Trying to update a Unit!

I’m currently teaching a Unit called “Educational Computing” (warning: server often slow/down)
The current unit looks at how to design & create what’s essentially a learning object – for something that is fairly fact based – things like GCSE revision are common choices. The software the students create (currently using Flash or HTML) is designed to be used by a single user, and tends to be pretty traditional (in no small part, that’s due to the fact I tell them they have to identify how you’d both teach and assess someone online).
They also have a group research project, looking at recent developments in eLearning, so, research into Mobile Learning / SecondLife for teaching etc.
The unit was created several years ago, when most students were enthusiastic programmers. Now we’ve got far more who are on a range of degree schemes, many of whom aren’t keen programmers. (Not to mention the fact that Flash has a much greater learning curve than Authorware).
However, I want to radically rethink the unit! I want to make it more community based, but still recognising that there are some subjects for which a fairly traditional approach works well – the drill / practice tools that are easy to build – and useful if you’re trying to learn your tables etc!
I’ve had a few ideas and have also been talking to one of our online developers; so my current plans are:

  • Maintain the overview of how people learn, including (among things) that some things need lots of repetition and essentially have a “right” answer, while others lend themselves far more to discourse and don’t have a right answer.
  • Get students to find & evaluate a range of different types of online learning resources – for different subjects / ages / etc.
  • Develop a community of online course developers through a range of Web2.0 tools – I’ll suggest some – whatever happens to be current next October, and get them to find others. [Get them to develop their own PLE?]
  • Have a set of real life projects by asking round the Uni / friends who happen to be teachers. e.g.
    • 1st year history undergraduates studying pre-Industrial communities
    • Newly qualified nurses wanting to develop professional links with their peers
    • A class of primary children studying their local area in Geography
  • Get them to create a website / set of resources to suit the above. Not quite sure at this stage, how much I’d want them to actually *create* material, and how much to evaluate existing resources & draw them in to form a coherent whole ..
  • And then some form of group research project – perhaps getting them to use CiteULike etc., more than I currently do; … not sure

Any suggestions?
It’s going to have to be something that I can set up in our VLE (WebCT Vista), and a certain amount of my teaching material will have to be there – however, there’s nothing to stop me having lots of links out!
I have to work out how to have the balance between discourse happening within the VLE (as that’s where it’s meant to) and that outside (issues of services ceasing / students not wanting to set up yet another account being balanced against the real world that’s out there.)

4 thoughts on “Trying to update a Unit!

  1. Forgot to add – was thinking of getting students to work out their own grading rubric … especially for the individual part – presumably as a group???

  2. Hi Emma,

    As I’m a developer, it seems like this unit is basically teaching studenst about my job!!! Your description is overall pretty good, but there are a number of things they would need to also think about in reality.

    I think taking them through the education theory stuff is realy important. It’s so obviious the diffeernce between surface/deep learning etc. But I’m not quite sure some people get this – or at least need to be reminded!!

    Also, I think it may be worth pointing out that they themselves need to be prepared to learn a bit about the subject they are making an online resource about. Because they can’t design an educational resources / activity if they don’t at least some basic understand of the subject! Or in other words, they aren’t technictians / programmers who just build things – they have to design too. (This may be easy for me to say because the subjects in Humanties are interesting …. Not sure I’d fancy working in the Business School and have to design learning resources about Accounting!!)

    Then I think this would be a realsitic project that’d bring all the stuff togather:-


    –>Give students a ‘context’ and job (e.g. online course developer working in a University etc.)

    –>Give students a ‘design brief’ (your examples look good, but I think for some they need to be bit more specific and closly linked to the learning outcomes. Also, it’s really improtant to say how the online activity would be used … is distance learning or blended learning? and who would be running/managing it’s use etc.)

    They then have to design and make the online learning activity. This will involve a number of stages…

    –>Reviewing and research the software that could be used, looking at the different properties each software/system has. (This review should start with broad categories, e.g. social networks, and then look at specific. This would also involve looking at e-learning academic research to find examples of where things have been used sucessful or not).

    –>Identifying the constraints, eg..
    their own skills,
    the support for the software from the instution / company,
    how will the online activity be maintained / updated in the future?
    the skills of the teacher/lecturer who will use it,
    resources available, copyright, accessibility
    secutity, data protection, etc.
    Cost – time to develop, train staff, maintain.
    Technical constraints, such as broadband usage etc. (e.g. it’d be no good deciding to create a mobile phone app if
    only 2% of target audience had suitible phone!)

    They should then explain the design they have chosen and why.

    They can then make the online activity. (I’d say that it’d be acceptabble if bits were incomplete, for example if they wanted to make something that uses the VLE discussion board for part of it).

    Then finally I guess they could then evaulate it. What they think worked or not and why. What would change / improve in the future.

    Trying to think if I’ve got any examples of the kind of thing I mean. The faculty e-learning website has got some ideas and resources.

    Anyway, this is just my ideas if you wanted to do a realistic type project with them. From remembering when i taught the WAIF unit ages ago, the students didn’t really like having to thing about all the different constraints…. but in reality they wouldn’t have any choice!!


  3. Some good points, Emily … though this is only a 20 credit unit!

    Yes, I agree that some of the suggestions were a bit “vague”; however, if I do make the changes, I’ll then contact people I know (e.g. you, some teacher friends etc!) to get some “real” ideas from them.

    I also agree about the need to know something about what they’re intending to do; which is what could make it a little more difficult – ideas from teachers (esp. Primary teachers) are likely to encompass things the students already know (I’d hope!) – where as ideas from, say, someone in History could prove more of a challenge to them.

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