Friday, 16 March 2018

Getting Started with Teaching Blended or Online Modules

What is learning design?

Throughout the past academic year, I have been offering a workshop on learning design for online and blended learning environments. In the workshop, I facilitate a systematic, hands on approach to the design process.   The process, which functions similarly to design thinking, facilitates users in sorting through pedagogical features, learner personas, digital skills, available technologies, and finally course mapping.  Throughout the process, it is likely that a user might not even touch a keyboard, although they are more than welcome to access the soft copies of our materials and fill them out that way.

It can come as a surprise to some attendees that a workshop focusing on online learning and design is carried out without using technology, but there is a method to this madness.  Jumping straight in to a new module in the VLE to design your course without planning isn't really good practice.

In this post, I want to share some reflections and some further reading and resources that will assist you in your planning.  After all, there is only so much that can be covered in a short workshop!

Who does learning design benefit?

From what I've seen over the past year, the answer is everyone. Designing a module with all users' needs in mind can make learning more accessible and engaging.  It can also make the instructor's experience less stressful and more rewarding. 

What is the learning design process?

There are a variety of approaches, and I'd encourage you to do some further reading from the resources below. The approach I take in this workshop is as follows:

  • Course features: What are the pedagogical features necessary to deliver your course?
  • Personas: Who are your learners? What drives and motivates them?
  • Course maps: How can you align technology to facilitate learning based on the pedagogical features of your course and your learners' needs? 

How can I apply this to my practice?

I don't expect anyone coming away from this workshop to sit down with a pack of pedagogical features cards every time they design a module, but I do expect that adopting a systematic process for thinking about course design will prove useful. Rather than jumping in, you can begin by thinking about pedagogy and your demographic. The tools are chosen only after consideration.

However, you could easily use the tools from this workshop to do some planning with colleagues, especially if you're working on a new module, course, or programme. Coming to a clear consensus as a team will provide for a more consistent student experience, even if you just adopt a similar style and format in your online learning environments.

Who is coming to the workshop, and why?

First of all, there were some common reasons for attending such a workshop that have prevailed:
  • Staff teaching online or blended modules, or planning to, and need some guidance to get started. 
  • Staff that have taught online for a number of years, but are looking for a fresh approach.
  • New staff looking to begin teaching in an innovative way.

Most of our learning occupies a blended domain these days, even if the course isn't officially online or blended. If you are using the VLE for assessment, communication, or resources, then part of your module exists online. Good design practice can be applied in any case.

My students are digital natives, so they'll be confident learning online, right?

Sorry, but this concept has proven flaws. Our relationships with technology are much more complex, and thus your students might need a bit of support with their digital skills. We have some lessons for staff and students from the All Aboard! Digital Skills in Higher Education project that might be of use, and you can even add them to your module if you like. These include lessons on using the VLE, Learning Tools, Presentations Skills, and more! They are also open to staff, and might prove useful for creating better online learning materials.  These include lessons on podcasts, video, and even design. 

Further Resources

Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast: Blended Course Design with Katie Linder

Blended Course Design Workbook: A Practical Guide | Katie Linder | Checklists

The 7Cs of Learning Design Toolkit

Learning first, technology second | Learning with the 'e's | Steve Wheeler

Critical Digital Pedagogy and Design | Sean Michael Morris

Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast: Critical Instructional Design with Sean Michael Morris

Critical Instructional Design - A 14-Post Collection 

All Aboard! Lessons

Training and Events

Please keep an eye on our calendar of events, and our Twitter feed, for upcoming workshops. 

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