Reflections on parallel sessions: Approaches to engaging staff through case studies (Durham Blackboard Users Conference 2011)

By Matt Cornock

This post presents a short overview of a parallel session from the 2011 Durham Blackboard Users Conference.This session was mainly about pedagogical templates used to both describe and design models of learning from face-to-face through to wholly distance. It also included descriptions on how case-studies and questionnaires have been implemented as a way to engage staff.

Session: ‘Pedagogical Templates for e-Learning: Seven course design models for varying degrees of location- and time-dependence’ by Tim Neumann, Institute of Education, University of London.

Neumann presented seven Pedagogical Templates for E-Learning developed by Magdalena Jara and Fitri Mohamad. The models are based on a continuum from face-to-face through blended to wholly distance and are appropriate descriptors of different approaches taken to location- and time-dependence teaching and learning.

Further details on this are available through the Work-based Learning for Educational Professionals occassional papers: Pedagogical Templates for E-Learning.

Neumann also presented three approaches to engaging staff, and this is what I wish to draw upon here:

A basic data collection exercise to help produce simple case studies focuses on the academic staff’s reflections on using elearning technologies. The questions intend to draw out: the benefits of the elearning elements as part of the course (pedagogical advantage), key points for effective practice (advice) and the most remarkable feature of the course (unqiue or distinguishable feature). This enables the elearning team to quickly identify and share ideas and practices amongst staff with little effort required of the academic. Neumann’s example was a Google docs form, which also meant that collecting the data was relatively straightforward too.

More extensive elearning case studies focus on: models, activities, support, assessment and staff roles. Staff react positively to the presence of ‘reflective’ statements by staff providing an honest perspective on how they found the experience of developing elearning materials or courses.

Extensive course-design questionnaires were used as a first step in engaging staff in order that support can be most appropriately tailored. These questionnaires were very detailed and required a lot of effort from academic staff.

From my perspective, a lot can be achieved through a brief conversation and I prefer that method rather than questionnaires or form-completion. This is not to say that course design requirements are not properly structured or recorded, but it does reduce the administrative burden on academic staff, which is often one of the barriers to adoption.

The short case study approach is certainly worth using, particularly with the emphasis on what the staff have learnt through reflecting on both the positive and negative aspects of developing and using elearning activities. Being able to share ‘quick tips’ seems to appeal to staff and harvesting these and sorting them so that they can be provided to staff with interests in, for example, only one tool or only one type of activity is useful.

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