Thursday, 6 June 2013

Activity 5.1: Course dimensions

Read the Methodology and Pedagogical Dimensions sections of Hill et al (2012) paper and think about the four dimensions mentioned (logistical, practice based, pedagogical, participation).
  1. Which of these considerations is the biggest driver towards your adoption and choice of technology?
  2. How do these dimensions change each time you run the course and what effects does this have on technology choices (e.g. ‘scale/capacity’ of certain activities for class size, physical location of activity)?
  3. How does this relate to the learning activity dimensions you may have identified in Activity 1.2?

1) I am not sure I can separate these out neatly so I will present my thoughts and reflections. Currently the course type activity features most strongly in my institution. The activities of students and staff are defined by the categories identified by Hill et al (2012), these are delivered according to the logistical categories they also identify. My observation of staff where I work is that many faculty members would identify themselves as researches who teach rather than teachers who research.
Contact environment is also key, VUW promotes itself as New Zealand's capital city University providing students with a unique Wellington experience. The focus towards an on-campus experience complemented by teaching technologies (LMS) and digital library collections.
Student 'attendance' in person on campus appears to be considered by many as 'compulsory'. Teaching technology is primarily used to provide student access to wider tailored resources for independent study outside the Lecture and Tutorial times. Courses vary from the web-supported through to web-dependent. Technology is in some instances used to deliver content for students to engage with before attending the face to face tutorials (flipped classroom).

Distance delivery is provided in a few subjects, rationale varies from widening access to geographically distant students and to offer choice to those who are local but may need to add further courses to their programme without the constraints of time for physical attendance on campus.

Recognition of the extent of web work in a given course remains an area which would benefit from greater clarity. Anecdotally staff have identified what they want to do on-line but seldom plan sufficient time within their workload to deliver. There is a reluctance to take time from elsewhere in the 'teaching activities' and utilise it for on-line facilitation/ moderation.

The decisions are shaped by the academic staff, their programme team and school as well as their faculty. My role is in essence to assist the academic to choose the right tool/technology for the teaching/learning activities they intend to undertake and to guide them to develop the skills to use the technology.

In my LMS workshops for academic and support staff my colleague and I have created a structure which presents the tools against heading for the tool type. This is to assist with orientation to the tool and activities. The institution has chosen not to provide a standard template encouraging the individual academics to work with their school to develop their own. Participants on the workshops are oriented to the Teaching style template options available within the LMS to gain ideas for their course layout and style.
We have a corporate colour scheme however this is not enforced so the individual academic or their school will decide on the look of the on-line course environment. I encourage each course instructor to attempt some uniformity across courses within their school/subject/programme to help student orient and navigate within and through the on-line courses. We also have on-line delivery outside the Institutionally supported LMS, which presents another 'experience' for the students and faculty members to master.

The most frequent layout used is based on the LMS 'traditional' layout with a home page, content areas for learning materials, collaborative activities and assessments with the use of course links to present activities beside content.

2) For the workshops I facilitate the size of the group may vary but the other components within the dimensions primarily remain unchanged. I teach in the same technology rooms, with the same hardware, software and IT infrastructure the main differences are updating resources and ensuring relevance and currency and the introducing ideas and alternative technologies in response to particular staff questions or response to staff challenges. 

On a previous course (when I worked at OBU)  I found the variables changed,  I would regularly re-purpose my resources for use in different student cohorts would adapt and/or reuse resources from other teaching colleagues. The room I taught f2f changed each delivery,but was usually on the same site. One winter, due to weather and travel challenges for the students, I changed delivery of two weeks to on-line only (WebCT VLE) and we used a flipped approach with students undertaking guided reading and watching video (professional YouTube channels) and reflecting on their practice experience, then engaging in synchronous discussion followed by asynchronous discussion. I have previously developed my own course template, which was adopted by my colleagues. I used a weekly theme approach presenting the introduction, learning activities, reflection activities, discussions and reference list on each weekly page. If I were to replicate this structure within Blackboard Learn I would probably use the 'Lesson Plan' content type. 

3) My learning dimensions in 1.2 I used these workshops as examples when I did activity 1.2 so no change but more explanation.... My current students are faculty and support staff in the University, the range of skill and experience with technology varies from those who require clear direction in its use to those who are autonomous and may also be innovators. I ask for individuals learning outcomes in advance of the workshop so I can anticipate and prepare for substantial variance from my lesson plan. I also start with an icebreaker which introduces the participants to each other and gives me more detailed information on what is expected and required from the workshop.