Feedback on the CILT(UK) Level 3 Certificate in Logistics and TransportTony TooleAugust 2012The following comments and suggestions are intended to assist in the final draft of the Level 3Student Handbook to be submitted as part of the approval process for delivery by online distancelearning.1. Overall Comments 1.1. The proposal to offer online versions of the CILT(UK) Logistics and Transport programmes makes complete sense, especially where the cohorts are geographically distributed, including the armed forces in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. The portfolio based approach involving regular bite-sized assessment exercised is particularly suited to remote teaching as it provides opportunities for continuous feedback and progress chasing. 1.2. The proposed use of Moodle as an online learning environment is logical, given its use across the University generally. It is perfectly capable of providing the communications and documentation management functionality to deliver a learning experience for the distance learner equivalent to that of the campus based learner. Used with BigBlueButton(BBB) as an online conferencing tool, synchronous online distance learning support can also be provided. Alternative systems, including tools for asynchronous support, are considered in the discussion below. 1.3. The current Student Handbook draft for the Level 3 Certificate demonstrates that the online delivery processes and infrastructure have been systematically planned and have already been trialled with a small group of students. Some suggestions for document improvements and structural changes are presented below, but it is felt that only relatively modest changes need to be made for a final draft to be presented for consideration by AQSC.2. Online Distance Learning Support Systems 2.1. The choice of Moodle as an online learning support environment is a good one. At present it represents ‘best of breed’ as an open source application and there is evidence of a gradual migration by UK HEIs from commercial alternatives such as Blackboard (not the least being SMU itself). Virtually all FEIs use Moodle and this has generated an active Moodle User Group community and growing experience in optimal usage. It should be noted, however, that online distance learning remains a minor activity for most institutions. 2.2. The choice between providing tutor support synchronously or asynchronously is a learning design issue. In practice it is never going to be one or the other as synchronous phone/Skype calls and asynchronous email/texts/forums (for example) are always going to both be part of the mix. However, the main tutor delivery decision will have a profound effect on both the tutor/learner relationship and the logistics of course delivery. 2.3. Synchronous timetabled tutor delivery sessions using BBB will replicate the classroom situation and allow responses and questions to be dealt with at the time. In the bite-sized activity design of this course it would have the advantage of launching that week’s activity for submission and feedback before the next session. It does mean, however, that all students (and the tutor) need to be consistently available for it to work (which leads to the time-zone issue). It also limits the class size to the capacity of BBB to effectively service the sessions. 2.4. Asynchronous tutor support can be spread over a greater period and has the advantage of not requiring everyone to be available at the same time every week. The knock-on effect is that the issue about world time zones disappears and there is online system capacity for
larger cohorts. Most online courses I have been involved with have been primarily asynchronous. However, this may not be appropriate for level 3 students, or for the bite- sized portfolio building approach in this course. 2.5. My suggestion, given the timescale we are working to is to stay with the synchronous model you have already trialled, but to have a sub-objective to consider and experiment with asynchronous communications – particularly for alternative support when students and tutors are unable to attend certain sessions. 2.6. This leads to the discussion we were having about the technologies employed and alternative plans when one or more applications falls over for whatever reason. The one thing that is certain is that it will happen, so we need to be prepared with a plan B at all times (which might actually involve a better emerging solution if our horizon scanning is effective). The technology that normally falls over is the communications and all that is needed is for plan B ( C, D ...) to be agreed in advance, for the participants to be individually setup to use those alternative communications systems (Skype, phone conference, chat) and for them to be practiced in how they work. It would seem sensible to make this part of the induction process.3. The Student Handbook 3.1. The substance of the current draft of the student handbook for the CILT(UK) Level 3 Certificate in Logistics and Transport is already sound. However I would like to suggest some structural changes and the inclusion of additional student information and guidance. 3.2. I feel that the introduction should not only welcome the new student to the institution and the course, it should also summarise the benefits of the course to them and their future employment prospects and, in doing so, reassure them (and their employers) that they have made the correct choice. 3.3. In contrast, I think that references to problems with the course and methods of making complaints should be in the procedures outlined at the end of the document not at the beginning. The clear intent of any course team will be the delivery of a problem free learning experience and anticipate complaints only in the most exceptional of circumstances. Prominence in the document would normally reflect this expectation. 3.4. It would be good for the introduction to describe the online distance learning process and how that benefits those students who cannot (or prefer not) to attend conventional campus delivery. It could summarise the typical delivery schedule and how the student engages with it. At this point a description of the online technologies could be introduced (indicating that more detail is given later in the handbook) and a reassurance that help will be provided whenever needed in the use of those technologies. 3.5. The introduction might conclude with a summary of the remaining sections in the document, indicating the logical sequence from the course structure and content, assessment, learning environment, resources etc., and concluding with programme administration procedures where problems and complaint procedures are included. 3.6. In general the main body of the document seems fine – especially the information about Moodle. Emphasis on the two weeks of induction would be reassuring to learners uncertain about their IT skills. Reference to course pre-requisites need to be considered in this context also. 3.7. A final comment on the handbook is that the information given in the final list of learning outcomes and assessment outcomes largely repeats what has already been listed in the assessment schedule earlier in the document. If needed, maybe this could be included as an appendix.