Yale University Open Source Course

Course Analysis


Course: EVST 255: Environmental Politics and Law: A Certification Course for Design and Green Architecture

Source: http://oyc.yale.edu/environmental-studies/environmental-politics-and-law

Course Overview: This course is a case study of potential danger to the environment and the national security. It looks at different areas of danger to the environment such as pesticides, air pollution, consumer products, plastics, land use, urban growth and sprawl, public/private transit and drinking water. In each case, Dr. John Wargo reviews the structure of law and evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the law as it pertains to the environmental issues.

The course EVST 255 is one of Yale University’s open source courseware. This course is offered free of charge to the individual who wants to enhance his/her learning skills.

Does the course appear to be carefully pre-planned and designed for a distance-learning environment? If, so, how? If not, in what ways?

     According to Morrison, Ross, Kalman, and Kemp, 2011, the goal of instructional design is to make learning more efficient, effective, and less difficult, as well as to save time and money. Therefore, this course does not meet those requirements because effective learning, according to Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009, involve several components, the learner, the content, the method, materials, and the environment, including the technology. This course, however, provided limited planning for distance learning. For example, in a distance classroom the instructor should place emphases on visual cues. This is an important part of instructional design because if the visual cues are missing, students my feel alienated and will tune out the instructor, according to Simonson et al, 2009. “The instructional development process must be based on the unique characteristics and needs of students, meshed with the teaching study of the instructor and the course goals and content. Interaction must be maximized, the visual potential of the medium must be explored and time must be addressed” (Simonson et al, 2009). For those learner who learn best by auditory instructions can focus on the instructor’s words and generally listen better because there are fewer distractions, especially at sites with only one student” (Simonson et.al., 2009, p. 169). The instruction did provide for the visual cues portion of the instruction, but not all requirements for effective distance learning were met.

     The portion of the course that did not meet the careful pre-planned and designed for a distance-learning environment included the student group work, content, and technologies. Group interaction is essential for student achievement in distance learning according to Simonson et al, 2009, “Group participation helps to support a social environment where the instructor present course material allowing the students groups to discuss case theories and concepts covered in the course, and then discuss the material for question and reach consensus on a solution to the problems.” In addition, in the distance learning environment, learning must be design so that students have an active role in learning—mentally, physical, socially, and emotionally (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009). Dr. Wargo did not feature in his teaching strategies any diverse instructional formats such as group interaction, collaboration, or reciprocal teaching.

     The technology used to present the video was distracting because there were constant interruptions or breaks in the recording. According to Simonson et al, 2009 instructional designer should be prepared in the event that technical problems might occur. “There should be a backup plan for students with projects and assignments independent of the instructor and alternative means of communication, such as fax, phone, and email, and these plans must be discussed with the students in advance” (Simonson et al, 2009, p. 129).

     This course content should have reflected upon the entire learning. For example, time is essential in distance learning. The instructor time should have gone into analyzing the content for effective delivery, student’s feedback, and relevant time constraints. Simonson et al, 2009 stated that, “Instructor should start with the general goals, and followed by more specific goals and objectives; the nature of the structure of the content can be made to fall into place. The resulting framework of information about the content helps the instructor decide the value and importance of specific information to the total instructional package.”

Does the course follow the recommendations for online instruction as listed in your course textbook? Which does it follow? In what ways? Which does it not follow?

     The answer is yes and no because the textbook recommendation according to Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek, 2009, follow guidelines that include units, modules, and topics. The course does follow the topic guidelines in part, because it explained and clarified the course content, but it does not provide the central chunks of instruction for the complete units and modules. “Topics are organized into modules that are further organized into units that are equivalent to a semester credit traditionally offered using 15, 50-minute class session (Simonson et al, 2009).

     The content guidelines did follow the recommended textbook instruction that places emphasis on the use of visual media. The media instruction included a PowerPoint presentation and the content was organized by the topic.

     The instruction/teaching guidelines did not followed the textbook recommended guidelines because it did not provide different ways for the students to fulfill their other obligation such as being full-time employees, family, social situation, etc. The instructor could have designed his teaching strategy utilizing:

  • One module per week,

  • Communicate via email at least once per week,

  • Chat once per week,

  • Two to three threaded discussion per topic or six to ten questions per week,

  • Instructor comments on discussions as part of threaded discussion board

  •  Provide progress reports (grades) submitted to student every two week.

     The resources and the instructional setting are important to consider in the learning environment because students need to know what resources are available to them. Will they have access to resources to communicate with the instructor or adequate accommodation for the instructional setting? Will they be able to move around or move tables and chairs, if needed (Simonson et al, 2009)? Those attributes were not considered in the design of the course instruction.

Did the course designer implement course activities that maximize active learning for the students?” If yes, in what ways? If not, how is it deficient?

     The answer is no because the course did not provide the learning instruction that should have been organized with more inclusive learning activities to engaged the entire learning process for the students to learn. The learning deficit according to Simonson et al, 2009:

  • The instructor should have provided course calendar, activities and expectations clearly stated as possible.

  • The instructor should have stated the purpose of the assignment and provide links to relevant online resources.

  • The instructor should have identified the required comments of the assignment, grading criteria, due date, and point of value for the course.

  • The instructor should have provided instructions for submitting the assignment.

  • The instructor should keep students informed of all changes to instruction.

  • The instructor should have integrate the power of the Web into the course

  • The instructor should have applied adult learning principles with the nontraditional students. For example, if students are working adults, design the course to include the basic principles of adult learning. Adults are more self-directed and have specific reasons for taking the course.

  • The instructor should have extended course reading beyond the text. For example, reading recourses from the Web and additional reading resources.

  • The instructor should have provided instruction to train the students on how to use the course website.

     Although, we as instructional designers recognized that there is no known way to predict the successful outcome of teaching, we know that teaching at a distance (Simonson et al., 2009) places the students’ needs before the organizational convenience and at the center of planning and decision-making.



Morrison, G., Ross, S,m Kalman, H. & Kemp, R. (2011). Designing Effective Instruction. Hoboken, NJ:: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education, (4th Ed.). Boston: MA: Pearson Education, Inc.