Dr Michael Cavanagh and A/Prof Joanne Mulligan from the School of Education have been working with a team from the LTC on redesigning EDUC258 Mathematics in Schools for Session 3, an experience which Michael says has ‘changed my perception of the potential benefits of online delivery for students’.
A Session 3 timeframe means the weekly topics are compressed from 13 weeks down to 5 online modules in iLearn, complemented by a reduced number of face-to-face sessions. The unit will introduce students to some fundamental ideas about the learning and teaching of mathematics in schools. According to Michael, ‘the biggest challenge has been to identify the key concepts and skills for students to learn about in the unit. My colleagues and I decided that it was more important for students to think deeply about what they were learning and have sustained opportunities to reflect on their growing understanding of the unit content, so we wanted to allow time for that to occur. That meant cutting back on some content, but I think the end result will lead to significant student learning.’
In order to accommodate the compressed timeframe, the unit also employs quite a bit of video, including short ‘talking head’ videos where teaching staff describe some of the key concepts, as well as panel discussions. With maintaining student engagement a high priority in the online space, the unit also includes a video of a past student giving tips on how to engage online. The LTC team have also helped to create a ‘teacher voice’ in the online space that guides the students on how they should work through the online materials. Photos of the teaching staff are displayed within the activities in iLearn.
The idea of a learning community underpins the unit, with students expected to take an active role in their own learning and share a greater responsibility for their progress. Michael says that in the new online design, ‘there are many more opportunities for students to engage with the ideas, share their thinking to enrich their own learning and that of their peers, and to reflect on how their new knowledge is supporting their development as teachers. It’s my hope that by participating in the online activities and thinking about the ideas students will find the subsequent on-campus sessions more beneficial.’
EDUC258 will be run this year in Session 3, and an in-depth evaluation will be undertaken via TEDS surveys and focus groups. Looking further ahead, Michael says, ‘I hope that we can incorporate the underlying design principles that have guided the redevelopment of the unit and many of the learning and teaching activities into the Session 1 offering of the unit.’
‘For me, the project has been a great opportunity to work with LTC staff who are experts in learning design. Their ideas and practical support have really helped me to reflect on how to maximise learning opportunities for students in an online environment.’