your peers. Chances are, the kinds of ideas you would like to hear about your work are similar to the kinds of ideas your classmates want to hear about theirs.
During the middle part of the semester, it can be natural to get tunnel vision a bit and focus only on your own work. This is actually a great time to interact on Piazza as well — things settle down a bit, the topics are more manageable, and we still have all the weekly topics with visiting guests and notable debates. Don't forget about the class forum as you plow forward with your project.
By now, you may have encountered a significant stumbling block. Maybe you could not get IRB approval for a study you wanted to do, or the data doesn't actually demonstrate what you hoped it would demonstrate. That's alright — there's still time to pivot and find a different spin on the same domain. If the data is insufficient for a quantitative study, perhaps it's time to do something more qualitative. If your tool is proving to be more difficult than anticipated, perhaps you can scope away from the more difficult parts and focus on those things most pertinent to this class's learning goals. Chat with your mentor about adjusting expectations if you think it's necessary.
We're about halfway through! Now is a good time to revisit your original proposal and ensure that you're maintaining the big picture view of the original project. It's one thing to cross off the items on your to-do list, but it's something else to make sure those items are fulfilling the original vision.
As we start to get close to the end of the semester, you'll want to start brainstorming what conference or journal might be most appropriate for your work. You may not want to actually submit a publication, but the final paper is practice for professional, polished writing about your work. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to take the next step to publishing your work if you so desire, so go ahead and start exploring what venues might be of interest.
With how close we are to the final project deliverable, now might be a good time to do something a bit more fun with your intermediate milestone. Consider doing something like a movie-style trailer or a mock commercial for your product. Or, alternatively, now would be a great time to deliver to your classmates a working demo for them to use; if you've played your cards right, you may have left yourself some room to improve things based on user feedback.
Next week you want to have plenty of time to put together your presentation and paper for the project, so this week try to wrap up the bulk of the work on your project itself. That way, you'll have time to focus on presenting it to the world with your work next week.
It's the final week of the project phase of the semester. By now, you should ideally have your project just about wrapped up — this week, you want to focus on getting it ready to present to the world. Spend a bit of time organizing it for delivery to your mentor, and make sure to revisit your proposal to make sure it will be clear to your mentor how your delivered project fulfills what you promised to do. After that, though, focus on how you're going to present your project, both to your classmates (in the presentation) and to the world (in the paper).
The semester is over, your projects are submitted, and now all that's left to do is enjoy a look at what your classmates have been working on for the past three months. However, that doesn't mean your projects are over. This week, think about what next steps you might want to take with your project. Do you want to try to spin it up as a start-up business? Open source it so others can contribute and improve on it? Turn it into a research project for additional course credit? Try to publish it at an academic conference or in a prestigious journal? The hope is that the end of the semester is merely the end of the beginning for your project; we look forward to seeing it go to great places in the future.