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.
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.
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
- 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.