What Sheila's seen this week : templates, principles and analytics

This is a probably going to be a bit of a rambling post as I haven’t really blogged for a couple of weeks as it’s been a busy couple of weeks here at Blended Learning Towers.

This year there has been quite a push on developing more fully online programmes. I’ve blogged about how we have been supporting staff through the curriculum design process, and developing our suggested workflows and tools.  We’re now developing this into a series of support materials which we can use and share with more staff, and develop into some form of online staff development.  Just now we’re internally reviewing our “stuff” but I will share it as soon as it is ready for open consumption.

As part of that process we are developing a set of principles for the GCU Online student experience. Following up from their presentation at the recent Eden Conference 2015 proceedings, I was able to catch up with Nelson Jorge from TUDelpht to discuss their approaches to staff CPD and online course production. They also have a set of principles which they are now starting to use as part of their evaluation process. They are a bit ahead of us, and have a dedicated unit supporting online developments, as well as a process for staff to get time off “normal” teaching duties, we don’t have that – yet. As always it was great to share with like minded colleagues and have the comfort that we are all facing the same issues of lack of time and resources.

A recurring theme for us around online developments has been templates. <sigh> Templates are tricky, some of people are very keen on them; more often than not  as they seem them as a quick solution. However as you well know dear reader, it’s not that simple. We do have a default template in a sense in our VLE with our standard menu, and  Blackboard does provide an extensive set of pedagogically based teaching styles templates too. However staff have the freedom and flexibility to structure their modules as they see fit.  What we are trying to do is encourage a team design approach so that there is consistency of naming conventions and approaches across programmes. In that way templates naturally evolve.  As ever consistency really comes down to planning, and that needs time . . .

As the new semester draws nearer, we’re having more discussions with colleagues about trying new approaches in their modules which is great. We have a number of programmes that have very large modules (over 600 students) so I was really interested in these two posts from Fiona Saunders at Manchester on her reflections on large class teaching and designing assessments that are equitable, meaningful and manageable. Fiona makes some excellent points particularly about equity in large class scenarios.

Yesterday we met with Paul Bailey and Niall Sclater about the Jisc Effective Analytics programme.  Our work in learning analytics had stalled due to changes in our senior management and lack of CIO. However with our new CIO and IT Director now in place it looks like we will be moving ahead in this area and be part of the Jisc pilot. So look out for more posts around that.

And finally, I am now officially a jolly, good (HEA) Fellow.  I originally submitted for Senior Fellow, which I always knew was going to be a bit of a challenge, mainly because of my lack of actual teaching practice and slightly non traditional career path. And the feedback I got did confirm that. I also think my case studies weren’t focused enough on institutional impact. They were more based on work and experiences before I started here.  So after feedback from my initial submission I resubmitted for Fellow status and now have a nice shiny certificate.

Picture of HEA certificate

Developing new forms of online practice

One of the things I really excited about in my new institutional based role is being able to be part of projects, instead of just watching and commenting on what other people do.  When I spied the HEA’s  Developing New forms of online practice in the disciplines: the challenges of web residency call I thought it might be the perfect opportunity for me to start working with colleagues here at GCU on a small externally funded project.

From a personal point of view I was attracted to the call firstly because it was an area that I am interested in, secondly it was a 500 word proposal and didn’t involve a huge time commitment and thirdly and more importantly I saw this as a way for me to start some engagement with our students about digital identity and start to get a better understand of their perceptions of this aspect of digital literacy.

I knew Evelyn McElhinney and her work in virtual worlds, and developing professional practice online via twitter before I started working here and so felt that there could be potential us to do “a wee project” .  I’ve followed Dave White’s development of the digital visitors and residents metaphor with interest and felt that the visitors and residents mapping methodology would (and this is probably the key part of our proposal) provide a relatively simple way for our students to:

“to begin to articulate and understand their online engagement in the context of their continuing personal and professional development. Effective online engagement is particularly relevant to health care professionals, who are bound by professional codes of ethics. The increasing use of social media for professional and public engagement requires them to develop understanding of the interactions between professional and personal spaces.Insight gained from the mapping exercise will also feed into the development of our curriculum designs, technology provision and support.”

I’m also hoping that once we finished this pilot project, we can then run similar workshops within the other two schools here, and develop the process to help us support our students and also get greater insight to where, why, how and when they interact online.

I’ll keep you posted here as the project develops. Just now we are looking forward to meeting the other successful projects on 12th February and finding out more about the mapping activity.  This video from David explains it in more detail.