The future for midwifery
I have been surprised but thrilled at how willing the midwives have been to engage with the blog and technology. And a strong theme has been an acceptance (even if it is a reluctant one) that the Internet and computer-mediated communication is the future for midwifery professional development. At the same time, there are a couple of students who only have very basic computer skills at the moment.
Thoughts for consideration
A couple of things have struck me in the lead up to this course and over the last few days.
- Computer skills. Not everyone has my level of computer skills so it is really important to provide information about the most basic of tasks like making an account, logging in and commenting on a blog. I have tried to keep things as simple as possible and not bombard people with too many technologies. I have provided access to different tools such as a Delicious tag that provides access to resources, YouTube and Slideshare but I have not made it a course requirement that students have to engage with all these tools. What I am hoping is that students will recognize the benefits of some of these tools as I model them in the course, and go on to explore them in greater depth once the course has ended.
- Scaffolding. Essential to check in with students by phone to make sure they have connected with the course and are able to engage with the technology. This may mean talking them through things step-by-step. At the beginning of the course, that also may mean a degree of flexibility on my part, ensuring I am available in the evenings when students are able to look at the course.
- Pre-existing knowledge. It's really useful to survey students as you go along to get a feel for where they are at with their computer skills and understanding of the subject. Last week's survey was about students' use of portfolios: nearly all of the students had portfolios but they needed to be updated.
- Lowest common denominator. Look at things from a student's point of view. This means checking on things like appearance of course blog on different screens and computers; making allowances for poor Internet connection; checking to see how long videos and slidecasts take to download on a slow Internet connection.
- Time schedules. Being mindful of students' time frames for online meetings. For midwives, this means being flexible and probably having meetings in the evening as opposed to during the day when they are busy with clinics, home visits etc. It is also essential to record online meetings for people who can't get to them, especially when midiwves get called out unexpectedly to births etc.
- Learning styles. I have provided a widget that allows students to make a web page into a pdf so they can print it off. This is in response to a learner who prefers to read from paper as opposed to the computer screen.
- Monitoring progress. I have found it useful to keep a basic database to monitor people's progress with regards to engaging with the technology, as well as their learning activities.
One of the tools I haven't looked at are podcasts. I am thinking that they would be really valuable for midwives because they are so mobile. Audio podcasts could be an extremely effective way to get information across to midiwves, especially those who spend so much time driving around in the car. The other tool that may be useful is Twitter as it is a tool that can be used on a mobile phone which is one technology that all midwives are familiar with. But that is a thought for another day.
Plans for next week
The next hurdle is getting everyone into Elluminate. And I would like to see the midwives who are more experienced with technology and e-learning hook up with those who are less confident. That is already starting to happen, but I need to make sure that everyone has the chance to participate in this form of peer-to-peer mentoring if they wish.
I'd love to hear any comments about from people who are designing and facilitating online courses - what would be your best tip? If you are a student, what helps enhance your experience of online learning?
Image: 'A Brand New Day' Thomas Hawk