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Less is definitely more by Chris Froissard (Reflections on Learning and Teaching Week)

This was my first Learning and Teaching week. I didn’t know what to expect. Was it going to be an interminable series of one-way discussions, or obtuse monotonic research presentations? I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of presenters, topics and formats. I was unable to attend all sessions, but I think this “less” rather than “more” approach allowed me to have some time to reflect.

Here are a few key ideas that I took from the sessions I attended.

Change is on the way: Monday

The Keynote “Learning and Teaching strategy update” on Monday by Professors Sherman Young and John Simons was a call to arms. Sherman was pushing the audience to think about what the uni would look like if academics didn’t have to do what they were doing. What would you do if everything was possible? He was asking for change by revolution, however comments from the floor indicated that academics were weary of change and believed that incremental or evolutionary change was more effective.

There was discussion of a common core year for all undergraduates. This got me thinking, what would you include in this common core? Learning skills, the art of critiquing, referencing, time management? Would there need to be different streams depending on the discipline e.g. Science as opposed to Arts? Is there any evidence that moving to this common core leads to better outcomes?

What do you think about this idea?

Surprises on Tuesday

The Symposium: Partnerships through learning design to enhance the student experience on Tuesday had academics presenting on their Faculty Partnership Projects. The themes were flipped classroom, online activities, and student engagement. Here is a snapshot of what was covered in the session.

LTC symposium padlet

Academics said that the biggest challenge in moving to a flipped classroom model was not moving the lectures to an online mode but knowing how to create engaging face-to-face activities in the workshops. This seemed to me a blind spot in the application of flipped classrooms, as a large part of the discussion and effort seems to go into designing the online unit.

What are the biggest challenges you face in flipping your classroom?

The Merit Scholars Panel: ‘The student voice” on Tuesday with four of Macquarie University’s best and brightest students was informative. What stood out for me was the fact that the most engaged students would only complete an activity if there were marks associated with it. They would not engage in learning for learning’s sake. They were very strategic about what they did. For example if there was one unit that had a lot of marked activities and one that had lots of unmarked activities they would ignore the latter and focus on the former. I wonder to what extent this attitude is reflective of undergraduates?

I also wonder if postgraduates and mature age students would react the same way?

Blogging and networking on Wednesday

In The Art of Blogging for Learning and Teaching hosted by Lucy Arthur and Ollie Coady there was a nice use of different presentation mode, use of blog for content in presentation. Ollie did a walk-through of tips and tricks when writing a blog post for Teche. A useful one was the SEO app which helped you as a contributor to optimise the searchability of your blog post to maximise your external audience. Ollie shared an interesting site tweetping  showing the number of tweets around the world in real time – essentially ramming home the message that there is a lot of activity on social media. The WordPress installation for Teche is well thought out and if used effectively can be a powerful tool for letting Macquarie staff communicate with the world. Great way to build a profile and get your thoughts and idea out there onto an active and streamlined platform.

The Roundtable for the Sydney Educational Designers network hosted by Victoria Taylor and Ollie Coady was an interesting session focusing on educational design. Should it be concerned with the “bells-and-whistles” or looking at the purpose of the design? The video by Tim Brown on the perils of designing to pretty things up was an interesting warm up. The comment that “you can’t really go wrong if you design in a group starting from a particular problem that needs to be addressed” was interesting.

The discussion around student generated content from different perspectives: academic, student, designer and institution provided multiple perspectives and was a good exercise. For example from students thinking that they are not the experts, that’s why they come to uni; to the institution worried about equity; to the designer wow this is exciting, can lead to challenging and innovative design; to the teacher what is the purpose for this type of activity, how will this be assessed the ideas or product.

What do you think about student-generated content?

I would love to hear about the key points or ideas you took from this week.

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