We agreed a storyboard on Thursday (in what I described as an Uber productive hangout). We made really good use of screen sharing and live edited a document drawing out the features from the feature table – and allocated these to folk. Our team has lost some time with holidays and we were pretty realistic about what we could achieve. We agreed to prototype the highest scoring elements and return to any mid-range values if we had time, but we set a definite time limit for the prototyping phase.
A home for our Prototype
Rather than embedding our content in our existing site I thought it would be cleaner to have a fresh site so that the navigation and structure would be clear. It also meant we could be ferocious in attempting to separate content and style. I had a bit of a mess around with the standard Google templates, but resolved pretty quickly that it would be easier to start from scratch. Within a jiffy we had some placeholders for each element of our features table. The great joy at this time was being able to repeatedly write
<< not developed in this prototype >>
What the prototype caught
Content for week 1 flew in from Christina and Nicola. I’d agreed to do some work on our Week2 which was to introduce our mentors to digital diaries. I’d suggested without a great deal of thought to do it as if we were using Blackboard (the VLE my colleagues support at work) and was pretty sure we could use a blog or a journal. WRONG! My reading of the help text showed me that EEK…if it is a journal it is shared with tutors, if it is a blog it is shared with all on the course. Our storyboard had presumed we would share and comment on week1 (Blackboard =blog) and then be private (Blackboard=journal) for the remainder (my understanding was with tutor having the ability to review the individual blogs). This is a great example of an error that would be shown by prototyping, and the answer must be to have someone with a real knowledge of your platform involved in the storyboarding process, or at least reviewing storyboard draft 1, before you go to prototype. I posted a note about this to the forum, but didn’t explain it very well & may well have had the wrong end of the stick from the hangout about what we wanted to achieve in the first place.
Walkthrough and tweaking
On Monday the crack team of Christina and Nicola ran through each page of the prototype and added comments, inserted and clarified text and refined the flow. It was clear from the comments that all three of us wished one page (an example of reflection) to be repositioned, so I moved it and relinked it – perhaps this is where the prototype was really useful in helping us really visualise the flow and examine how it would feel to one of our readers.
During the evening I ran through the site, sorting out formatting and tweaking text slightly. I was pleased that we had some extra text explaining why three models were offered (in my role as team-reflective-numpty I share some sympathy with our mentors who may struggle to “get it” without being given 3 different flavours). However our privacy issue remained, we clearly had different ideas of what was technically possible – our assessment did not match our earlier activities.
We had three options:
- Adjust the assessment
- Throw out the VLE and e.g. go to a WordPress Private Blog and redo all of Week2
- Leave it with the inconsistency in place for our reviewers to spot
In real life it would have literally been back to the storyboard…but it was 9pm and I wanted to make a decision, Nicola and I punted some ideas around and went for 1 – a few edits sorted it.
As each comment was dealt with we deleted them cleaning up the site in the process. I’d forwarded a note from ODS about the text density to the TGF (Tutor Group Forum) and before I knew it Nicola had split the text up.
The fact that we had a storyboard that we all had worked on and agreed really helped, the feature table combined with the site structure made it possible for each of us to get on with doing our bit. We rather cheekily reused the digital storyboard a couple of times in the site itself. All in all a pretty efficient process. Another thing that helped was that we had been considering and completing our heuristics in parallel with developing the prototype itself. This focused the mind on making sure we got somewhere towards meeting our stated goals and checkpoints.
It’s interesting to consider whether this prototyping activity was useful in this context. Yes we identified some issues and changed the flow, but there would not have been much more work in putting it straight up onto a VLE. I spent much of last summer redoing three sections of our IT Service website and arguably much of what we did involved having an outline plan and then “put it up and see what it looks like” type approach – I’ve tried doing charts with arrows but with a good content management system you can move and relink things really easily. We all had our sub sections but we just got on with it, reorganising and refining as we went.
What I did think was useful was the “extract features” concept…the freedom to do things out of order and with big gaps to get an idea of the flow and development. It would be sensible to do this in situe, then at least you could copy and complete the course without recreating all of the content areas.
So my role in the prototype was mainly sorting out the holding structure and doing some of the content in Week 2 (a kind of technical serf+). I failed to do all that I had committed to but <<not developed in this prototype>> helped me out. In all I spent around 14-16 hours on the prototype and walkthrough/correction activities, which was about what was prescribed. Part of my enthusiasm to post the site to ODS lay in the fact that it was easy to spend lots of time perfecting something that, by definition, was not supposed to be perfect!