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Teaching and Learning/Staffing Model in an Online Distance Education Context


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Teaching and Learning/Staffing Model in an Online Distance Education Context

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Teaching and Learning/Staffing Model in an Online Distance Education Context

  1. 1. Teaching and Learning/Staffing Model in an Online Distance Education Context Dr James Brunton 1. Introduction For over twenty-five years programmes have been run in DCU that utilise an online distance education (ODE) teaching and Learning/staffing model, which facilitate students in achieving their educational goals without the need to attend campus- based classes as they would on a full-time or part-time programme. 2. Staffing Model The ODE staffing structures are different from a typical, ‘on-campus’ structure in a number of ways: Distance Education Tutor: An academic member of staff contracted to work with students to provide tutorials (‘live’, online or face to face) that expand student understanding of the course content, provide ongoing academic support via the Moodle Virtual Learning Environment, provide summative and formative feedback on assignments, monitor and assess student progress, provide advice and encouragement on study skills and support students as independent and collaborative learners . Tutors are provided with a Tutor Handbook and receive training as appropriate, for example in teaching through virtual classroom software. The distance education tutors work on the front line with the students, supporting them synchronously in tutorials (face to face or in virtual classrooms) and asynchronously through Moodle discussion forums; The ODE programmes have comprehensive sets of programme and module learning outcomes that correspond appropriately with the learning outcomes, for a level eight award on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). These learning outcomes guide the instruction and assessment of students on the programme. There is progression, with regard to learning outcomes and associated assessments, from introductory to intermediate to advanced level modules. Assessment Monitor: An academic member of staff contracted to monitor tutor marking of assignments, to give feedback on standards and to suggest improvements where appropriate; Assessment Writer: An academic member of staff contracted to set assignments and other forms of assessment as may be required for individual modules. Writers are provided with a Creating Assessments for Online Distance Education Students document; Assignment Marker: An academic member of staff contracted to provide summative and formative feedback on assignments. This role is normally filled by the tutor; Examination Marker: An academic member of staff contracted to correct examination papers for a particular module; Learning Material Writer: An academic member of staff contracted to write or develop course materials and media, according to criteria set down and agreed by the Programme Board; Learning Material Editor: An academic member of staff contracted to edit course materials; Research Project Supervisor: An academic member of staff contracted to oversee and monitor the student’s progress in their research project work and to provide general academic advice. Supervisors ensure that the student is making good progress and assist the student with the difficulties and challenges they may encounter. 4. Quality Assurance and Improvement The quality of the ODE Programmes is assured through a network of quality assurance processes, including a structured assessment monitoring system, an external network of subject specialists (for example writers, editors, internal examiners, external examiners academic advisors), and a tutor appraisal system. Through these mechanisms ODE can be assured that the quality of its programmes, and the support it gives its students, is maintained at a consistently high standard. For further information please email: While modes of delivery may be different between third level programmes (for example, between on-campus, off-campus/online or blended programmes) the NFQ/learning outcomes system allows programmes to be compared on the basis of what is learned, and the quality of that learning, rather than on the medium through which students learn. The programme and module learning outcomes not only focus on the knowledge to be obtained by successful students but also those skills and competencies that need to be developed, in order that graduates can competently navigate the challenges of a dynamic knowledge economy. The ODE model of teaching and learning/staffing can be seen as being highly systematic, with particular staff fulfilling particular functions. The full-time members of the Programme Team manage the interfacing of a diverse range of functions and roles (see above), each one of which can be isolated and examined with regard to policy, procedure, and the quality of the work being completed. In this way, the model is also very transparent in that all learning materials, assessments etc. are produced in a way that they can easily be viewed by those fulfilling quality assurance functions. Virtual classroom tutorials are recorded and archived. This is in contrast to the learning that occurs within a physical classroom setting, which is not usually transparent in the same way. Part-time staff fall into a number of different categories depending on their role (some individuals may take on more than one role from this list): 3. Teaching and Learning Model ODE students learn through a variety of mediums. One key medium is through interacting with their tutor(s) and fellow students asynchronously in a virtual learning environment (Moodle) . They also interact synchronously in tutorials (these tutorials can be face to face and/or virtual via a ‘live’ web conferencing system). In addition, for each module, students are given access to specifically created self-instructional materials (hard copy and/or soft copy), along with specific prescribed textbooks and online resources, such as the wide range of journals provided by the DCU library. The design of the learning materials and choice of technology based resources is informed by appropriate pedagogy. There is constructive alignment between learning outcomes and assessments, in that the level at which module learning outcomes are placed is reflected in the level at which that module’s assessments are pitched. An assessment matrix is used to ensure, at an overall programme level, that appropriate assessment types are utilised across a programme. National Institute for Digital Learning Student Learning ODE Learning Materials Textbooks and Online Resources DCU Library Online Databases Tutorials and Moodle Online Distance Education Tutors Academic/ Administrative Support Quality Assurance Mechanisms