A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending the day with Head of Business School, Jeremy Richards to go through the course design process for one of the modules on the new Leasing and Asset Finance, MA.
This kind of course design can be described as a course or learning design retreat. It is a day, or two depending on requirements, where the teaching team can get away from their desks and the distractions of the day to day. With support from a range of specialist staff they build or re-design taught modules by working through learning design activities which focus on elements of the module; all building up to a storyboard, an action plan and some prototype learning activities.
In practice, Jeremy found that the first stages of the process worked well, and helped to either re-define, refine, or solidify ideas that have been thought of before the workshop. We were building a module that had already been validated so were limited in terms of things could we change ie. learning outcomes, assessment weightings etc.
First of all we worked through the ‘Mission Statement’ part of the process where Jeremy boiled down into a couple of sentences what the overall aim of the module is. Doing this helps to focus the mind on the essential aspects without getting caught up with the details.
Next up, we jumped straight into an activity to think about how the module will be run, and what the main ethos, or the main ‘look and feel’ of it is. We did this by going through the Jisc / Open University Learning Design Initiative card sort activity where we sorted the cards into three piles; the ‘yes’, the ‘maybe’, and the ‘no’ piles. The idea is to decide if the wording on the card is something to include in the design of the module, or not. Once we had the three piles, we were ruthless and narrowed it down to 6 ‘must haves’. You can also create your own cards if there isn’t one that describes something you need.
enables the teaching team to work towards a consensus on the type of learning experience they want to create
provides a common language to help talk about how they like to teach – particularly for teaching strategies that are based on more of a tacit experience. Sorting the cards stimulates discussion about them: what do you mean by …? how does that work? why is that the best approach? This discussion is useful for skill sharing and ideas for personal development, as well as narrowing down the most effective approaches for the context.
brings the learners into the heart of the conversation, as choices need to be made about what learning approaches they might use, and what kinds of support they might need.
helps to ensure that the team are considering all the elements that make up a balanced module.
Next up comes ‘constructive alignment and backwards design’. The idea behind this stage is to jump to the end of the module, or stage within the module, and think about what it is that you’re aiming for the student to have achieved, how they might get to that point, and what knowledge they need to have or gain to get there. This focuses the mind on the aims and outcomes of the module, and how the team will help the students achieve them, whilst starting to flesh out the initial vision for the module into a more structured pathway.
The first building block in this stage focuses on the learning outcomes for the module. The learning outcomes can be considered the most important element of the module as they define the parameters of what will be covered, help the student to understand what’s expected, and what will be assessed.
Because the learning outcomes had already been validated for this module we were very limited in terms of what could change, so we had a chat about them and made sure they’re set at the correct level, and the language and relation to assessment is appropriate in relation to the previous tasks above. If the outcomes had not already been validated then this is where we would spend time designing them. Bloom’s taxonomy action verbs come in handy when deciding on appropriate language to describe the level at which the students need to work.
Next up, we went through the assessment design stage. Assessment tasks are designed in relation to the learning outcomes above and the look and feel. We talked about the ways in which we do and do not want to assess the students, the kinds of attitudes and behaviour the assessment should encourage eg. leadership, risk-taking, and then how self and peer assessment will be build in. At this point we also thought about how technology will be used to facilitate the tasks.
The Storyboarding activity is fun and engaging and can often be the one element that takes the most time. This was certainly the case with the Leasing and Asset Finance module we were working on. We used flip chart paper and post-its to create a timeline of the module, mainly focusing on it from the point of view of the student. We thought about how the module should be broken down and what the main aims of each element of it should be. Then we started populating the timeline (using different coloured post-it notes) with activities, resources, tutor responsibilities and assessment points to create a holistic overview. From this you get a sense of the workload and are able to move the post-its around to plan contact time and make sure that appropriate time is allocated to a more complicated element of learning, for example.
The main aims of storyboarding out a module are around sequencing, alignment and coherence by mapping out the themes, learning activities and assessment items – what students need to know, how they will learn it, and how they will show that they have learned it (that constructive alignment idea again!). The idea is to create a logical sequence of activity, or learning journey, that allows the student to build knowledge, skills and understanding so that they can be demonstrated through assessment. We then look in detail how that learning might happen, and what kinds of activities can be put in place to support it.
This is as far as we have got up until now so the next stages will come later. We will start to work on the learning activities themselves. Are they activities that can or should happen inside or outside the classroom; online or face to face; will technology be used to facilitate them? – it’s important to incorporate technology into your teaching to develop digital capabilities/literacies. EdTech can help with this as it’s important to remember that part of this process to develop your skills as well! So, we will build at least one online activity in Learning Space in the session so that expertise in the room is used to support its development, and there will be an activity that can be used in the actual delivery of the module.
We will also develop an action plan to plan out the development of the rest of the activities and the delivery of them.
We’re looking forward to it!
Get in touch with us if you would like to organise a course/learning design session for your course or module.
