Friday, October 16, 2009

Working as an e-learning design consultant

I have just got back to Dunedin after four weeks away in Darwin working with Associate Professor Helen Wozniak and her team in the Teaching and Learning department of Charles Darwin University. My role at CDU was learning design consultant, working with the school of business to move their MBA from face-to-face to online delivery. My two main jobs was to develop eLearning guidelines and a template for the BlackBoard courses with Ass. Professor Tony Gilding.

eLearning guidelines
The eLearning guidelines we developed were based around the seven principles of effective eLearning and Gilly Salmon's e-moderation model. Another resource I found to be very useful was the University of Colorado Denver Online Handbook - How to teach online.

The key eLearning issues that I think teachers need to address when designing online courses are:
  • learning online is socially constructed so teachers need to carefully think about how they facilitate online communication and the development of a learning community;
  • learning activities and assessment should be aligned with learning outcomes;
  • learning activities and assessment should be scaffolded throughout the course;
  • activities and technology is kept as simple as possible, keeping the learner firmly in the centre of design;
  • feedback is embedded throughout the course, whether it be student to teacher, teacher to student, peer feedback or self-reflection.
What do you think are the key issues for eLearning design?

BlackBoard template
The other part of my job was to design a template for a course delivered on BlackBoard. It's been a little while since I have worked with BlackBoard, but it didn't take long for me to remember why I dislike BlackBoard so much, both in terms on the technology and the idea of a learning management system. In other words, it's as clunky and restrictive now as it was 18 months ago when I last worked with it. I also had concerns that a rigid template would stifle innovation by individual teachers. Having said that, a template is a useful tool for guiding teachers who are unused to eLearning and providing consistency when you have a wide range of content providers.

Template framework
The main thrust of the template was to provide a welcoming, social learning environment and learning based on authentic activities. Each module was framed like this:
  • learning outcome
  • resources
  • activity
  • assessment of learning which may range from self-reflection, peer feedback, informal lecturer feedback, summative assessment

What I learned from the job
This short term contract has been another step in my journey as I travel away from midwifery education to consultancy/project manager/research roles. What it has done is confirm that I have been on the right track in terms of my eLearning teaching practice. The role of design consultant has required me to articulate the knowledge that I have gained by practical experience. This hasn't been easy at times so what I need to improve is how I communicate teaching design and practice to others. I need to become far more cognizant of education theory and research because in effect I am learning a new profession.

Where to from here
In the long term I am not sure where I am heading. I hope to continue working on Second Life projects and it's clear that I am moving away from midwifery clinical practice and more into educational support and consultancy. I plan to set up a consultancy company in the next few months, aiming my services to educational institutions and healthcare companies in both New Zealand and Australia, looking at how I can support them to develop eLearning and social media resources, professional development and mentoring programs.

In the short term I will be working with Otago Polytechnic in the Education Development Centre. My role there will be to support lecturers as they move to eLearning delivery. This is a wonderful opportunity for me because I'll be doing what I really enjoy - working with people as they explore online technology.

And my family are pleased because I'll be home for the first time in nearly a year. How long it takes before we all get on each others' nerves remains to be seen!

What I hope to learn and achieve in my new job
My contract is only for two months so my goals for this time will be short terms ones.
  • Catch up with what's been happening in Otago Polytechnic and network on a wider scale than I did when I was working in the school of midwifery.
  • Connect with Wayne Macintosh who is heading up the Open Education Resource Foundation which is hosted at OP.
  • Become more familiar with Moodle, which is the favored LMS at Otago Polytechnic.
  • Connect with the wider Dunedin community, especially people using social media eg the people I have been talking to for the last few months on Twitter.
So if you live or work in Dunedin, give me a shout and let's meet up - I'm really keen to catch up with as many people as I can over the next few weeks.


willie campbell said...

I'm just around the corner in H block- room 119. come and visit us.

Sarah Stewart said...

Really looking forward to catching up with you and the team - I feel like I'll become more integrated into OP than I did in my previous position and I am really looking forward to that.