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Preparation Before the Connexions Authoring Workshop

Module by: Kenneth Leroy Busbee. E-mail the author

Summary: A link to some pre-workshop reading. Preparation steps for students using these materials as a workshop.

Preface

The modules in this collection are designed for either self-study or as a major part of a 4 hour in-person workshop. They are designed specifically to guide new authors in the process of creating several modules and then organizing them into a collection. Existing materials within the Connexions web site often explain authoring in a more technical manner than what most new authors desire. Thus, a less technical and more user friendly step by step instructions/training is needed to guide a new author using Connexions. Many new authors will have limited technical computer training; however they should be able to create fantastic OER materials using the convenience of uploading a Microsoft Word document to create a basic Connexions module.

Learning Objectives

This workshop will specifically accomplish the task of helping you become a Connexions author by using Microsoft Word documents as the fundamental building and editing method for creating Connexions modules. During the workshop you will:

  1. Open a Connexions account
  2. Build an author profile
  3. Prepare a Microsoft Word document for conversion into a Connexions module
  4. Create a Connexions module
  5. Understand how modules will affect the creation of a Connexions collection

Prerequisite Knowledge – General Reading

A prerequisite link (box in the upper right corner if viewing this on the Internet) is provided to “Introduction to Open Educational Resources” collection number “col10413” within the Connexions website. The material written by Judy Baker is an excellent review of many issues of concern to new authors. If you are completely unfamiliar to the Open Educational Resources (OER) or OpenCourseWare (OCW) movement within the educational community; you should spend an adequate amount of time (usually several hours) learning this material. If moderately familiar, you should spend about 1 hour quickly covering the material. You can return and review the material in more detail as needed.

The third module should be specifically viewed. It’s title: OER Fair Use, Copyright, and TEACH Act. “A basic understanding of copyright, fair use, the TEACH Act, and intellectual property is necessary before using and developing OER in order to minimize the risk of violating the law.”1 Many college professors step over the line and violate the copyrights of authors. As you are embarking on your own journey as an author, please make sure that you understand how to include existing materials without violating another author’s copyright.

This prerequisite material may be covered in a training course available to you at your institution. If so, you should consider taking that course before embarking on the path to becoming an OER author.

Knowledge Chunks

The concept of a “knowledge chunk” is to divide learning materials into small units that cover or focus on a single topic. The following two items help explain this concept.

Learning Objects

Learning objects are a new way of thinking about learning content. Traditionally, content comes in a several hour chunk. Learning objects are much smaller units of learning, typically ranging from 2 minutes to 15 minutes.
Are self-contained – each learning object can be taken independently
Are reusable – a single learning object may be used in multiple contexts for multiple purposes
Can be aggregated – learning objects can be grouped into larger collections of content, including traditional course structures
Are tagged with metadata – every learning object has descriptive information allowing it to be easily found by a search2

What is a Module?

A module is the basic building block of a Connexions course, textbook, or other type of collection. You can think of it as a small knowledge chunk that addresses a single topic or a specific aspect of a topic. Every author determines the size of their module, ranging from a few paragraphs to an entire textbook chapter. To a student or reader viewing a course or collection, a module is simply a web page in the collection. Modules allow readers to follow the information path arranged by the author or instructor or to branch off and discover their own path. To an instructor putting a collection together, having topics in different modules allows easy selection and arrangement of the information. An instructor can include existing modules from other courses or other academic disciplines that are important to the presentation of the course subject.3

Content Preparation before the Workshop

Module Content

You need to prepare some subject matter content before you try to create a Connexions module. We suggest that you create two or three small knowledge chunks where each one addresses a single topic. Don’t worry about how they will be transformed into Connexions modules. There are two word processing don’ts:

  • Do not use cntl_Enter as a break. They don’t import into Connexions.
  • Do not use tabs. They also do not import into Connexions.

Additionally, for each knowledge chunk that will become a module create:

  • a title line
  • a one or two sentence summary

I find it easiest to use an Excel spreadsheet for keeping track of modules that I am creating. It allows me to prepare the titles for the modules and their summary information as I prepare the knowledge chunks. The titles and summaries can then be easily copied and pasted as needed when building the modules within Connexions.

Figure 1: Spreadsheet example for creating titles and summaries.
Figure 1 (graphics1.jpg)

It is important that you do this before any in-person workshop. During a workshop you will not have time to create or organize your content into knowledge chunks.

Picture

Using your picture processing skills; modify a picture of yourself cropping it square. It should be no greater than 150 by 150 pixels on each side. Usually this file is stored in a .jpg format.

Note:

The Connexions web site will shrink your picture to fit its allocated space; thus, to avoid distortion, you should make sure to crop the picture square.

Short Biographical Sketch

Prepare a short biography about yourself. Information should include your current job, past employment, educational and professional attainments, etc.

Example

A link is provided (in the box at the upper right corner of this module’s page) to my “Member Profile” (for Kenneth Leroy Busbee) at Connexions. You will be using your picture and biography to create your “Member Profile” when you create your Connexions account. Again, during an in-person workshop you will not have time to prepare these materials, thus: please do them ahead of time.

Remember to bring these electronic files with you (usually on a flash drive) to any in-person workshop.

Footnotes

  1. Baker, Judy. OER Fair Use, Copyright, and TEACH Act. Connexions. 7 May 2007 <http://cnx.org/content/m14465/1.3/>.
  2. Beck, Robert J., "What Are Learning Objects?", Learning Objects, Center for International Education, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, http://www4.uwm.edu/cie/learning_objects.cfm?gid=56, retrieved 2008-04-29 
  3. Connexions, Mark Husband, and Adan Galvan. Editing Modules. Connexions. 12 Aug. 2009 <http://cnx.org/content/m10887/2.28/>.

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A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

What is in a lens?

Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

Who can create a lens?

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