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JISC’s Annual Digifest offers a fantastic opportunity to connect with colleagues across FE and HE and share some great practice around Educational and Information Technologies. 2016’s event took place across on 2nd-3rd March at Birmingham’s ICC and was formed of keynotes, workshops, seminars and hands-on technology displays. I attended on behalf of Falmouth University alongside a colleague from FXPlus, the University’s Shared Service Provider.
The theme of this year’s festival was to celebrate the ‘Power Of Digital’ to address challenges faced by institutions; such as keeping up with increasing demand on infrastructure and that technology adoption and understanding by students is moving at a faster pace than HEI’s are able to keep up with.
Plenary Day 1
As part of the Plenary session on day 1, Andrew Harrison talked about transforming learning spaces through technology and rather than silo-ing off activity, having spaces that celebrate inter-disciplinarity (co-incidentally a theme for the week’s #LTHEchat). Harrison promoted virtual and physical spaces that are complementary, that have technology fully integrated and that facilitate experimentation, suggesting that we want less gaffa tape holding up projector leads. He identified the challenge that HE’s face of losing real estate as learning evolves a from didactic to active models, providing flexible learning spaces means a loss of real estate. Melbourne learning lab was cited as an interesting example of a tiered learning space hacked out of an old lecture theatre and that a successful learning space will consider realms of Space , Place, Process & Experience.
Donna Lanclos continued with a series of provocations to educators and challenged delegates to develop pedagogies that work “whether the power comes on or not” and, in a similar fashion to Harrison, suggested a focus shift to Place and Presence as opposed to Tools and Practice stating “our role is to help people explore, not hand them a tool and tell them how to use it”. Lanclos talked about the intensification of presence through digital devices, in that we can be in virtual and physical space at the same time and that staff need to feel supported in these areas. An audience member asked if Digital can make better teachers and the simple response was No, but in discussion the plenary panel agreed that technology has changed what teaching can be and it can be a motivator to improve one’s practice.
#digifest16@TheContentMine No one really talked about the potential to change the “learn”-“teach” balance. for me digital changes democracy
Understanding your Institution’s Digital Practice
This mapping workshop built up on JISC’s work in the area of Digital Capability and used an extension of the Visitors and Residents model to map digital practice at an organisational level. James Clay presented some real world examples of the V&R spectrum talking about people who buy from amazon.com as visitors and those who buy and leave reviews as moving towards a resident mode. Equally on Twitter we may have retweeted/posted something today, but in resident mode we might @reply to someone or comment on a retweet. Lawrie Phipps also noted that we may not leave a “social trace” even if we have an account with a service and that the V&R spectrum is not static and that technologies and practices are ever evolving.
The mapping activity asked us to visualise practice within our own institutions and is designed to help staff discover where and how technology is being used and the level of anticipated or actual engagement. The mapping template is free to use and would be a brilliant exercise to undertake across organisational departments. I can already see how this activity would be useful for our Falmouth ICT and FXPlus IT teams to compare our own perceptions of Digital Practice.
This session focused on progress made since the last update to FELTAG report published by the department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The panel considered how the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group has enabled institutions to argue a case for new technology rather than a common argument for efficiency being getting rid of teaching staff. Poor implementation of technology creates workload. Warwickshire College Group and South Staffordshire College cited a move to Google Apps and more specifically Google Classroom has enabled learning to happen anywhere, on any device. Deployment of Chromebooks has improved energy efficiency and reduced maintenance costs. Highbury college involved all staff and students in their Digital Futures Strategy, creating a sense of collaboration and ownership.
Key to all of this, and an emergent theme from the conference, was fostering a Culture of Innovation within the organisation above a Culture of Compliance. Concentrating on people and wellbeing, and having supportive leaders who are prepared to take risks, were common links between panel members, one adding that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. It was also noted that statistics are often the enemy of innovation and slow the pace of change.
Echoing the morning keynote, the panel talked about the danger of putting students in a linear environment that isn’t open, social and collaborative like they are used to and that traditional classroom teaching does not replicate life. Students in one college described letters as “things that dead people did”, SMS as “aggressive” but mobile apps as “friendly” and that we need to consider this when making use of technology to support learning. We need to ask questions of our institutional systems such as “How does the VLE support learning?”, “do we just need better ways to communicate?”.
Concerns were expressed from the audience that FELTAG was being used as a stick with which to punish those not complying with 10% online provision as set out in the recommendation. I think this may be true where organisations are not prepared to shift ingrained paradigms, but what FELTAG does is enable a conversation to happen around appropriate use of Technology Enhanced Learning and certainly in FE it seems to be supporting improvements.
Plenary Day 2
The Plenary session on day 2 focused on The Power of Digital in Learning & Teaching. JISC’s Sarah Davies led the session and added the broader picture of current and future work across the sector. Heather McDonald talked about the effect that technology will have on hollowing out middle economy jobs and that the future will see leading educators beamed into classrooms and an extension of Self Organised Learning Environments, as popularised by Sugatra Mitra. I feel that there there may be an element of social learning missing in this prediction and that it presents a future in which the didactic model of teaching hasn’t evolved. McDonald did however, go on to say that in the light of the TEF and with reference to OFSTED that we should own and define what excellent teaching is in the future and this not be in the hands of Government.
