From Brainstorm to Reality Check: A New Course is Born
a presentation at the First Annual Canadian BlackBoard Conference, May 12, 2005


In 2003, the School of Marketing and eBusiness at Seneca College completed an extensive program review for the three-year program, Marketing Administration.  We began developing new courses to implement ambitious goals. My challenge was to design and develop a one-hour career course to help students with job search skills. I had an interesting conversation with my Chair who told me about meeting with graduates of our Business Computer Systems program. A number of these students were successfully employed but not exactly as they had envisioned. They were using transferable skills gained in their program and liked their jobs but it wasn't what they had fantasized.

This anecdote gave me a bright idea.  I realized that many of our marketing students were in need not only of job search skills but also of a reality check. They had big time dreams far beyond entry level positions. The true challenge was knowing that I would only have a one hour time slot in the fifth semester schedule. How could I possibly meet all of the demands given that time frame? I believed I could do it by creating a hybrid course so that students would be connected to the course beyond the lab time once a week. I could use BlackBoard to develop this course.

I had a number of advantages. I was among the earliest adapters of online learning systems including BlackBoard. I have designed, developed and delivered a number of online and hybrid courses at Seneca College and at OISE/UT. I wrote Reflecting on Conferencing Systems in 1998 comparing a few of the early systems. Two of my online courses are designed for teachers and trainers and focus on web-based learning and the integration of curriculum using instructional technology. My doctoral studies focused on Computer Applications and Holistic and Aesthetic Studies. I continue to serve on advisory boards related to elearning, the use of instructional technology and BlackBoard. My Teaching eportfolio gives more information regarding my various courses and projects. I also maintain a domain, that covers other interests and various web-based learning projects taken on through my business, Karsten Productions.

The Process

Built on BlackBoard, CAP506, "Career Launching and Portfolio Development" premiered in the fall of 2004. Marketing students dream of great jobs and need help getting them. In this course, they build portfolios and eportfolios. Postings to BlackBoard forums become building blocks for these course projects.  Team tools aid collaboration to effectively research and profile Seneca marketing graduates. The graduate profiles are presented using Power Point. Files ranging from word documents (resumes, letters) to business cards to presentations were submitted to the class using BlackBoard.

I began by writing a proposal for the project. This included a course description, target audience, teaching strategies, learning outcomes, a topic schedule, assessment plan, course design, project resources, a design and development timeline, challenges and opportunities and references. I acquired the cooperation of three faculty members who agreed to act as consultants throughout the project. One colleague was very familiar with the marketing program and students, one with a similar career course and one with designing and developing hybrid and online courses as well as with the technical aspects of the project.  One of the more rewarding parts of the development was working with two graduates of the Marketing Administration program, students who were in my Computer Applications classes in 1996.

For me, the key elements in the course could be simplified into the following: CAP 506 Made Easy slide show. Students would post to BlackBoard Forums, use resources found on the Course Home Page, submit portfolios, eportfolios and present a Marketing Graduate Profile.

The Future

Approximately one hundred and twenty five students took the CAP506 course in the fall of 2004. These students have been asked for feedback and based on their suggestions and on my observations of their work, revisions are now beginning for the course.  The new target audience will be third semester students with fifth semester students being "grandfathered" now that the course is being moved to third semester. It is felt that the course can benefit students who are in the two year program as well. It will be offered early enough in the three year program that students can have more time to continue to upgrade their portfolios and eportfolios before graduating. Students who are graduating from the program this spring are volunteering to be profiled by students taking the course in the future.

The forums are being reworked so that each one is more closely related to the specific components of the three "products": portfolio, eportfolio and profile. Calling cards, eportfolios and profile presentations are being archived to serve as examples. Previously students had the two example videos, scripts and power point presentations that I created in developing the course. Now students will have a much greater menu of examples to serve as models and inspiration.

Advice to Course Developers

1. Wherever possible, involve key faculty and students in the development of curriculum.
2. Use a development version of the course in which to store all of the related resources and artifacts.
3. Teach the course then revise it based on the experience and on feedback from the students.
4. Teach the revised version of the course to further tweak the course before handing it off.
5. Continue to archive examples, develop resources, gather feedback and reflect on the course for further upgrades.

Dr. Selia Karsten
May 2005