Example 2: Designing for Flexible Learning Practice

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The initial outline of this case study, is based on the perspective of Bronwyn Hegarty. --bron 03:26, 4 February 2008 (CET) A group discusssion/interview was conducted so the three lecturers involved in the course could discuss how the course aligned with three guidelines. The discussion was facilitated by an external interviewer and was part of a research evaluation of the course Designing for Flexible learning Practice(DFLP) ; this course was developed and taught for the first time in 2006. Excerpts from the transcription of the discussions will be used to expand this example from the perspective of all three lecturers.

Guideline TD11 – Should staff use a team approach to develop and teach the course?

To answer this question it is necessary to provide some background about the origin and the purpose of the course. The course was created as part of the Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Learning and Teaching and was a compulsory course. This course was necessary to support the organisational drive towards flexible learning. Three people were employed in the Educational Development Centre to support programme development in flexible learning, therefore, it was logical that all three educational designers/developers were involved in developing and teaching the course.

As well, each developer had different strengths and experience in flexible learning, for example, Bronwyn Hegarty had been an early adopter of online learning and teaching in the organisation, initially using a homegrown web-based system and later on a Learning Managment System called Blackboard to teach distance students online. Terry Marler was experienced in distance learning and teaching using a blended model - block courses, correspondence packages supported by print-based and audio-visual materials as well as online learning using Blackboard. Leigh Blackall brought expertise in social networking tools and strategies and a philosophical approach involving open content.

All three staff involved in the course were quite used to being part of collaborative projects for online learning and teaching. The use of social networking tools and strategies for communication was something both Terry and Bronwyn needed to explore and this was done as part of the course development and teaching. For example, content for the course was initially prepared on Blackboard and later on a space on WikiEducator was created. A course blog was also created for course announcements and information, and an email group was set up as the primary means of communication.

In answer to the question about use of a team approach, it was clearly advantageous for course participants to be exposed to different perspectives because there is no one way in flexible learning. As a result of the need for multiple perspectives, participants were given the opportunity to explore a variety of flexible learning strategies, philosophies and media. The team teaching approach enabled this to happen relatively seamlessly, however, the lecturers were careful to provide a range of resources so participants could explore further afield as well. In a course such as DFLP, it was essential that participants could access information relevant to the discipline in which they taught. The lecturers were able to provide a 'brokering information service' and direct participants towards resources suitable for their teaching field, and as a result of the different skills of the lecturers, participants could select and be supported to use flexible learning approaches which appealed to them and suited their way of teaching.

Guideline TD12 – Is the design of learning informed by research on effective eLearning?

The resounding answer to this guideline would have to be yes. Each lecturer involved in developing the course had expertise in different areas of research. For example, Bronwyn Hegarty has been studying for a Doctorate in Education specialising in Information Communications Technology. As part of this study, she has been exposed to a wide range of research relating to the use of multimedia in education as well as design principles for multimedia. Bronwyn has also been involved in a number of collaborative eLearning projects - two were associated with the development and evaluation of online information literacy modules OIL and another was an investigation into factors affecting self-efficacy in eLearning - Approaches and implications of eLearning adoption in relation to academic staff efficacy and working practice.

Leigh has researched the field of social networking and digital information literacy and has written and presented extensively. The full list is on his WikiEducator profile.

Terry has conducted research into factors affecting rural, distance learning and has also done some research: "A survey of NZ veterinary nurses was undertaken and the results presented at the annual NZ Veterinary Nurses’ Association conference in June 2005." See Example 1: Practical skills for veterinary nurses (CDrom)

Guideline TO9 - Are staff encouraged to participate in networks and learning communities involved in reviewing, developing or sharing good practice in the use of e-learning?

facilitation strategies for the course involved social networking methods - blogs, email forum.