Courses tool vs reading plans

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Francis | Forum Activity | Posted: Thu, Aug 25 2016 2:50 AM

I've been looking around the course tool and while there are courses that are what one may expect a course to be, there are some that seem to be no more than basic reading plans. For instance, I looked up the one on St Augustine's Confessions and as far as I can tell, it looks like a basic, read-through the Confessions. Am I missing something? 

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Milkman | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 25 2016 3:40 AM

I thought the same thing. But the difference maybe that the course "tracks" ones progress through the book/resource and doesn't proceed to the next reading until the previous is completed.

See this thread

mm.

mm.

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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 25 2016 3:57 AM

Francis:
I've been looking around the course tool and while there are courses that are what one may expect a course to be, there are some that seem to be no more than basic reading plans. For instance, I looked up the one on St Augustine's Confessions and as far as I can tell, it looks like a basic, read-through the Confessions. Am I missing something? 

Courses are much more flexible than reading plans. Several courses mix readings from several different resources, for example. Look for those authored by John Pierceson or Graham Criddle as examples.

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Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 25 2016 4:56 AM

Yes, Mark, I know that a number of courses are much more "courses". What I am asking is how come some seemingly plain reading plan (one resource, x sessions, no added teaching material) are thrown into the mix.

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Milkman | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 25 2016 7:36 AM

ah, I see your point now. Good point.

Francis:

Yes, Mark, I know that a number of courses are much more "courses". What I am asking is how come some seemingly plain reading plan (one resource, x sessions, no added teaching material) are thrown into the mix.

mm.

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Eli Evans (Faithlife) | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 25 2016 10:05 AM

Howdy, all. We designed the Courses tool to be flexible enough to contain the following kinds of things:

  • Mobile Ed courses, which are the most obviously "course-like" things we have;
  • Book-based "courses" where you just read through most or all of a book (important to note the word "most");
  • Devotionals that aren't calendar-based, so you can still get the devotional "one reading a day" experience even if it's not tied to a calendar date;
  • Topical "introductory" courses which consist of excerpts from many books in the library;
  • Video documentation and training (Pro team is working on some of this now);
  • New original content;
  • Other stuff we haven't thought of yet.

You asked why we have book-based courses. Clearly, a "course" where you just read one book isn't that different than a reading plan where you just read the book. But the book-based courses are different from reading plan documents in a couple of subtle ways:

  • A generated reading plan is basically a fancy calculator for distributing a book over a certain span of the calendar. The computer balances readings based on length, and breaks at places it thinks are appropriate (read: not always very appropriate). On the other hand, a book-based learning plan in the Courses tool is hand-edited to have sensible breaks even if that comes at the expense of exactly equal lengths per session. We can (and do) only include the portions of the book you want to read, skipping the title page and indexes, for example.

  • A custom reading plan will let you put any set of readings from any book into a calendar grid. This is tedious and chained to a specific calendar date. Learning plans in the Courses tool are more flexible than that -- you can read at your own pace, or set up a schedule -- while still retaining the intentional pedagogical aspect of having an editor intentionally curate the readings. (Plus we did the tedious part so you don't have to.) 

We are making more courses all the time. We started with the ones that were easy, so that means that Mobile Ed courses and book-based courses dominate the landscape right now, because we can basically just follow the table of contents and tweak as necessary. There is still a lot of ground to cover there.

In terms of book-based courses, we'll also be working on ... 

  • Multi-book-based courses for, say, a reading and its commentary, where you're really just reading two books, but you're reading them interleaved with a section from book A and a section frmo book B each session. Many lectionaries would work well this way. Many Bible devotionals, where they want you to read some passages and then read their commentary on it would as well.

  • "Essential" book reading courses. Say you want to read the most influential or controversial portions of Aquinas or Calvin because you don't have time or interest to read the whole book. You would probably read an abridgement if only someone would select the "must read" passages.

  • "X on Y" book reading courses. Like the "essentials," what if we extracted all of the portions of Aquinas that were cited by Calvin and then arrange a course so that you're reading Aquinas first and then you're reading the discussion where Calvin talks about what you just read? There are a lot of interesting combinations that can come from that.

If you have specific course requests, you can post them here, or send them to me at eli at faithlife dot com or contact me through Faithlife groups. I'm not doing a lot of editorial on learning plans for the Courses tool, but I can route requests to the right people.

Posts 3239
Milkman | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 25 2016 12:22 PM

Excellent clarification. Makes total sense.

mm.

Posts 3706
Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 25 2016 11:35 PM

Thanks, Eli, for the useful explanation.

