Each session educational developers and designers from the Learning and Teaching Centre team up with academic teaching staff who have plans to enhance the learning experience of their students through implementing curriculum change. Learning and Teaching Week was the perfect opportunity to showcase some of these partnership projects from all faculties.
Prof Cath Dean and Sherrie Love showcased their online community unit which supports their Physiotherapy students while they complete their work placements in organisations across Sydney. The community building unit uses iLearn forums and databases to facilitate student generated content in a constructive and positive online environment.
Can studying online be an ideal learning experience? Macquarie graduate and staff member Lara Hardy looks at what teaching staff can do to help students feel connected.
Having studied as an undergraduate and postgraduate student on campus, by distance, and as an internal student taking some external units (whilst also undertaking prac), it is always interesting to compare different modes of study and teaching strategies and to ask, how do students learn best? Can they achieve their ideal learning experiences studying online?
In Session 2, 2013 a Faculty Partnership Program (FPP) Project, involving Dr Paul Duckett, Biology Department, and the Learning & Teaching Centre, trialed synchronous online virtual classroom technology. This short-term project enabled Paul to develop new approaches for his teaching, by utilising the support and expertise of the Macquarie University’s Learning and Teaching Centre.
Have you heard of the Faculty Partnership Program? We are currently inviting applications from interested parties to conduct a 6 month project with the Educational Design and Development group at the LTC.
These short intensive projects provide opportunities to try new approaches to learning and teaching by incorporating learning technologies with the aim of improving student engagement.
One recent project has been investigating the introduction of more interactive tools (wikis, chat, RSS feeds, Blogs, Twitter feeds, different forms of video to include conferencing) and aligned student activities to enhance a 2nd year undergraduate unit in European languages. The Academic Lead, Blanche Menadier says “I am enjoying the FPP despite the fact that it is requiring more work than I had hoped for because I can see that what we are doing is transferable to other units and because the people I am working with are extremely helpful and user-friendly”.
Application closing date for the next round of projects is Friday 30 May. For more details on the program and information on how to apply, contact your Associate Dean, Head of Office or see the LTC website.
The scenario: A second year Accounting unit of over 800 students, 32 tutorial groups and 10 tutors. The assessment task: A research project (1500 words). The challenge: how to achieve reliable and efficient marking across such a large number of assignments and teaching staff?
Alex Blair outlined how two years ago, through his Faculty Partnership Program (FPP) project, he moved from face-to-face to online assessment. Economics as a discipline traditionally prefers paper based exams. Alex experienced trepidation initially and wondered how assessment integrity could be maintained. With a little creativity, flexibility and help from the FPP, Alex addressed these concerns successfully by:
modeling assignments using animated presentations slides
As the LTC wishes best of luck to star performers Sherrie Love, Rebecca Ritchie and Mingming Diao, who are going on secondment, it also welcomes with open arms Jorge Reyna, Victoria Taylor and Jean-Christophe Froissard as new staff who will fill the void left behind. They bring with them a wealth of experience into the LTC ranging from TAFE e-learning to expertise in BlackBoard Collaborate (something we are all keen to explore, no doubt). Jorge will be located within the Faculty of Science as the designated Educational Designer, whereas Victoria and Jean-Christophe will be located in the LTC, working with Faculties on Faculty Partnership Programs (FPP) and other initiatives such as FLaME.
A little bit about our new and extending family:
Victoria Taylor comes to us from Navitas English and has considerable design and development experience working with virtual online classrooms. Victoria replaces Rebecca Ritchie (while she is on secondment) as a centrally based educational designer and will start on Tuesday 28th Jan.
Jorge Reyna comes to us from UWS where he has been working as a blended learning advisor, supporting academics in their integration of technologies to design engaging learning activities. Jorge replaces Sherrie Love (while she is on secondment) as the educational designer attached to the Faculty of Science and will start on Feb 3rd.
Jean-Christophe Froissard (Chris) comes to us from TAFE eLearning Hub and has considerable experience in Moodle, digital media and design and development of online resources. Chris will replace MingMing Diao (whilst he is on secondment) as a centrally based educational designer and will start on Monday 17th Feb.
Please make these new lambs welcome to the farm as they embark on a journey here at Macquarie.
Dr Monique Crane, Lecturer in Organisational Psychology was the academic lead on a Faculty Partnership Project in Session 1 this year that aimed to redesign PSY 963 Coaching and Positive Psychology in a way that was both engaging and academically challenging for students. The LTC project team worked with Monique to rejuvenate the curriculum for blended delivery, introducing a number of tools and techniques that included collaborative authorship tasks and video scenarios.
Prezi for Collaborative Authorship
With collaborative authorship teaching tasks, PSY 963 students literally contribute to the workshop material, creating a mixture of expert content and student-generated content for the unit.
Collaborative authorship is a strategy that makes use of participatory technologies in the classroom as a way of developing student-centred learning opportunities and increasing student engagement. Monique reported that such participatory technologies allow “students to collaboratively develop an outcome related to the workshop content through the use of an online medium such as Prezi or a Wiki. This process can be moderated and guided by the chair in real time. At the end of this process, all students have access to their collaboratively authored resources that will assist in guiding their future practice.”
Monique is now a collaborator on a project funded by a grant from the Innovation and Scholarship Program (with the LTC’s Oliver Coady) to extend the work from the Faculty Partnership project in examining the role of collaborative authorship in the classroom to improve student engagement and skill transfer.
Authentic Video Scenarios
Macquarie’s Human Resources Department collaborated with Monique and the LTC project team in the production of video scenarios for PSY 963 which demonstrate a coach implementing a strategy with clients in different situations. Rather than actors, the videos star professional coaching experts based here at Macquarie who also helped script the videos. These videos are not only core resources for the unit itself but can also be used in other professional development settings, as well as a teaching resource in the classroom or online.
Monique says she values the insights gained from her experience working with the LTC project team and is now implementing the new teaching strategies she has learned across all her units. “The LTC has expertise in the area of adult learning and this means that they are able to provide insight into new teaching methods and content delivery. Students are exposed to innovative teaching techniques too.”
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.’
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