This is an archive of the 2013 version of ocTEL.

my practice #ocTEL Activity 1.2

My Approach

Reflect on where your learning activities lie on a matrix of ‘individual to social’ and ‘autonomous to directed’ learning.

Having plotted the teaching activity from our online masters, there’s stuff in three of the quadrants, but nothing in social & autonomous. My initial reaction to this is that we’ve avoided this kind of activity since its hard to coordinate for distance learners, and that some students would dislike the fact that they were relying on others without the backup of guidance from staff. I think I’d be nervous about having assessment depend on this kind of activity. But this doesn’t preclude us offering these activities as extras, as long as assessment doesn’t hang on them. And there’s also nothing to stop the students taking part in these activities with each other without any prompting by us, if they wanted to. Some of my F2F students have organised themselves into small groups and they regularly meet to discuss readings etc. outside of class time. This seems to fall under social and autonomous.

My Course

Put yourself in the shoes of a student on a course you might be teaching, and share your ideas concerning: At what points of your course are there opportunities to express opinions and instincts? What do you think this says about your teaching approach, and what would you like to do about it? How might technology help, or hinder, you in this.

In philosophy and ethics the expressing of ideas and arguments (we try and move them on beyond opinions) is crucial, and so forms a key part of the course. Technology very much enables this in a distance learning course – it provides us with the ability to communicate across distance. However technology can hinder when the technology forms an obstacle – when it is clunky or subject to technical failures. And some learners find navigating the technology, at least at first, difficult. Given the importance of discussion for this course, I’d like to offer more options in terms of how students communicate, to give them a chance to find the medium that suits them best.

At what point do you have to absorb information and how?

There is quite a lot of absorption of information, and at times I think too much. My reflection, prompted both by ocTEL and ULTA2, is leading me to the conclusion that I need to reassess the learning goals, and think about whether the materials and activities are tightly connected to those goals. I think technology can help here in that we can produce materials that are multi-layered, so that learners can delve as deep as they want to into the information, depending on their interests. This leaves more time for activities which develop their critical thinking and argumentation skills, which are more important than absorbing masses of information.

At what points do you work with fellow learners? What percentage of the course is assessed individually or as a group?

There is a lot of opportunity to work with fellow learners through the discussions mentioned above. And a portion of assessment does depend on this, although not in a way that leaves a students mark dependent on the activity (or inactivity) of others. I think the amount of working with others is right, but we could improve the medium through which this interaction takes place, and technology would potentially help here.

Teaching Fellow and Online Learning Specialist at the University of Leeds

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