This post presents a short overview of a parallel session from the Durham Blackboard Users Conference. This session outlined an approach to student induction and preparation for online study on a distance learning course.
Session: ‘Three steps to success’ by Nichola Hayes, University of Leicester.
Hayes outlined a structured process to enable distance learning students to use Blackboard effectively and induct them onto their programme. The first step is a Blackboard taster which is available at the recruitment stage, the second step is a ‘how-to’ orientation period of two weeks (not study skills, but practical ‘how to get going’ materials), the third step is restructuring of the first taught module to support both the technology and technology-enhanced learning processes. The approaches used here echo strongly the ‘best practices’ the elearning community evangelise. There is strong emphasis on design and planning to ensure that there is a seamless transition for students and that the learning experience is pedagogically grounded.
Some key messages
- Orientation module uses the same style of learning as in the main part of the degree (e.g. set discussion and three readings per week) to familiarise students with the process of online learning. The ‘content’ is based on the student handbook as opposed to academic material.
- A common look and feel through each of the three steps provides consistency (and reassurance) to students. The aim is to make the technology ‘invisible’ so that students are not focussed on the platform, but on the learning.
- Planning of a whole course is important as the content of the first two steps is dependent on being consistent with what the students can expect from the programme. Managed timelines with project management and online pedagogical design woven into the programme from the start is essential.
A similar structure is used by the University of York Online Masters programme to great effect involving technical and academic skills in both orientation and the first two modules, and in the project management and design of programmes.