Following the piloting of the first version of the Online Learning Model, Julie Lindsay, Carole Hunter and Judy O’Connell, the Quality Learning and Teaching Online (QLTO) leads, worked with each of CSU’s three faculties to scale up the implementation of the revised OLM model (Version 2). Seven large courses including the Bachelor of Accounting, Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology), Bachelor of Business (HR Management), Bachelor of Social Science (Social Welfare), Master/Bachelor Of Social Work, Bachelor of Nursing, Bachelor of Medical Science, comprising about 190 subjects were targeted for attention. Subject revision was carried out over three sessions with revised subjects phased in over a 12 month period. Lindy Croft-Piggin, the Manager of Online Learning and Teaching Quality, worked across the Faculties and the DSL support teams to coordinate the work within the project.
The QLTO had a team of element specialists working with them to focus closely on the strategy development within subjects and to liaise with Educational Designers (EDs), Education Support Coordinators (ESCs) and Media Technologists (MTs). Academic staff were given 30 hours of time relief per subject and EDs were given 16 hours per subject. Approximately 12-20 hours per subject of learning resource development time was provided, and 50 hours per course of course-based ED time was also provided to ensure course-wide planning and design work was also supported.
The evaluation of the implementation of Version 2 of the OLM involves a mixed methods approach including the collection of survey data from the end of subject questionnaires, and data from individual student interviews and focus groups. Log files of online interactions and demographic data are also being used to inform the investigation. Subject coordinators and EDs involved in the project complete a questionnaire, and staff focus groups and interviews are being used to clarify some findings. The QLTO leads are also being interviewed individually, with the OLM leadership team debriefing the experience in a two day workshop.
The OLM Subject Design Process
Faculty priorities and preferences determined the unique approach to staff introducion to the OLM implementation process. Commonalities included a ‘kick-off’ event, regular subject design meetings with staff, and professional learning sessions on new technologies and pedagogies in response to emerging learning designs. Following the OLM kick-off with staff, targeted subjects were first analysed by the QLTOs and EDs, and this guided the first design meeting discussion. During the first meeting, the OLM elements and opportunities for enhancement were discussed and design decisions made, leading to a development ‘blueprint’ based on subject needs and the comfort zone of staff. Timelines were established for work involving all aspects of improvement, and design goals, media and content development were achieved using additional allocated support from the Learning Resource Unit. Each team used Google Drive to monitor subject design processes, manage relevant milestones and share professional development resources. QLTOs also provided ongoing support and professional development to OLM subject teams as well as more broadly across each faculty to help extend the impact of new strategies emerging from designed approaches to online learning.
Typical OLM-focused design work on subjects included developing both synchronous and asynchronous interactive activities, e-assessments using student portfolios and collaborative group work, as well as a range of approaches to sustaining teacher presence. These often used new technologies beyond the Blackboard Learning Management System, including social media. Essential subject design elements related to OLM included enhancements to the visual design of content, structuring content to better facilitate improved learning analytics, inclusion of interactive learning resources, improved discussion forum and online meeting design, video introductions by academics, and improved communication through landing pages and announcements.
Examples of OLM Scale Up Subjects
The design of each subject varied widely, in keeping with the subject content and/or discipline needs of the program. The examples in this section demonstrate the types of improvement facilitated by the OLM approach.
PHL101 Applied Ethics is an online subject designed to apply philosophical techniques and theories to issues of practical concern and controversy. It is a large subject (approximately 300 students) and serves courses in Arts, Theology, Social Science, and Language & Culture. A key focus is the ability of students to apply their skills of analysis and argument, and their understanding of theories to the clarification and resolution of the particular practical moral problems/issues addressed in the syllabus. The Subject Coordinator preferred a ‘hands-on’ teaching style and, as well as answering many individual emails each week, had been offering regular teleconferences for student discussion and questions.
The OLM design challenges in this subject included updating modes of communication and building an online interactive community to be able to construct understanding around the content, as well as promoting teacher presence in a more technology-rich learning environment. A new Google Maps activity prompted initial student engagement. A teacher-created Welcome video placed on a redesigned landing page provided authentic information and helped build connections. The discussion forum was redesigned to include a number of ‘Study Mentor’ forums (surname-specific to divide the cohort), providing a smaller group within the larger group for students to interact with. The implementation of weekly online meetings in Adobe Connect replaced telephone sessions, and participants were able to use audio as well as the chat discussion window for vital communication around each session topic. The subsequent improvements due to designed supplementary online activities for enhanced interaction between students, teacher presence, interactive resources and learning communities in PHL101 is shown in Figure 1.
BUS110 Workplace Learning 1 is a first year workplace learning subject, designed to enhance students’ employability skills and career planning, with a particular focus on communication, teamwork, problem-solving and self-management. Students have an opportunity to develop skills on a short placement with a host organisation, by undertaking an agreed project in their existing workplace, or a series of replacement learning activities. The Subject Coordinator interacted with students through regular online meetings, although there was no opportunity for students to share their learning from the placements as these took place at different times during the session.
As part of the redesign, a number of enhancements were made (see Figure 2). Standard topics were reframed as a series of themed challenges, each focusing on a different employability skill. This was supported by a ‘challenge bank’ developed in WordPress, whereby students could personalise their experience by choosing, and even adding to, challenges that suited their own needs, after completing an evaluation of their current employability skill set. To support students learning from each other’s placement experiences and to build a stronger learning community, VoiceThread was added as an asynchronous video tool for presentations and interaction in smaller groups. The visual design of the themed challenges was significantly improved and restructured to better facilitate use of learning analytics, and new interactive resources were added. The use of discussion forums was redesigned to complement other interaction strategies.
NRS112 Essential Nursing Care: Valuing Health is an online subject designed to develop the student’s ability to apply primary health care principles to their nursing practice, explore concepts of health and wellness and develop health assessment skills that can be used in a broad range of health care contexts. A key focus is on the development of the knowledge and skills necessary for safe practice, therapeutic communication, assessment and screening throughout the lifespan. In addition, concepts of culturally safe care, work, health and safety and the legal implications of nursing care are examined in a simulated clinical environment (including a 4-day residential school) to develop basic assessment skills.
The design challenges of this subject were many, but with a multi-pronged approach to repackage material, develop rich media resources, and improve teacher presence, the subject saw improvements across a number of elements. The enhancement strategies for NRS112 (in Figure 3) included: style and formatting presentation of the Blackboard subject site; short PowerPoint lecture pods as interactive online videos developed with OfficeMix; short animated videos for teaching points developed with GoAnimate; multiple versions/formats of Quizlet for self-testing of complex terminology and as formative assessment; online Adobe Connect meetings; and comprehensive use of discussion boards within Blackboard and informal student community in the subject Facebook group.
There have been many lessons learnt already through the process of implementing Versions 1 and 2 of the OLM. The pedagogical model is gradually being refined and consolidated as a foundation for the next steps towards the goal of leadership in online learning. Version 3 of the OLM provides clear benchmarks to best practice in online learning and constitutes a firm pedagogical foundation for the initiation of CSU’s Transforming Online and Transforming on Campus projects.