Of all the course types you have mentioned, I am still not too clear about the usefulness of one-book non-calendar based reading plans. What does it do that I cannot do by simply, well... reading that book myself without using the course tool? Give me a nifty progress bar? My concern is that if this kind of "course" proliferates, I (and perhaps others) will be disappointed whenever we look for a course on something we're interested in, think we have found one (a real course), only to realise that it is only a subtly modified reading plan of one of the book we own.

I read in the help file that courses that are available may be based on resources I do not own. Again, I am concerned here that if I run into this too often (look for something I am interested in, finds something, oops don't have the resources), it will be a deterrent to using the tool. It is unlikely I would buy resources just to complete one of these courses unless the quality of the course was really compelling (If I had to spend on something like this, I would rather spend on a mobile Ed course). Perhaps others will feel differently about this, but this is my feedback.

On a different plane, what would be great would be the ability to generate one's own courses. It would be something between the sermon editor and the old lessonmaker. This could be for self-use or to use in ministry or educational settings. That would be a really nice extension of the tool. 

As far as what kind of courses to offer, I think the introductions to biblical books are a great idea. They are likely to be of use to many users and can serve the Church in that sense. Any course of the type that may be found in a Bible College or Seminary would be useful (introduction to preaching, biblical interpretation, evangelism, missions). But would not this compete somewhat with Mobile Ed.?

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 25 2016 11:55 PM

Francis:
the usefulness of one-book non-calendar based reading plans.

If I am teaching a 6 week course (the parish norm), it allows one to keep all the participants together. The dates are not inherent in Logos but are inherent in the actual instance.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

Posts 352
Cynthia Tucker | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 26 2016 3:35 AM

This is great! Can't wait to explore this tool.

Eli Evans:

Howdy, all. We designed the Courses tool to be flexible enough to contain the following kinds of things:

  • Mobile Ed courses, which are the most obviously "course-like" things we have;
  • Book-based "courses" where you just read through most or all of a book (important to note the word "most");
  • Devotionals that aren't calendar-based, so you can still get the devotional "one reading a day" experience even if it's not tied to a calendar date;
  • Topical "introductory" courses which consist of excerpts from many books in the library;
  • Video documentation and training (Pro team is working on some of this now);
  • New original content;
  • Other stuff we haven't thought of yet.

You asked why we have book-based courses. Clearly, a "course" where you just read one book isn't that different than a reading plan where you just read the book. But the book-based courses are different from reading plan documents in a couple of subtle ways:

  • A generated reading plan is basically a fancy calculator for distributing a book over a certain span of the calendar. The computer balances readings based on length, and breaks at places it thinks are appropriate (read: not always very appropriate). On the other hand, a book-based learning plan in the Courses tool is hand-edited to have sensible breaks even if that comes at the expense of exactly equal lengths per session. We can (and do) only include the portions of the book you want to read, skipping the title page and indexes, for example.

  • A custom reading plan will let you put any set of readings from any book into a calendar grid. This is tedious and chained to a specific calendar date. Learning plans in the Courses tool are more flexible than that -- you can read at your own pace, or set up a schedule -- while still retaining the intentional pedagogical aspect of having an editor intentionally curate the readings. (Plus we did the tedious part so you don't have to.) 

We are making more courses all the time. We started with the ones that were easy, so that means that Mobile Ed courses and book-based courses dominate the landscape right now, because we can basically just follow the table of contents and tweak as necessary. There is still a lot of ground to cover there.

In terms of book-based courses, we'll also be working on ... 

  • Multi-book-based courses for, say, a reading and its commentary, where you're really just reading two books, but you're reading them interleaved with a section from book A and a section frmo book B each session. Many lectionaries would work well this way. Many Bible devotionals, where they want you to read some passages and then read their commentary on it would as well.

  • "Essential" book reading courses. Say you want to read the most influential or controversial portions of Aquinas or Calvin because you don't have time or interest to read the whole book. You would probably read an abridgement if only someone would select the "must read" passages.

  • "X on Y" book reading courses. Like the "essentials," what if we extracted all of the portions of Aquinas that were cited by Calvin and then arrange a course so that you're reading Aquinas first and then you're reading the discussion where Calvin talks about what you just read? There are a lot of interesting combinations that can come from that.

If you have specific course requests, you can post them here, or send them to me at eli at faithlife dot com or contact me through Faithlife groups. I'm not doing a lot of editorial on learning plans for the Courses tool, but I can route requests to the right people.

Author of the Chronological Word Truth Life Bible Series

WordTruthLifeBible.com

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