Interleaving, Threads, and the MIXABLE MOOC

The Psych 101 MIXABLE MOOC is coming along. As I’ve moved forward on some of the design elements a general template of a module has developed, somewhat organically: Learning Objectives, Readings, Video Lectures & Mini-quizzes, Interleaf/Interleaves, Community. Here’s a screen shot of the introductory module:


Threads (which I have composed of these “interleaves” — is that a botched metaphor?) are probably the most interesting aspect of the design. This behaviorial genetics thread above, for example, continues through the course, covering the topic of Psychology from a slightly different direction that complements the mainline content of the course. In terms of effective design, I associate the approach with some of the work that Robert Bjork has done on interleaving versus massing content (even though the interleaving here is very minimal). But the really interesting part is how threads encourage a smart modularization that is minimally reductive.

The idea is that many individual classes could share the mainline content and schedule, but that different classes might layer different semester-long threads on top of that content. The thread might be a subject thread, such as Behaviorial Genetics, placed there (ala Bjork) to prevent massing of content and encourage integration. But it might also be a project thread, such as the collection of oral histories from victims of violence, followed by the analysis of them using a given framework.

Threads would not be constrained to individual class sections — if an instructor in Boise builds out a really cool thread where students attempt to measure the effectiveness of multiple study patterns on test and project performance while reading recent educational psychology research, then maybe I just borrow that thread for my class. Or maybe I let my students choose from multiple threads. But the course itself can contain multiple, optional threads for different classes and students to pursue.

I have a whole tortured essay in my drafts queue on hypotactic vs. paratactic modularity and how the “threads” approach splits the difference between these structures, but I’ll save that for another day.

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