Monday, 18 June 2012

A/Prof Merilyn Childs talks about learning leadership

This week sees the final process for the DeHub funded project we've been conducting in partnership with Massey University. Read about the research in detail.The project considered the question
What do the strategies and activities developed at CSU and Massey (to foster change in Blended and Flexible and Distance Education) help us to understand about learning leadership? 

The final report was called: Learning leadership in Higher Education – the big and small actions of many people, and was authored by myself (Merilyn Childs, Chief Investigator), Mark Brown (Massey), and Mike Keppell, Zeffie Nicholas, Carole Hunter and Natasha hard (CSU). We also produced a short report. I will post here a link to the full report when it is available.

Three key lessons emerged from the study.

1. Innovation in blended and flexible learning and distance education needs to be aligned to institutional vision – and the institution needs to manage the tensions that can exist between alignment, creativity and innovation.
2. Good practice in blended and flexible and distance education needs to be manifested through sustainable, consistent and supported opportunities.
3. Regardless of the strategy or activity, commitment to approaches that enable academics to take time, collaborate, share, network and connect are key to innovation in blended and flexible and distance education.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Pecha Kucha, here we come!

One of the really fun activities at our recent Teaching Fellows orientation involved trialling the 20x20 presentation format that we'll be using in our special PechaKucha* event during the CSUED conference this year. PechaKucha events are smaller scale versions of the highly popular PechaKucha nights - ‘informal and fun gatherings where creative people get together and share their ideas, works, thoughts…in the PechaKucha 20x20 format.’ (Find out more about PechaKucha here).

We used the format to get to know each other - a break from the usual 'ice-breakers' or longer presentations of projects. It worked a treat in that we were able to hear, in a very short, concise way, what was really important to our new Fellows in learning and teaching, and what inspired them as we move further and further into the 'digital age'.

It was interesting to note some of the themes that developed. Relationships, questioning the status quo, and the importance of dialogue and balance all featured strongly. I'm working on a Wordle image to represent our thoughts, and will update this blog post with that when it's ready. 

From my own perspective, this is what I learned about this new format that I'll take with me into CSUED:
  • It helped me to start with a 20-point outline of my ideas, outside of any presentation tool (you could of course use the outline view in your presentation tool). That let me focus on the ideas I was trying to get across, rather than on the overwhelming range of great images I could use. That came later. :)
  • When developing your list, deciding what to leave out is often more important than deciding what to leave in! Simplify, simplify, simplify. There is no end of great analogies, deep concepts...but in 6 minutes and 40 seconds, you'll need to refine your focus to avoid confusion.
  • Time flies...especially when it's only 20 seconds for each slide. Take the time to refine each slide, so that you can clearly get across your message without rushing before the slide moves on.
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse...that's how you get to know what you'll have time to say before the slide moves on.
  • Remember your copyright basics.
  • Some of the best presentations included something personal - we gained a sense of who the presenters were as people, as well as what their ideas were. Some included personal photos, reflections on the things that frustrated as well as inspired them...
  • Check that your automatic slide advances work beforehand, and upload before your presentation. With only 6minutes and 40 seconds for each presentation, the less time between presentations the better.
I can't wait 'til CSUED and our Vision2020 event. After our 'trial' run at the orientation, all the Fellows and their EDs commented that they really enjoyed it, and would submit a presentation. Hope we get lots more to boot!

NOTE: The deadline for Vision2020 abstracts is Friday 21st September 2012. If you submit an abstract, we will send you reminders regarding your presentation close to the final submission deadline (Monday 1 October 2012).

Some of the Fellows and their EDs have said that they wouldn't mind re-doing and recording their presentation and making them available to others as examples in the leadup to CSUED. As these become available, I'll share them here. Stay tuned...

* CSU are grateful to the owners of the PechaKucha trademark for allowing us to enter into a handshake agreement to run this special PechaKucha event at CSUED based on their 20x20 format. You can keep up with other PechaKucha pics, presentations and events by following them on Facebook (feel free to like them and post your own presentation).

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

New FLI Teaching Fellows prepare for the year ahead...

Last week I had the absolute pleasure of sharing two days with our new FLI Teaching Fellows who will commence their projects in July this year, as well as our two continuing Fellows who are preparing to complete their projects. I always find these days inspiring - it's a chance to share our passions about learning and teaching, our thoughts about what we want to contribute through our Fellowship projects and our work at FLI, and to start some planning processes to ensure that our projects are a success.

For those of you who are new to the FLI Teaching Fellowships, they are about:
giving gifted educators the space to innovate - to try new ideas in blended and flexible learning and to extend their practice, and then to share what they have learned with as many people as possible to enhance the use of blended and flexible learning across our CSU community.

This year, we have educators exploring:
  • a model for online, inter-disciplinary practicums in health services management, 
  • a course-based strategy for mobile learning, 
  • strategies for improving doctoral completion rates in industry-University supervisory partnerships,
  • development of cultural competence in speech pathology students, and
  • professional development resources for staff transitioning to student-centred learning models.
So what did we do? On Day 1, we started with some 20x20 presentations about the things that really inspired us about learning in the digital age. A great way to get to know each other! The FLI staff then shared various aspects of our work and what we were trying to influence (and how) in 2012, which led us into afternoon tea. Following that, Merilyn Childs, the Deputy Director of FLI, led a session on learning leadership, and after that we looked at digital literacies - how we are thinking about them, and where we are at with our own development of digital literacies.

