What's the best way of designing a short, intensive course with MURAL?

I'm creating a two-day technical course and an thinking of doing away with Powerpoint and using MURAL.

My assumption is that I'd replace slides with areas, add the areas to the outline and step through them in presentation mode. I wouldn't be _directly_ translating the slides into MURAL, as I'd be doing more "building up" of the material, so, maybe I'd replace three slides, with one MURAL.

How many areas can I realistically have in a MURAL. I presume I'd have one MURAL per "chapter" of my course. Each chapter might have up to 40 slides in the old course. And there would be about 5 chapters. So, would I have 5 MURALs with 15-20 areas? Or is there a better structure?

I'd be teaching this course to different groups over time. I'd like to let the participants add to the slides---and there will be some exercises. Clearly the interaction is the whole point of using MURAL. However, how do I "reset" the course each time? Do I have to have a set of "clean" MURALs and then duplicate them before each class, and present with the duplicates?


  • Ward
    Ward Mural Team mod

    Hi @andrew - Great topic. We discuss this almost weekly at our MURAL Teachers' Lounge webinars.

    I've never heard of any "maximum" as it relates to the number of areas. I have some murals with dozens of areas - so you should be fine with the approach you proposed. I like your idea of having one mural per chapter...

    To allow for an easy reset, after I setup the initial course mural, I would either a publish it as a template to my workspace (https://support.mural.co/en/articles/2113736-publish-murals-as-templates) OR duplicate the mural and put in a private room (https://support.mural.co/en/articles/2113812-duplicate-a-mural) that allows me to keep a clean copy.

    I'd love to hear what other educators suggest. @Christina & @Jeff_Eyet - other thoughts or ideas?

  • Christina
    Christina ✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2021

    Hello @andrew and @Ward: I love this question, as I have tried out Mural in class for the first time this semester and am very curious how others do it.

    Ward is right: it is VERY important to publish a workspace template or duplicate a copy from your private room into the one shared with a given group so you always have a clean copy ready for the next cohort.

    What has worked really well for me so far is starting with a custom ice-breaker in the first session that has something to do with the topic to be covered. This allows me to assess what their starting knowledge of the subject is while they are building their Mural skills.

    Then I share a few PPT slides introducing the topic each time a new one begins. Not as may as I had before, but some. This adds in something soothingly familiar to a session that will otherwise be very different to some participants, and eases them into each session and subject.

    THEN comes the part where they build upon and co-create with what I just discussed, in murals typically designed with three to four different parts in one template. The participants are divided into smaller groups and go into different subchannels in Microsoft Teams, which we use to meet classes at our university. There, they then each have an article, or a part of an article or video or something similar to read or watch. Then they design their area around it, which they later present and so "teach" to the rest of the group.

    It is like a workout rhythm, an idea I found really helpful from this article: https://hbsp.harvard.edu/inspiring-minds/5-steps-to-stay-focused-when-teaching-online last year. The ice breaker and PPT slides are the warm-up, the creation of their area is the high-intensity part, and the talking about it is somewhat of a workout for those doing it, but a cool-down for those listening.

    This variety of activities, voices and interactions makes the class really feel broken up into manageable chunks, which makes the whole thing go by quickly. In long sessions this is, as they say in German, "goldwert" - worth gold.

    How many areas per mural? This depends on your comfort level, but for my groups less is more...my rule of thumb is, one regular-size mural to about one hour's worth of activity, with 3 to 4 different areas per mural. Keep in mind that you want to leave them space to do their thing in each area so that it is truly a co-creation. Aesthetics are important: I personally don't like murals that are so packed with tiny things that you can't get a sense of what they're about without a microscope.

    My goal is to design them in such a way that my participants COULD print them out after each session, as I do, and that they look so good (whatever that means to you and your people) that they would be happy, and proud, to post their co-creations on their walls, and/or fill a binder with them that they could actually use to study or for work purposes.

    In other words, you may wish to think about each mural you design as an artifact that is a joy to behold, and that comes in handy to your groups post-meeting.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: Images can add huge benefits in terms of audience engagement. Never underestimate the value of a great background, GIF, illustration, icon, photo or cartoon, both in terms of your design, and encouraging your groups to use them in theirs. Images make presentations so much better because they trigger another part of the brain when they are talking about why they put it somewhere - they literally CANNOT read, and must speak in a natural way, so it adds a lively, personable and often humorous element to every presentation.

    Hope that helps - I would be happy to hear how things go for you!

  • andrew
    andrew MCN

    @Christina @Ward Thank you both for your really helpful insights. As I was playing I'd decided that having a room with the course in it, or using templates seemed like the way to go---so good to have confirmation. I'll probably go with a "course room" and then duplicate it every time.

    Christina's comments on using PPT to launch into each "chapter" have me thinking again. Maybe trying to have it all in murals is a little ambitious. My idea was that I could avoid additional context switching, but maybe I have to organise things so that I minimise content switching---PPT then mural. Not back and forth.

    I suspect I'll shift the balance around over time as I experiment.

  • Christina
    Christina ✭✭✭✭

    @andrew In the end experience will be your best guide, but in general, I have found this to be good advice:

    Ask not what Mural can do for you, but what your users want to do with the murals once you have left the scene.

    From their perspective, more is not necessarily better. My groups tend to like things that are easy on the eyes and that don't require a huge amount of zooming in and out; yours might be different.

    Also, from their perspective, it might provide some welcome variety to have a little time with slides, where they can be kind of passive, and then roll up their sleeves on the murals. We all have been trapped in those torture meetings with one thing going on and on (usually someone talking way too long). A this-then-that structure keeps things fresh. It also keeps it clear in their heads that every time they see Mural, they know it is time for them to be active from the get-go.

    Glad to help, and don't forget to have fun! "Experiment" is indeed the word of the day (or semester in my case) on this.