Designing a module for blended learning: a case study

I’m currently in the thick of a live module which has undergone a significant redesign in its delivery. This post summarises some of the changes that were made and some of the challenges that we (myself and the academic team) have encountered. If you are thinking about including more blended learning in your delivery, there should be something here for everyone; from a complete redesign to smaller elements that you can take away and try out in a single lecture or practical.

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First, some background to the module itself. It’s a marine biology-based, second year, second semester module with a cohort of approximately 90 students. Up until this semester, the format of the teaching has been a traditional bi-weekly lecture (mainly Powerpoint, by the academic teams’ own admission, but with a small amount of audience interaction via Turning Point handsets). The assessment was 40% coursework (a written grant proposal) and a paper-based exam (3 essays from a choice of 6). The academic team, with a commitment to “making it better” (a sentiment which strongly aligns with our new institutional strategy), approached ILIaD in the summer of 2015 for support in redesigning the module.

One of the first things we did was to revisit the learning objectives for the module. Once the academic team had updated these (I was just a sounding board in this case) we looked at the assessment.  In the first instance, my role was again to provide space to reflect on whether the assessments were really a good fit with the revised learning objectives. This could easily happen without ILIaD input at this stage, but sometimes a fresh pair of eyes and ears helps. Having decided on some new types of assessment, I could then provide the team with various technical options. They decided that a group video presentation and an individual data interpretation exercise would replace the written work, and that the format of the final exam would be changed to a mix of defined-response questions and 1 essay from a choice of 4, delivered via the University-supported software, Questionmark Perception. On personal experience, I have found this to be a challenging piece of software to use, particularly if you are trying to do more than basic multiple choice questions; and I have more time than an academic normally would. In this case ILIaD is providing hands on support to create the assessments, whilst the academics develop the questions.

The academic team negotiated a change to the delivery format; this now became a weekly 3 hour ‘Session’ consisting of mini-lectures (20 mins each), interspersed with directed activities in a computer room/lab. This of course presents a significant challenge for timetabling if more modules adopt this method. The content of the syllabus was not changed.

We also looked at the amount of formative feedback provided to students and how this could be enhanced. There was a mid-semester defined-response quiz that was given to students but it had little engagement. We felt that this was probably because it had little resemblance to the summative assessment, so it was revised to be more clearly aligned with the exam. We also identified a number of key concepts across each ‘Session’ and planned to create Articulate Storyline packages to allow students to revisit these in a more interactive way than simply reading powerpoint slides. Licenses for this software can be expensive, and as always, there is a learning curve with new software. Should you wish to create your own; you can get design support from our SIG, or you can work with ILIaD to storyboard your designs and we will create them for you. Finally, we identified some enhancements that could be made to the Blackboard site for the module including; navigation and organisation, Twitter feeds, discussion boards, and additional learning resources such as Lynda.com and the Academic Skills Hub. The academics also planned to increase their use of Turning Point in class for formative feedback.

For brevity I will write a blog post for each of the design elements I have talked about over the next couple of weeks, so you can read about them in more detail. This page will be updated with relevant links to those posts. We will be evaluating the effectiveness of all of these and aim to produce an more in depth case study in the summer.

  • Refreshing learning objectives
  • Linking assessment to learning objectives
  • Group video presentations as coursework
  • Developing a computer-based summative exam
  • Articulate Storyline for illustrating key concepts and formative assessment
  • Audience response systems for checking understanding
  • Enhancing Blackboard
  • Additional learning resources

We took an agile approach to development, which means we are working in ‘sprints’ to complete formative activities a couple of weeks before students access them. In part this has been due to the pressures of workload on academic staff, but it also allows ILIaD to work responsively with the team, and incorporate feedback and further development into each new resource.

ILIaD is committed to helping staff, but not just by providing an extra pair of hands or expertise; we are committed to your professional development, and will aim to equip you with experience and skills to take into other modules that you teach. We are also building a network of peers who can support and inspire each other. If you would like to know more about the whole design process of this module, just parts of it, or be put in touch with colleagues who can tell you about their experiences, please contact your ILIaD Faculty representative.

 

 

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