form follows function?

I missed last Friday’s post because of all-day training with WIDS software, so I guess I should talk about such software and its application in course and program development.

WIDS (Worldwide Instructional Design System) allows you to generate documents from information you input into a variety of database forms, such as syllabus–in GREAT detail. I am a novice, having had the introductory training (only the first of two sessions) and just beginning to fill in forms for myself. First, I’m seeing how one of my own syllabi fits into the template; then I will probably see how it might work for both a program of faculty development and individual workshop planning.

But even as a novice, I do have some impressions of WIDS.

  1. For faculty it’s a little overwhelming at first. After having taught and created syllabi at several institutions, it seems like overkill for faculty. I’m guessing that the up front investment of time is high, but that it becomes easier and more useful the more you use it. For the organized of you out there, it will beome the place for all course information modules. 
  2. In the long run, it could help ensure that all your syllabi and course information is consistent from course to course. Could you be consistent using your own documents as models rather than filling up a database, yes.
  3. The real value seems to be for program directors who need to organize standards and collect course data for accreditation. The ability to create documents about course and program requirements for new faculty would be an added bonus.
  4. I have not seen how the software aids in course design, only in document creation. I have not found any forms that discuss course design, so I’m not sure how it lives up to that claim. 
  5. If I can be forgiven one negative impression, having only gone through half the training, it is that the whole idea of filling in forms and conforming to a rigid glossary of terms is stifling. I would prefer that we promote and learn the core elements of good courses and learning methods and creatively design from those. Teaching is the kind of craft that works differently for different personalities–both teachers and learners–and there needs to be some flexibility to stretch for it all to work. I’m willing to be persuaded that WIDS can work that way, and will come back with an update, when I find out how.
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Categories: course design, document delivery, software, work

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