Saturday, 18 July 2015

A Year of Digital Learning Design

As the first year of Digital Learning Design is almost upon me, it's a good time to reflect on how it has been and what could have been better.  I'm sure a lot of other organisations have or are going through a similar experience with planning and delivery of both the Level 3 and 4 Diplomas in Digital Learning Design.

Barnsley College has benefited greatly from the service we offer with these programmes, in the form of a learning company.  We have had 7 apprentices on the Level 3 programme and now 4 have progressed onto Level 4 with us.  Both programmes are on a year and a day format.  We also have a number of off-site apprentices with external organisations.  The apprentices are instructional designers which the College has never had before in it's history.  The main barrier that the teaching staff experience is not having enough time to create their own eLearning packages and activities.  But this has now been removed as teachers now have instant access to a service that allows them to get high quality and interactive eLearning materials suitable for inside and outside of the classroom.

What went well:

  • Regular and ongoing support, mentoring and encouragement to the apprentices.
  • Enabling creative freedom within the apprentices.
  • Developing a collaborative and supportive team.
  • Returning quick assessment decisions and feedback.
  • Facilitating the online group with developmental feedback and resources.
  • Managing the apprentices, assessment and qualification.
  • Developing and marketing the learning company.
  • Dedication and commitment to developing a new eLearning workforce that is current and relevant so they are fit for the industry.

To be improved:

  • Pedagogy is essential.  Introduce pedagogy from day 1 as it takes time to embed this within individuals.  I'm going to be emphasising pedagogy a lot more in future as discussed here.  Technical and design skills can be developed quite rapidly, if given the right prompts for inspiration and resources.
  • Develop eLearning more in line with the learning, teaching and assessment cycle.
  • Encourage more storyboarding and include learning theories to embed them.
  • Evaluation and feedback of the products created.  We haven't done enough of this in my opinion so this has now been revised with a new organisational structure.
  • Encourage deeper and proactive reflection through blogs and/or contributions to the online group.
  • Project planning of individuals work.  It was good enabling flexibility within individuals but too much of it let them wander and lose focus.  But now the Level 4's will lead on this in the new organisational structure.  A tight project planning and monitoring structure is now in place with the use of collaborative technology.
  • Enable more independent activities of research and discovery.  As educators should know, spoon feeding should be kept to a minimum.  So more hands on learning experiences that are authentic to tasks and duties; project based learning at it's best.
  • Better blend of using technology.  It's worried and annoyed me that I haven't used enough and effective use of technology, so I want to practice what I preach.
  • Our Moodle course pages are currently being redeveloped to be more interactive and are in line with the qualification criteria.
  • Assessment of learning.  This needs to commence on day 1, especially if you are running it over a year and a day format as time is learning and learning is assessment time.  However, I need to emphasise on collecting more naturally occurring evidence as it is Work Based Learning.  Assessment is now going to be on a personal basis with one to ones through the apprenticeship reviews and setting individual targets which will be reviewed on a monthly basis.  For off-site apprentices these will be at least every 10 week face-to-face.

The first year could be viewed as training the current Level 3 apprentices to mentor the future ones.  But they will replace each other every year.  It was all about getting it right and seeing how individuals could slot into the positions within the learning company.  This is the hierarchy I have reorganised in the learning company in a broad format:

Me (tutor, line manager, assessor and internal verifier) > colleague (tutor and assessor) > Level 4's (project manage, create and mentor/train Level 3's)  > Level 3's (create and support teaching staff).

Currently, I'm just midway through planning and putting together a comprehensive training and assessment plan for both on-site and off-site Level 3 and Level 4 apprenticeships.  I'm very excited to see how it will turn out.  As well as delivering these programmes, I'm growing alongside them and learning and researching new material.  However, everyday I think of new approaches and changes I can make.  It's just being aware of them and putting plans in place.  It's important to remember that you can't always get it right the first time.  And if you're a perfectionist like me, this is a real pain!  So it's important to be flexible, as education should be.  Planning and delivery can only go as far as your knowledge and skills go.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Learning pedagogy

Through general development and experience in the last year with my apprentices on Digital Learning Design, I want to emphasise the importance of pedagogy in their eLearning design development as well as their general knowledge.  So I intended to put together a small programme of getting my apprentices (Level 3 with the view of adapting this for Level 4) to further develop and extend their understanding of pedagogy.  Overall, I felt that I should focus more on how pedagogy works and the impact it has.  I identified the following areas but they are broad and I feel there needs to be more flesh to them:

  • What is learning
  • Learning theories
  • What is teaching
  • What is assessment

I asked out the ALT community to see what they suggest and recommend should be in it which was a great help.  I was given the advice from Dawn Alderson that I should start this with a bottom-up approach as these are end points.  I needed to introduce more links to theory and practice in a more incidental way, which can be done through active experimentation, which links to Kolb's experiential learning theory.  This is particular good as they are learning and practicing but also going through the experience themselves in which they can reflect upon later.

So, I ask at this point, how can I do this at Level 3 (advanced) and Level 4 (higher)?  The main approach I have is to give them more learning theories and get the apprentices to analyse them and include in their storyboards for designing eLearning.  I could get the apprentices to apply more learning theories and evaluate how they work, don't work and how they can be improved.  Then as part of the process they should reflect on their own work as well as their experience.  I could also get them to self or peer question how does their eLearning design motivate their users to learn.  This should then reinforce their understanding of pedagogy.  This makes it a more context rich experience in which I can set a pitch and pace for continuity and progression.  To consolidate all of this, I could bring all the apprentices together to discuss their findings and experiences and what it meant to them and the audience they have created these eLearning designs for, and they can suggest recommendations for future work.  However, I could also reiterate the learning pyramid and get them to analyse how each retention rate can be improved with learning theory and eLearning theory; adding the Technology Enhanced Learning aspect.

As Terry Loane pointed out; "people learn best when they are involved with others in authentic activities in authentic contexts."  "The important message to get across to your apprentices is that they learn best by being involved with the real stuff of their vocation/profession rather than in a classroom with a teacher and all the 'inauthentic' baggage of learning goals, assessment etc."  This emphasises what pedagogy should be about; meaning making and helping it become relatable.
Creative Commons Licence
CC-BY Daniel Scott. Unless otherwise stated this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.