THE MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY EXTENSION CURRICULUM PROCESS


Tool 12: Selecting Educational Formats, Media and Key Components

One of the most important decisions you’ll make on your curriculum development journey will be to identify which educational format and medium is best for helping your audience reach the goals of the curriculum. Many factors influence this decision - key among these comes from your needs assessment: what does your audience need to have or experience in order to explore and learn about your content. Other factors include how various media best "fit" the environments in which learning will take place, how much budget you have to work with, what kind of experience your design team has for creating curricula within a particular media, or even how your project timeline might accommodate the development of various media. In addition to selecting the most appropriate format and medium, you’ll also need to consider the key components to include in your material.

Identifying the Best Educational Format and Medium

When assessing the need for your curriculum, you began the journey of clearly identifying the need and the audience for whom this need exists. The question now is, what kind of curriculum can you develop for this audience? When it comes to creating curriculum designed to help people learn, a key question to ask is whether you are creating a curriculum product for direct use by the program participants or whether you are developing materials that staff and/or volunteers can use in their work with program participants. The same kind of question relates to a curriculum designed to build staff and volunteer skills - do you want to write or produce something for direct use by staff and volunteers or do you want to create materials for MSUE staff members to use to train volunteers and other staff?

The following chart is designed to help you think about the various curriculum formats and media you might use and some of the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Format, Media and Audience

Strengths

Weaknesses

Project publications for program participants

Portable; can include comprehensive information, activities, resource lists, etc.; can be done as a comprehensive series; relatively inexpensive to duplicate; usually reproducible; easy to digest; easy to market

Not everyone wants to read or reads at the same level; may not work with younger audiences; updates or revisions can be time consuming (especially if part of a series)

Project publications for staff/volunteers  working with program participants

Same as above

Updates or revisions can be time-consuming

Project videotapes for youth or adult audiences

Youth are comfortable with and used to the fast pace video can provide; works well for individuals or groups; builds awareness and enthusiasm and sets stage for future learning; introduces viewers to people, places and situations they might not see otherwise; can be supported by a leader videoguide that extends learning; portable and easy to loan out; inexpensive to duplicate

High-quality videotapes are expensive and require significant investment; lower cost "talking head" videos cost less but are not appropriate for youth audiences; passive learning - requires skillful processing and connecting to other learning experiences

Project fact sheets for youth or adult audiences

Inexpensive; portable; can easily supplement other materials; nicely sums up content information; can be completed quickly; good for timely issues

Usually focuses on content, as opposed to educational experiences or activities; "timely" content needs to be reviewed often to determine relevance (shelf life may be very short); if supplements other information, may be difficult to distribute to those with copy of original material; needs to be clearly related to broader curriculum context

Notebooks or comprehensive publications for staff or volunteer audiences

Comprehensive; can be updated; easy to add to; easy to duplicate

Hard to distribute updates; unwieldy; often involve expensive components and lots of labor for assembly; small print runs contribute to high price; harder to store; not everyone wants to read this much information; can take a long time to complete content

DVD (desktop video disk) or CD-ROM for youth or adult audiences

Can put any format on it - print, video, audio, interactive; allows self-paced learning; compact; is projectable; can include wide variety of information and experiences; offers multiple languages; easy to distribute; inexpensive to duplicate; allows flexible editing and revision process

Not all audiences need or want solo learning experiences; may be expensive to develop and produce - depending on what already exists to work with (content, video and audio clips, etc.); not everyone has the technology to use

Web sites for youth or adult audiences

Can include multiple formats - print, video, audio, interactive; allows self-paced learning; can be easily updated

Not all audiences need or want solo learning experiences; may be expensive to develop and produce - depending on what already exists to work with (content, video and audio clips, etc.); not everyone has the technology to use

Building in Key Educational Components

Besides identifying the best format and medium to use, consider what key components of information are needed to help your audience succeed - and to help you construct your curriculum. Following are some of the key components to consider including in your project material. Note that this chart refers both to materials for youth and adult audiences. Keep in mind that whether - and how - you include these various components in a youth curriculum is extremely dependent on the age of the youth audience. Also note that this chart can be used as a guide for your curriculum, regardless of the medium you’re using. Print, Web-based and DVD or CD-ROM curriculum should all have the goal of making the learning experience easy and beneficial for the audience. This is often accomplished for video curricula by addressing these components in both the actual videotape program and an accompanying video user guide.

Description of Component

Youth Audience

Adult Audience

Table of contents

X

X

Acknowledgments to curriculum developers, reviewers, piloters, funders

X

X

Introduction that outlines the overall goals and learning objectives

X

X

Information on the youth development value of the learning experience - including definitions of pertinent life skills and connections to the Michigan 4-H guiding principles (4-H Only)

X

X

Information on the subject matter or project skill and the value of learning more about that subject

X

X

Information on the experiential learning process

X

X

Content information - what the user of the curriculum material needs to know in order to move ahead with the learning activities (sometimes provided as reproducible "skill sheets")

X

X

Information on how to use the activities and learning processes outlined in the curriculum

X

X

Tips for working with kids in general and in the specific content area


X

Suggested meeting plans that outline the best way to progress through the curriculum with a group of young people


X

Learning activities that could include the following components:



  • the overall focus for the activity

X

X

  • the learning objectives for the activity - in terms of content and life skills the materials needed to complete or do the activity

X

X

  • the most appropriate setting for the activity

X

X

  • the time it will take to do the activity

X

X

  • a step-by-step procedure for doing the activity, including what happens before a meeting and during a meeting

X

X

  • a step-by-step procedure for doing the activity, including what happens before a meeting and during a meeting

X

X

  • helpful hints for facilitating the activity with a group, or safety issues to keep in mind


X

  • a series of questions that will help learners better understand the experience the activity provided, and apply and generalize their understanding to other aspects of life.

X

X

  • suggestions on ways to adapt the activity or extend the learning beyond the activity

X

X

  • helpful resources related to the activity’s content

X

X

  • camera-ready handouts that can be used with respective activities

X

X

Information on how to involve participants’ family members in the educational experience

X

X

Information on how to share with others information about the total learning experience

X

X

Information on how to reflect on and evaluate the learning experience.

X

X

Glossary or key concepts guide

X

X

Annotated listing of additional resources that could be used to expand the learning experience*

X

X

Listing of references used to develop the curriculum**


X

*When including information on resources, provide this information in a user-friendly format. Include the title, author or developer, date developed, publisher or source for the material and a brief description of why someone would want to obtain this resource.

**When listing references, follow the APA (American Psychological Association) style guide.

Last Updated: July 29, 2009; Last Reviewed: April, 2009
© Copyright 2008 Michigan State University.