An understanding of teaching, learning and/or assessment processes
In 2009, I successfully completed my MA in Online and Distance Learning from the Open University *upload certificate* who are well-established providers of distance learning education. My MA was studied completely online and utilised a wide variety of online teaching materials and tools. The experience of studying with the Open University was valuable for me in my role as a Multimedia Learning Developer in two areas. Firstly, it provided me with concrete experience as a distance learning student which I can draw on when I am designing learning materials for distance learning students to use. Secondly, it gave me first hand experience of learning materials that were developed with best practices for distance learning pedagogy in mind.
In order to gain my MA qualification I successfully completed the following modules:
- The E-Learning Professional (pass)
- Implementing Online and Distance Learning (pass)
- Learning in the Connected Economy (pass)
- Accessible Online Learning: Supporting Disabled Students (distinction)
In May 2013 I engaged in an internal training course called, “An Introduction to Teaching for Non-Academic Staff”. The objectives of the course were developing a set of principles for good teaching from a learners’ perspective, effective planning of teaching sessions, and strategies and techniques to address issues that occur in teaching. The course content included defining learning outcomes, identifying the characteristics of good teaching and a practical lecture planning activity. As a result of this training, in particular the lecture planning exercise, I will be altering my approach to planning of learning resources. The exercise enabled me to visualise the balance of tutor/learner activity in any given piece of learning material and this process is something I will be integrating into my project planning in the future.
An understanding of target learners
Learner feedback is an important part of the ongoing development of multimedia learning resources at the School of Health and Wellbeing and continually influences the tools and techniques we use in our multimedia development projects.
I was part of the module team who developed the first year undergraduate module, “Research Awareness for Healthcare Professionals”. The module content was delivered using a blended learning approach with learning materials accessed online over six weeks with students participating in forum discussions and interactive multimedia activities. They also took part in three face to face seminars on campus. Learner feedback received from student forum posts and technical support calls during the first presentation of the module was mixed, with a significant number of students complaining that the workload was too heavy and that they didn’t understand what they needed to do and when. Further investigation via the VLE monitoring facility revealed that many of the students had not viewed key parts of the Module Introduction information so had missed some vital information on what they were expected to do and how they should approach their studies. As a result of this information, I was able to restructure the module in collaboration with the Module Leader to ensure that there was more signposting information guiding students through the content, and learning materials were released a week at a time to avoid overwhelming students. The changes were fully introduced by the second presentation of the module, and it ran more smoothly and received more positive feedback.
My role in the redevelopment of the module was to be involved in monitoring student feedback via the forums and evaluate the tracking information from the VLE to identify opportunities to improve signposting, then restructure the content to make it more user friendly. The tracking data enabled me to make some valuable observations of learner behaviour and approaches to studying online. Based on the information gathered, I made changes to the online module content and submitted it back to the module leader for proof reading and final approval. The online module content has subsequently been used as a model of best practice and has been adopted by the 2nd and 3rd year undergraduate modules that followed. We have also used the techniques for signposting students and structuring content in the development of distance learning postgraduate programs.
As a basic standard we now use the following techniques in all module developments:
- Consistent and unambiguous terminology e.g. use of the term “Learning Units” for chucks of study rather than folders named week 1, 2, 3 or session 1, 2, 3 etc. This is particularly relevant when the weeks of study are not consecutive e.g. When students are out on placement for a number of weeks during a module.
- Phased release of content to avoid overwhelming learners at the start of their studies on a module.
- Providing learners with an introduction at the start of each learning unit containing the learning outcomes and a summary of learning activities; and a checklist at the end to reassure they have completed all learning tasks for that unit of study. A summary of learning activities for the whole module is also included in the module introduction.
- Use of a standard set of icons to provide visual clues for different types of learning activity e.g. discussions, reflections, visit website, required reading etc.
This screenshot shows a typical introduction page from a module using the best practices described above. It is taken from the Research Awareness module described earlier in this section. Click on the thumbnail for an enlarged image and additional information.