Thursday, 10 July 2008

Health and Life Sciences awayday

Malcolm and I led a session today at the Health and Life Sciences awayday, looking at new directions for e-Learning at DMU. There was a great mix of experiences, expectations and aspirations for the use of technology in the curriculum. Both Malcolm and I hold a position, which states that technologies should be used progressively to empower staff and students, and that the decisions about which technologies should be used need to be owned by programme teams. We also believe that these decisions should be made in negotiation with students.

However, an interesting discussion ensued with the 20 participants. The critical areas for discussion focused upon:
  1. a concern that students are not reading and evaluating enough. Shafi responded to this, stating that he had used a combination of online journals and commenting through wikis to motivate students, and he used the lovely phrase "unfolding a story". This clearly connects into personalisation and ownership of a learning process, where feed-forward is as important as feedback;
  2. Rob argued that getting students to read more is an aspiration with a long history of disappointment. The key is to stimulate their appetite, and the use of appropriate tools may act as motivation;
  3. Simon argued that writing does not deteriorate due to online work, as long as the appropriateness of academic writing and academic literacy was highlighted by staff;
  4. Peter wondered what students' experiences were prior to higher education - perhaps we need to look at BECTA and DEMOS and JISC;
  5. Tilo was undertaking participative research with young people who have a culture of using these tools to engage with new ideas, and wondered how read/write Web tools might help the research process;
  6. Malcolm noted that we were about to buy Penfield Hospital from the University of Huddersfield, and this virtual hospital simulation should help empower students decision-making.
This was a really useful discussion session. However, the key is for academic staff teams to understand the technologies that enhance their teaching, and their students' learning and to engage with those enhancements. In order to understand the technologies, and in order to make better decisions about them and their curriculum, targeted and focused professional development for academic teams may be the order of the day.


Malcolm said...

I felt this session was very useful because we had a range of views about e-learning in the audience and this led to a lively discussion.
I should like to re-iterate that, in my view, there should be no compunction for academics to use e-learning but I would hope that those who are not committed would keep an open mind about its value and perhaps try it out to see if it adds anything to what they are doing at present.
A point made by Peter (I think) in the discussion was that many students are using this technology already at school and probably expect us to be using it in some places in our teaching. However, there is no point in us using e-learning for the sake of it or because its perceived trendiness will endear us to students. It has to have a purpose; if it doesn't students will not use it.
We should also not be afraid to experiment and, if we find it doesn't work, try another tack.
Thanks to all those who came to this workshop and particularly to those who voiced their views.

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Anonymous said...

Variety is the spice of life.