How to teach Old English in the digital age
Stephen Yeager has a proven track record when it comes to finding creative ways to present students with challenging subject matter.
In 2014, the assistant professor in the Department of English developed a course with the support of the Curriculum Innovation Fund that uses the works of Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien to teach Old English — and it worked.
Given the success of his innovative angle on ancient Anglo-Saxon, Yeager decided he wanted to expand its reach. To do so, he teamed up with KnowledgeOne, the entity that creates online courses as part of eConcordia’s overall digital teaching strategies.
Antonia Tripa is a learning strategy consultant for KnowledgeOne and she led the team that transformed the instructional design of Yeager’s course for the online environment. She says the Tolkien course has helped start a new generation of eConcordia courses.
We asked Tripa to tell us more about this recent collaboration and the feedback the online course has received since it launched.
How did KnowledgeOne and Stephen Yeager adapt “ENGL 306 - Tolkien’s Old English” for the eConcordia platform?
Antonia Tripa: When discussing Stephen’s Tolkienesque vision for the course material, I immediately started mulling over a gamification strategy.
Nishan Joomun, our vice-president of Technology and Development, also collaborated on the project. Supported by his input and Stephen’s motivation to give the best to his students, our team embarked on creating a mission involving fantastic creatures and dragons.
NOW: What new features does the online version offer to students?
AT: We spiced it up with our first ever two-level badging system coded from scratch!
Stephen had already envisioned many of the assignment strategies for his course. We offered him new, tailored and gamified rewarding mechanics to go along with his quiz exercises.
Everything visual was reworked and a wiki environment was negotiated to encompass classroom and online strategies for the creation of greater writing collaboration spaces.
Stephen can also give his students pronunciation advice through a pre-recorded segment via a virtual skeleton profile, something he would otherwise provide through office hours.
NOW: How has the course been received so far?
AT: Our creative forces came together to launch the course in the fall 2015 term. The gamification features our team at KnowledgeOne implemented motivated students to complete all of the first lesson’s assessments the day they were assigned — something never before seen in the history of eConcordia courses!
Students went through the knowledge checks over and over, practicing grammar to reach the top of the leaderboard.
“The Horde,” as Stephen named it, was competitive and eConcordia began writing emails using Tolkien references. By the end of this adventure, Stephen’s material had rubbed off on both the design team and the students.
At the end of the course’s first session, KnowledgeOne invited the 10 individuals at the top of the leaderboard to lunch with the professor so we could chat about learning, teaching and motivation.
Around the table was Stephen, who already knew some of the students by name, Robert Beauchemin, our supportive CEO, Donald Caron, who illustrated the covers of each lesson, Nishan and myself.
That day, students’ feedback on the course material, packaging and online strategies made it worth it for all of us.
Watch a tour of the platform students are using for the course:
Find out how Concordia faculty members are leading the way to create a next-generation university experience.
Find out how Knowledgeone’s team members are leading the way to create a next-generation of online courses for the university, via eConcordia.