A Page For Courses

For awhile now, I’ve had a link on my site menu titled “Course Site” which links to prpubs.us, but I didn’t feel that accurately played the evolution that has been Pubs. I’ve recently come to realize that I’m a bit of a gluten for punishment as I’ve had four separate public versions of the course. I think that has something to do with the fact that the course evolves as I evolve and I want to continue to push for making the course a better experience for the students, and the way I’ve decided to do it is by flipping sites. In other ways it’s also a laboratory for me to take on a new risk (like this summer when it was hosted on Github). As they’ve continued to stack up, I’ve wanted to change up the menu a bit. Now you can easily access all four distinct and unique snowflakes of course sites on a page simply titled “Courses.”


I like that it’s all there in each and every shape and form that it has existed. Prpubs.us was and still is the crowning jewel, but occasionally when I would show it to faculty, I would get feedback that they couldn’t possibly do domains like me because “gee, look how pretty it is.” And so I would pull up the first blog feed I created in Spring 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 2.44.51 PM
Screenshot from March 2014

It wasn’t much. No public syllabus or work or CC license. Just a stream of student thoughts. Sometimes it’s nice to see that everything has humble beginnings. You don’t HAVE to bite off everything the first time around. This, too, is probably what pushed me towards Github. “What’s something that looks super simple? What’s something that isn’t intimidating to faculty?”

It also pushed me away from creating a monster of one single site. It’s really easy to say “I’ll just add this” to the course two or three times a semester and then inevitably end up with a bloated site. This happens in syllabi too–all of you with 30 page syllabi. Those don’t count towards a publication on your tenure package so lay off.

This semester the course is built natively in the Canvas learning management system. There are a few specific features in Canvas which I actually feel are very helpful for them to manage themselves (mostly calendars, reminders, and notifications). There are a few features that I don’t mind much either (for instance, now that I’ve been on the bland side of things I want my color back!), but to me everything is a bit of a design challenge. Every new platform offers affordances and restraints that you have to work inside. And the fact that the course lives sprawled out in many places across the web means I don’t fear it only ever being in the LMS. By the way, the course is public, student blogs are still public, and the blog feed is still public. If I’m doing anything different swimming’ in the LMS, it ain’t hidin’.

I’ve really struggled with how best to share my course as a resource (so much Rolin Moe and I presented on it). Where does interoperability fit in open courses? How shareable is a mega-site with plugins and shortcodes cranked to eleven? How shareable is an entirely forkable site if the code is awfully intimidating? How shareable is something in a resource like Canvas Commons if you aren’t a school on Canvas? The best answer I’ve got so far it everywhere and let people decide how they want it or want to learn from it. I’ll take my course anywhere!


I’m also teaching a new title this semester: Ad Copy and Layout. It’s because of these projects that the ol’ blog has been a bit dormant. It really does feel good to dust off the dot com. I’ve spent quite some time rethinking how to teach a design course and finally had an opportunity to jump into worlds I’ve never fully explored in Pubs. I’ve also been able to lean heavily on those who came before me, which has been a real treat. I’m not pulling any punches on Copy and Layout and I’m super excited to talk about how it works, but I’m going to leave that for another post.

Featured Image: Courtesy of Jeffrey Betts via Stocksnap.io