Not Just a Teacher

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Not Just a Teacher

What is your course about?

February 8th, 2013 · 5 Comments · General

In my current vocation, the basis for a lot of the work I am involved in is facilitating online versions of courses that have already been taught internally or are new courses. As one would expect, experience of teaching and learning in an online environment amongst academics is varied. So, in the same way as when anyone looks at considering learning in a different way, re-designing courses and changing the way something is taught, often there are difficult steps to take for all concerned. One of the most difficult and arguably the most vital step in the whole process is the first one.

So, basically, we are trying to develop a process for having clear conversations with staff about what their course is about.This is not intended to produce the kind of templates that are tick-a

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5 Comments so far ↓

  • Matt Esterman

    What about:

    How do we tell when learning is happening or has happened?

    How do we measure learning and are we flexible to include learning that wasn’t planned?

    How does the course/teacher change as learning progresses?

    Love these sorts of discussions. One of our very practical issues is space – 1000 kids on a campus built originally for about 500-600. Do we offer Flexible delivery? Evening classes? Is the time spent physically in class valuable enough to justify the use of space? (Imagining asking that one to a teacher! Lol how bureaucratic, but still present)

    With few new schools being built in ever growing urban and suburban areas, how do schools who have long traditions balance the need for stability with the reality of unending change?

    • largerama

      This is really good stuff Matt. All these are really challenging question that need to be asked.

      The most relevant in our current situation is the second you gave: How do we measure learning and are we flexible to include learning that wasnt planned? but that probably come after establishing answers to the first questions we are trying to find out i.e. the whole issue of what sort of outcomes is a teacher of a course is actually trying to achieve by the end of the course?

      But there is so much more for education to think about in general from what you have provided and this effects all sectors. In Higher Education there are clearly massive issues in flexibility of courses and of staff especially in the blended and online sphere. The use of space dilemma you describe, morphs itself in Universities to issues with spaces that don’t fit the needs of blended courses, timetables that cause further issues to name a few. Think about these 2 major issues many higher education institutes are facing:
      1 – If courses go online rather than on campus, what do we do with all these lecture theatres we have?
      2 – If courses are blended and the on campus work is largely group work, discursive, collaborative, specialist experimentation etc etc, then how good are all these lecture theatres most universities currently have in use

      There’s so much to debate here for all sectors and it has sparked another post I will write on how mush the various sectors should be sharing and collaborating: Primary – Secondary – Further – Higher Education.

  • IaninSheffield

    Not sure I can add much Nick, but wonder if I could seek a little clarification?

    You’ve suggested three brief questions Nick, but I’m willing to bet those to whom you’ll be asking them will find them incredibly tough. I’m sure I would.
    In Q1, am I right to assume you’re seeking information on what learners are bringing to the table? What their backgrounds are likely to be, what their knowledge and skills bases are, what prior learning they’ve experienced? That must be tough in the tertiary sector where learners are arriving from a host of different educational settings … and cultures?
    Q2 is even more demanding surely and won’t have a set answer will it? Different learners, different ways of learning?
    Or have I missed the point and what you’d be asking of the academics is who do you want the learners to be and how would you like them to learn. i.e. what does it take to learn like a … mechanical engineer, art historian etc? But I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the way I’m thinking there either!

    • largerama

      Cheers Ian.

      There is no doubt they are tough questions and although this is about work in the Higher Ed sector it transfers to all sectors. In some ways it can be a lot easier, arguably, to answer these questions in secondary or primary when there are prescribed programmes of study and set curricula but they are questions that need to be asked because there is still interpretation to be done. I would even say that the inability or lack of desire or failure to address these questions was one of the major contributors to the downfall of the ICT Programme of Study.

      In Q1, the issue is a challenge for Higher Ed courses when you are dealing with some courses that have professional, experienced entrants in the field in which the qualification is e.g. businessmen taking an MBA, as opposed to an undergraduate course in Traffic Management with students who have largely never worked or studied in that field. There could also be demographic issues and in online courses, cultural and geographical considerations.

      Q2 does not have a set answer, you’re right. Yet, surely decisions have to be made in this regard especially in designing courses to fit those learners. The settings that learning takes place for instance may influence how learning happens. For example, a course may need lots of large lab experiments and students to conduct these as teams sharing results whereas another course may have students involved in individually researching a sustainable building issue and compiling a report on it. How different would the learning look like for these learners? Add in the other issues from question 1 and there lots of considerations, surely. Again, this has to translate to the variety of subjects, school facilities, ethos, etc in schools.

      The last question is intended to make them think about how you become a certain thing (eg engineer, librarian) in terms of what qualities a student needs that can be learned and developed on a course. By thinking through this process, I believe that it will influence what is in a course and how it is taught, how students are expected to learn and the assessment of that learning.

      What do you think?

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