Day 2 started with a look at some of the realities of a Teaching Fellowship - there are practical 'lessons learned' from past Fellows which we explored through a series of scenarios as we tried to 'future problem solve' some of the more common issues. That led us into some dedicated planning time for the Fellows, EDs and FLI staff on each of the projects, which we shared after morning tea.

After some discussion about future learning opportunities, it was time to wrap suggests it was a great two days for all! Stay tuned for updates through this blog and on the Teaching Fellows page of our website.  There, you'll also find links to videos and case studies of some of our past Fellows' projects.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The best kind of mapping...

I have a love-hate relationship with mapping. At its worst, it can be time-consuming, onerous, and not lead to much more wisdom than what we all intuitively knew. At it's best, it gives me fast, visual information that can be easily interpreted and lets me find the areas that I really need to focus on for deeper analysis, and the 'problem' areas in a course that may have remained hidden without it.

Last night Janelle Wheat, Wilma Pfitzner and myself sat in on a Skype conference with Simon Walker and Mark Kerrigan of the University of Greenwich. Janelle and Wilma are facilitating a Course Team symposium in the School of Dentistry focusing on assessment, and in particular e-assessments, and we were keen to start of with a clear representation of what was already happening in the course.

Simon and Mark have been working on some interactive tools for mapping assessments, which they call Map My Programme. You can find out more about these from their website.
Map My Program
A screenshot from the Map My Program tool
In a nutshell, the tools let the course team see what's happening, and make decisions about:
  • assessment bunching (the holistic student experience of when assessments are due across a course, and how they are weighted),
  • what types of assessments are being used, and which ones are predominating,
  • how similar assessment types are being weighted in different subjects, and
  • how much formative assessment is being conducted. 
The map is designed in Googledocs, so that all course team members can input their own data, and see the overall impact from a course perspective. In addition, Simon and Mark are working on additional tools which will make this kind of information available to students - excellent for those who struggle with time management!

For me, this is an example of the best kind of mapping. It's simple, collaborative, visual, easy to interpret, and helps me make good, quick decisions or know where to delve more deeply. I'm really looking forward to seeing what the team do with the tool, and how it helps them re-examine and redesign their assessments for learning. Thanks so much to Simon and Mark for your generous sharing!

Other tools we've used in past symposiums, for different purposes, include Grainne Conole's pedagogy profile, which was also great - fast, visual, easy to draw out useful data.

What tools have you been using for mapping, and how are they working for you?

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Learning opportunity: Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog
Professor Curt Bonk will be teaching a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in May to online instructors around the world. Here's the blurb:

Motivating students and creating community within blended and online learning environments is crucial to academic achievement and success. This open course will provide both theoretical concepts and practical tools for instructors to improve motivation, retention, and engagement within blended and online courses.

The course begins on April 30 and goes for 5 weeks, finishing on June 4. There are sessions on Wednesdays 4pm EST, which converts to 7am in NSW - good timing for those who get up early and want to slot in some free (to those who have web access) PD before the day begins in earnest. And those who attend will get badges of completion.

You can find more in his blog. Here's an outline of the first three key sessions:
  1. Motivation and retention online (TEC-VARIETY model)
  2. Addressing diversity and learning styles (R2D2 model)
  3. 50 hyper-engaging ideas: Critical, creative, cooperative
He seems to have kept the last two for more open sessions - the first a general Q&A, the second a more commercial 'Blackboard/CourseSites' overview. A shameless plug? Obviously, but perhaps worth a listen given the new developments in CourseSites which now allow facilitators to open their courses to the general public (this is the first open course they are offering). 

And if you're totally anti-Blackboard, don't let that put you off - they have picked a great the facilitator in Curtis Bonk who has a lot of credibility in the field (e.g. coauthoring The World is Open, Empowering Online Learning and The Handbook of Blended Learning).

I'll be there...will you join me? Open Enrollment begins Monday April 23, 2012. You can fill out the interest form to learn more.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

New case study: Enhancing access, equity and student learning through the use of virtual microscopy

We've just made available another new case study. This time it comes from Dr Lucy Webster, who was awarded a Flexible Learning Institute Teaching Fellowship in 2010 to complete this project as part of BMS337 (Histopathology), and has this year been honoured with both CSU's Vice Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence, and an ALTC Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning for 'for creating flexible and engaging resources to enhance student learning in the Biomedical sciences'.  

One of the slides that Lucy used with her Histopathology students. Both internal
and distance students were given various samples in which they made an
initial diagnosis, followed by a virtual meeting where Lucy was able to
address any incorrect diagnoses through discussion and shared annotation
on the slide on the electronic whiteboard. Following the session,
students would write up a case study report on their final diagnosis and justifications

From the case study:

The teaching of microscopy-based subjects is currently severely hindered by issues surrounding infrastructure, access and equity. In particular, distance education and offshore students are largely restricted to viewing samples on glass-microscope slides during intense residential school periods where they are under immense stress and time pressures. In this case study, Dr Lucy Webster shares how she has used virtual microscopy to digitally reproduce glass slides for normal tissue histology and histopathology so that images can be viewed and manipulated at remote locations. 

This blended and flexible learning strategy has had positive impacts on student access, equity, learning outcomes and engagement. Feedback from students was extremely positive and students have requested that the technology be used in other microscopy-based subjects. Widespread implementation of this technology has the potential to transform the teaching and flexible delivery of all microscopy-based subjects within the Faculty of Science at CSU. 

In this video, Lucy talks about her project: 

You can read Lucy's full case study here.  

Lucy is currently working on a ALTC-funded project with Professor Geoff Meyer at the University of Western Australia on a project entitled “New paradigms for learning and teaching histology; changing focus from microscopy to 3D reconstructions and animations”.