Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Development Ideas
…a blog post for Constructing Courses
The post is part of my contribution to the Constructing Courses to Enhance Learning paper. It examines my ideas about the re-development of a postgraduate paper I facilitate, which is being changed from being a 30 credit, fourteen week paper, to a 15 credit, seven week paper. At this time I have no freedom to re-write the Course Descriptor, as the current approved descriptor has been signed off. This poses a couple of challenges.
Having read some articles relating to writing learning outcomes, in my ideal world I would re-write the learning outcomes to reduce the number from 5 to 3, and would re-word them to better align with the ‘level’ descriptions proposed by the NZQA. Secondly, I would reduce the content list so that the content required was more easily able to be covered in seven weeks! However, bearing in mind these constraints, I have also realized (after reading Lockwood’s article on estimating student workload) that the amount of content in my previously-run 30 credit paper was probably not enough for the credit value of the paper. This will mean that I can maintain most of the current content into the new paper, but with better signposting around which components are ‘need to know’ and which are ‘nice to know’. This will bring the content into better alignment with expected hours (both directed and self-directed) for the credit value of the paper.
Thinking about what was in my mind when I constructed the previous paper, I think I was being overly mindful of the fact that postgraduate midwifery students are already really busy; most of them are working full-time, raising families, and often involved in other professional activities too, which means they have few hours each week to devote to study. I may have paced the course letting my heart rule my head (!), and spread the content out to the point where actually what was covered in each module could have been covered in a shorter time frame. In relation to assessments, I used as my guide other postgraduate papers with regard to how many and which type of assessments were realistic for a 30 credit paper. I now feel better-placed to be more ‘evidence-informed’ about content and assessments.
I have taught this course for three years now, and each year it has evolved, mostly around how the students are assessed. Last year I introduced assessable forum posts as a summative assessment, thinking that the previous assessment of presentations by each student at an Elluminate tutorial were anxiety-producing and potentially fraught technically. However, this change was unsuccessful, as I felt the students were not engaged with the forum post idea, and instead of posting their ideas to the forum and having them comment on each other’s work, what they instead did was to upload a document to the forum which then needed to be downloaded by anyone who wanted to read it (which only I did because I had to assess them). So there was little student to student asynchronous communication. Verbal feedback about this at an Adobe session suggested that because the posts were being assessed, the students did not want to put their work ‘out there’ for open scrutiny. So for the new paper I am going to try a Wiki, (formative) that all can contribute to by sharing ideas about what they have read and then asking them to contribute links or references for other literature they found on the topic, that way they expand each others’ access to information about the content, but don’t have to ‘out’ themselves in the same way!
Other assessment changes will simply reflect the reduced credit value, so instead of a 3000 word essay and evidence table appraising six articles, it will be a 1500 word essay and evidence table appraising three articles. So here are my ideas for the course in a nutshell:
The Course comprises 30 directed hours and 120 self-directed hours. So each of the learning modules (Moodle books) should contain about 5 hours’ worth of activities. Activities will include quizzes, text, links to articles and video recordings, Powerpoint presentations and links to external websites (eg an online, interactive statistics tutorial as an optional extra for those really motivated students!). Self-directed content will involve the research required to complete the two summative assessments, and well as reflection on course content and extra reading. Students have appreciated that most of the reading content is provided to them via links, rather than having to access the information themselves from the library. I think this saves time in their study weeks and I will continue to do this where it doesn’t contravene copyright to do so.
In the past I have received great verbal feedback from students about the course content: they say there’s a good balance between ‘dry’ theoretical content and other activities that distract them! They have liked the links to external sites, as they say that it means that the best material is provided from experts in the field. Unfortunately formal course assessment has been hampered by the fact that Stuart has been unable report the feedback if there are less than seven replies, as the metrics don’t lend themselves to this. All the classes have contained less than seven students, so even though feedback is sought via an online survey, it doesn’t get reported. We are working with Stuart on perhaps reporting the qualitative component (ie comments section) but not the metrics which are meaningless with small numbers.
Here’s my week by week plan:
Online Course Content – Moodle books
Evidence informed practice: the debate
Adobe meeting. Wiki.
Constructing clinical questions and search strategies
Discussion forum
Research design
Adobe: Ass 1: Presentation
Critical appraisal
Discussion forum
A brief look at research statistics
Adobe meeting
Synthesis of evidence: the evidence table
Discussion forum
No new course content – assessment preparation time
Assessment 2: Essay

Assessment 1: will require students to put together a ten minute presentation (using Powerpoint or similar – but must be compatible with Adobe software) which outlines their process of coming up with a clinical question about a midwifery practice topic, and the search strategy they used to locate evidence related to their topic. I anticipate this will be a four or five slide presentation. These postgrad classes are typically small (largest class in the last three years was five students) so this can easily be accommodated I one Adobe session. This will give the opportunity for real-time feedback about the students process, and enable the students to learn together by sharing their strategies and tips for searching.
Assessment 2: builds on the previous assessment by using the already-located evidence to reflect on how they can apply it to practice, using their new skills in critical appraisal of research to guide their thinking about applicability to their own context.
These assessments will therefore cover all five learning outcomes.
In terms of resourcing for this paper, most of the course content is already constructed. Because the future of .exe is uncertain, I have decided to translate the course content to Moodle books, as a way of future-proofing the content! This will no doubt take several days, but I will have the advantage of being able to reassess course content as I go, replacing content with updated materials as necessary, and removing content that is no longer required. Presently I am allocated 0.05 FTE to facilitate this paper (roughly 30 hours). The Adobes require 2 hours prep and 2 hours delivery each = 6 hours, and marking time for assessments approx 2 hours per student so perhaps 10 hours. This would leave about 14 hours for course development, which may we enough. No other staff would be required apart from perhaps an hour of post-assessment moderation time.
This post is unreferenced because the course outline for CCEL suggest it can be informal!