I finished my EDTECH 533: YouTube for Educators course, and I had a great time.  The course really opened my eyes to the potential of YouTube.  There’s often a big difference between knowing the way a system should work and actually understanding how it does work.  Though I learned nothing new about the theory of YouTube’s functionality, the experience of using that functionality on focused projects opened my eyes to a lot of possibilities.

In addition, this course helped me see the analogy between the modular/linear models of game design and instructional design.  By taking a more modular approach to my training, I am able to increase the overall utility of a given video.

As I worked through the interactive video project, one of my goals was to make the individual videos as modular as possible. That is, while I wanted the videos to work together to show the overarching point, I also wanted them to work when viewed alone.

While planning my project, I was reminded of an article written years ago by the Magic: the Gathering CCG Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater. It discussed the distinction between modular and linear design in games. Based on my experience in this course, I now see the connection between this theory about Magic card design and instructional design.

Rosewater: The first extreme is linear design. In a linear design, cards are designed to clump together in obvious groups. They have a very narrow but focused synergy. When you look at the set, it becomes quickly apparent what cards belong together.

One could easily replace the word “cards” with “videos” in that quote. Linear Design forces interdependency between parts. In the game of Magic, cards with linear design must be combined with other linear design cards to get the bonus. So, using the game example, a card that says “Elf cards can’t be destroyed” is very linear; it’s worthless if your game deck contains no elf cards, but fantastic if nearly all of your cards are elf cards.

A linear YouTube video is one that makes no sense without the context of another video. Without sufficient background, it forces the viewer to return to the previous video to understand what is going on. Many of the clips in the anti-knife violence video posted by professor Snelson fit that description.

Rosewater: Modular designs are open ended. The best metaphor for a modular design is bunch of Legos. Each individual piece can fit with many other individual pieces. The idea is “here’s a box of Legos, what can you build with it?”

Modular design is a design approach built around general utility. There can be synergy between components, but the exclusivity is removed. Either the unit can stand alone, or its benefits are so universal that it can work with anything.

A great example of modular design in education is the driver’s education class that I attended back in the 1990’s. The class was built around 6 lessons, each with a duration of about 4 hours. Each lesson was self contained; though there was a building (linear design) theme within a given lesson, none of the lessons required prior knowledge from a previous lesson. The modularity of their course design made it possible for students to start at any point in the 6 week program. One student might start on week 1 and end on week 6, while another might start on week 3 and end on week 2. Even though the course was 6 weeks long, new students could start and finish every week.

To be continued to Linear vs Module, Part 2