John Traxler asked “What killed the mobile learning dream?” And answered by saying that ‘Mobile Learning’ was a product of its time and arose from the aspirations of research into anytime, anywhere learning. He continued by saying that Mobile Learning initiatives were often driven by Institutes with access to devices, but now the technology is cheap, robust, easy to use, and social. This changes the dynamic of mobile learning to an “outside in rather than inwards, top down approach”. Traxler suggested that we now need to address the challenges of an abundance of devices.
Ian Dolphin opened by drawing attention to the Educause Next Generation Digital Learning Environment Initiative which argues that the VLE should move from a teacher centred model to one that supports collaboration, analytics for advice, personalisation and accessibility. Dolphin also noted that the expanding field of learner analytics raises more ‘non digital’ questions, around things such as ‘informed consent’. This view is consistent with feedback from the Open University at last year’s DigiFest, who noted that increasingly students are asking about what is being done with the vast amounts of data being collected and held about them
Chrissi Nerantzi’s talk, Wondering while Wandering addressed the rise of playfulness in Learning and Teaching, but that people are quickly discouraged from playing and innovating if the culture doesn’t support it. Also that technology shouldn’t drive learning and teaching, but in reference to the Enhance, Empower, Extend framework, we can play with it if we are empowered. Balloons were released into the audience throughout the talk and as we played Sarah Davies concluded the session by asking how do you enable play within an organisation? How would senior managers allow this? Nerantzi responded by changing terminology, saying experimentation is play and teaching staff experiment within their subject disciplines so why not in teaching. Also from experience, when academics become ‘students’, their practice develops and failures may produce many forms of ritual learning.
Davies added that developing a model of students as partners, allows a shared understanding of learning and experimentation.
I wasn’t able to attend further sessions on day two, but again an enjoyable #Digifest16 with some great speakers and fellow delegates. Having been for the last 3 years, the format continues to improve and it’s great to see such great practice within organisations that are empowering their staff and students to do more with technology to support learning.
As we did in 2014 and 2015, we return in 2016 with our predictions of what will evolve for Learning Technology in Higher Education this year. We take a look at 2015s NMC Horizon Report as well as adding our own reflections at Falmouth.
Last years, key themes were around supporting digital literacies, agile approaches to change and new approaches to physical and online learning spaces. Certainly the output from JISC’s Digital Student project details a fantastic range of exemplars that are supporting the student experience in these ways and the JISC/NUS Benchmarking tool gives institutions a set of practices on which to build.
This year, Higher Education looks poised to adopt some of these approaches as ‘Flipped Classrooms’ and ‘Blended Learning’ become common parlance within the institution. The University of Southampton have some great video examples of flips and blends and the HEA academy offer a ‘Starter Tool’ for those interested to know more.
Educational Technology will have a significant role to play in defining and supporting the incoming Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). The Association For Learning Technology (ALT) have responded to the consultation asking that intelligent use of Learning Technology and an understanding of the issues by senior managers is explicitly incorporated into all framework iterations from now on.
It will also be interesting to see how Open Educational Resources and Open practice (seen as a mid-range driver to edtech adoption in 2015) will influence the TEF and how it will be integrated into Blended/Online Learning opportunities.
Learning Analytics are also likely to impact Higher Education again this year in light of the TEF as Institutions strive to find ways to measure success in Learning and Teaching. Last year we looked at the idea of student centred Learning Analytics and JISC’s Effective Learning Analytics project concludes in July and is already providing the sector with a range of tools and processes with which to leverage Learning Analytics.
The Falmouth and Exeter Students Union, FXU are prioritising the impact of cuts to the Disabled Students Allowances and gaining clarity around academic practice, in particular Students as Co-Creators of learning. Use of Educational Technologies can impact both of these through accessible learning design and opening up learning design to students, something that the Ed. Tech team are currently working on with our BA (Hons) Entrepreneurship course.
If you’re interested in learning more or implementing any of this within your teaching, let the team know.
Topping Adel’s list this year and very much the topic of the moment is the Star Wars inspired BB-8 Sphero; an orange sized sphere that rolls around under the command of your Android phone. On that note, to make up the package she would also the Google Pixel C, which looks like a relatively affordable alternative to the Apple and Microsoft offerings in the ‘Pro’ tablet arena.
Amy’s christmas quest is to update the home theatre experience for super fast broadband by replace the creaking iMac with a new MacMini or something like a chromecast (a popular gift from last year’s santa list). If you have the hardware already, Kodi.TV is a worthy environment for the Home Theatre PC.
Mark would like the gesture based input offered by the Myo to control the new Micro-Brewery offering from Pico. Waving at a device to set in motion the creation of craft beer, is in his opinion the pinnacle of the Internet Of Things.
Oliver would like a Standuino 3π2, to add to his smorgasbord of noise making machines.
We hope you’ll see that we really have been awfully good technologists again this year, so if you could see your way to leaving this stuff under our LED christmas tree, we’d be most appreciative.