Thursday, July 2, 2009

My Ideas For Flexible Learning

Drawing on the ideas expressed and explored in my blog, I have come up with three summary sheets that capture flexible things I have always done in my teaching, flexible things I have added since starting this course and flexible things I intend to do. I include examples of flexible learning that my ideas draw on, outline the fit between my ideas and Otago Polytechnics strategic direction and discuss the considerations, risks and concerns that will need to be resolved before implementing my flexible learning plan.

Flexible Things I have Always Done

  • Considered and attended to learning styles and individual characteristics and needs in overall presentation of content. I use a variety of lecture, film, discussion, research, activity, reading, case studies and experiential methods in delivery of course content.
  • Delivered material in such a way as to minimalise exclusion.
  • Attended to culture, characteristics and related needs by adapting course material, case studies, examples and assessments to fit with the cultural make up and characteristics of the group.
  • Providing a range of assessments catering to different preferences. I have experimented with encouraging students to develop their own assessments and I have adapted assessments to meet the needs of individual students.
  • Attending to learning support and extension needs of students by providing options for more or less tutorial support and options for more or less independent study
  • Changed the course timetable to better cater to parents and giving student choice re staying for late afternoon sessions
  • Providing a full time course in one contact day per week enabling flexibility around work and family commitments.
  • Developing accessible lecture notes, handouts and topic summaries and making these available to students in a variety of print sizes depending on needs.
  • Scaffolding as required building towards higher expectations and more complex assessment work as the year progresses.
  • Providing clear course books, assessments and assessment due dates and a fairly structured program but I am fairly casual with extensions trusting that students will complete work when they can.

Flexible Things I have Added Since Starting this Course

  • Using blackboard and power point. Online resources have enabled much more flexibility in terms of the resources that I am able to provide for students.
  • I have had all my students attend the computing training and set up additional support and sessions for those who need it.
  • I use a lot more technology in the classroom and am now much more able to utilise excellent online sites which enhance my teaching and delivery and inspire students.
  • I now provide lecture notes in colourful presentation format, in a printable version and in note taking version so that students have options as to how they use this material.
  • I still provide hard copies for students who require this.
  • My power points set the material out so that it is succinct, accessible and provides students with essential information.
  • I provide links to additional sites and are gathering links to more relevant and interactive sites for students who like to play.
  • I provide an 'Additional Resources for Enthusiasts' folder with each topic and continue to add links to interesting articles, and relevant documents, policy and legislation. I make it clear that this folder is over and above course expectations but encourage students to look - many do.
  • I encourage students to contribute material they find to these folders too (currently via emailing it to me but I know there is a less labour intensive way)
  • I am encouraging students to use lap tops in the class room.
  • I have encouraged a student who was otherwise going to have to drop out to continue working through the material and communicate with me by email since the material was now nearly all available on line. She has wanted to be apologetic but I have been able to reassure her that she is helping me become more flexible. This arrangement is working well and I have a second student who needs to leave Dunedin and we have agreed to the same plan. So far I have just been depositing resources but this is encouraging me to move more towards incorporating lesson plans.
  • Increased variety in assessment I am now giving students the option of presenting assessments on line. In a recent assessment in my Level 4 class students working in groups could choose to do posters or power points. Three groups did poster and two did power points.
  • In my level 6 class students used power point to present legislation and leading up to this we all had a session with community computing learning how to use PP 2007. They went on to create collaborative google docs. I had no idea what I was doing but we all figured this out together which was mutually empowering and probably one of my best experiences of teaching ever.
  • Increased technology has increased opportunities to get students to share their work with one another and this enhances the whole teaching and learning experience all round.
  • I have also started to write more flexibility into assessments so that rather than accommodating students who struggle to present material in a specific way, I am working towards providing students with more choice regarding how they present and to a certain extent what they present. I still feel somewhat restricted by unit standards but think I am considerably more creative in my integration of these than some.

Flexible Things I Intend to Do!

  • Optional audio clips for all power point presentations
  • Optional audio clips for essential readings
  • Key words and terms linked to a thesaurus or a course based glossary of terms and optional audio clips with these.
  • Pre and post topic interactive quizzes/self evaluation survey's that are marked automatically and provide evidence of student having met course/unit standard learning outcomes. If students pass these at the beginning of a topic they could choose to skip the topic, identify their own learning outcomes to enhance overall learning on the topic or focus on one particular area or gap.
  • Increased range of interactive activities, games and or structured and guided lesson plans rather than just resources for each topic.
  • Second life based assessed activity - this could be great for demonstrating interpersonal skills
  • More creative assessment options for online
  • Capture the sense of connection and human interaction experienced in face to face setting - use of video introductions at the outset of each term and encouraged ongoing use. Use of blogging in plain English type information video's
  • More student directed learning / less spoon feeding and information shovelling
  • Remove the stress point from assessments as much as possible.
  • More peer and self evaluation, more collaborative assessment including collaborating with the teacher.
  • More use of online strategies that enable students to collaborate on course resources and content
  • More flexibility in assessments from the outset
  • Shift to 'Learning Facilitator rather than teacher or lecturer
  • Less summative and more formative assessment - blogging and google docs good for this
  • More emphasis on Journal tasks
  • More use of online discussion groups set up around group assessment tasks

Examples of Flexible Learning That My Plan Draws On

1) This Flexible Learning course
2) My Current Programme
3) Massage Course
4) Mid Wife Course
5) Occupational Therapy Course

Fit between my Flexible Learning Plan and Otago Polytechnic's strategic Direction

Otago Polytechnic's strategic direction in terms of flexible learning can be summed up as; 'accessability, learner autonomy and cost efficiency' . My plan is in synch with this stategic direction.

Considerations, Risks and Concerns

1) Upskilling me - I still haven't done an elluminate session, I haven't learnt to use moodle, I'm not comfortable with video, film and sound equipment and there is a lot I have to learn. But I'm not in fear of the technology anymore and I'm also not afraid of learning alongside students as I go. That said, I'd want to keep use of technology fairly basic at the outset

2) Personal sense of grief re loss of regular face to face sessions with my students. I find this group of students particularly rewarding to work with and will miss the contact.

3) Concerned about how to replicate my passion and enthusiasm on line as I think these qualities motivate and energise students. How to make it fun for everyone.

4) Concerned about how to get enough creativity and variety into online assessments and teaching - variety is the spice of life!

5) A little concerned that the course may not actually prove accessible to students in an online forum. Many are adamamant they would not want this format

6) Some concerns about timing of this change and related organisational requirements. Do I need to rewrite my programme document first and have it go through the academic approval process? Do I need to wait another year since prospectus has already gone out? Can I afford to wait another year in terms of my course sustainability?

7) How much time to reasonably and realistically expect from students completing the course on line and how to get this right

8) How do distance students afford contact blocks? Where do they stay? Are costs incorporated into fees or are they seperate.

9) How am I going to find the time to do this on top of my existing workload.

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