Online Distance Learning in IDEA• MA Applied andProfessional Ethics (since2010)• MA Biomedical andHealth Care Ethics(proposed for 2014)• Online Professional SkillsCourse for the ActuarialProfession (ethics CPD)Why online?Target audience:international,professional, studyingpart-time
Key Questions1. What should the programme look like?2. What are the constraints from (a) the learner’s and (b) theprovider’s point of view?3. What tools should we use for:a. Content?b. Interaction?c. Independent learning?d. Assessment?e. Student support?4. What have we learned?5. Where do we go next?
Programme Design• Modelled on existing F2F programmes, and ourexperience of teaching applied ethics to professionals:– ‘What we know’ – future developments may bedifferent...– Case study-based, opportunities to relate to real-lifepractice, informed by practitioner knowledge.• Designed to keep important aspects of academicphilosophy masters degree:– Independent reading of academic texts– Academic writing– Class discussion
Modelling on F2F DeliveryWhat did we want to achieve?Replacement of:– Lectures (delivery of information and signposting of keyconcepts, theories, and map of terrain).– Seminars (moderated group discussion, developing criticalthinking, argumentation and reasoning skills, problem-solving).– Private study time (reading and note making, independentresearch skills, deepening of knowledge).– One-to-one interaction with tutors (problem-solving,guidance).
Where to host?Blackboard VLE:– Single user log-in– Secure– Restricted access– Variety of learning tools– Reporting functionality– Staff familiarity– Central supportThere are other options...
Constraining Factors - Learner• Technical– Computer literacy– Bandwidth– Hardware/software requirements• Access requirements (visual/hearing impairments, dyslexia andassociated)• Learning styles (prefer reading, listening, watching...)• Preferred mode of study (at home, work, on the train...)• Flexibility (to fit with competing demands)• Specific challenges for distance learners...
Challenges for Distance Learners• Lack of human contact:– Less opportunity for ad hoc contact with tutors (e.g. before/afterlectures).– No face-to-face contact with tutors or other students.– Less opportunity to socialise with other students – harder to formlearning community.• Motivation:– Easier to lose touch.– Lack of social pressure to stay engaged.– Less opportunity for informal, formative feedback from tutors (andpeers).• Lack of engagement with wider University:– Hard to access student support services etc.
Constraining Factors - Provider• What is available/supported?• Resource implications:– Development cost and time– Hardware/software costs– Training implications– Ongoing support costs• Computer literacy of teaching staff• Pedagogic factors
(a) Delivery of ContentTools for delivery of content vary in terms of:– Time, cost, and technical expertise required to developand maintain– Interactivity/richness of content– Accessibility, bandwidth requirements etc.– Availability within VLEPost existing lectureslides on VLEProduce bespokehigh definitionvideo contentHappy medium?
(b) InteractionTools for group interactionvary in terms of:– Synchronicity– Facilitation– Accessibility– Availability within VLE– Technical requirements– Richness of interaction(video, audio, text...)– Bandwidthrequirements
Regular facilitated asynchronous discussion exercises usinggroup discussion forum tool within VLE.– Provide a stimulus: discussion question, case study etc.– Provide clear expectation of contribution: time, length, style etc.– Discussions scheduled over period of a few days.– Tutor input:• moderate if needed• stimulate further comment• provide clarification and aid understanding– Other tools (blogs and wikis) also used occasionally...Our solution...
(c) Independent Learning• Would usually expect students to do assigned readingand be responsible for note-taking and preparation forseminars.• Personal Learning Blogs:– Private (only visible to individual student and tutors)– Non-assessed (except completion of exercises)– Benefits:• Monitoring of progress• Option for feedback• Student record of learning – preparation for essay writing• Incentive to complete individual exercises
(d) Assessment and Feedback• Continuous assessment element in each module (10-20%).• Monitoring of performance via completion of exercisesand contributions to group activities (can utiliseBlackboard tracking tools for larger groups).• All coursework, no exams.• Pre-submission feedback available.• All feedback provided electronically using TurnitinGrademark
(e) Student Support• Personal tutor sessions conducted via Skype ortelephone.• Encourage informal feedback throughout course andaim to be flexible in response to suggestions.• Staff available during office hours via Skype ortelephone.• Act as guides through University central services andsupport structure.• Lots of support required, from enquiry onwards...
5. Lessons Learned• Expect technical hitches and be prepared to be flexible.• Listen to students - ask for regular feedback - they willcome up with ideas that you might not think of!• Keep it simple - concentrate on ease of use and quality ofcontent.• Think about navigation - how will students find thecontent?• Repeat instructions!• Importance of expectation setting.• Importance of community building – ‘the VLE is thecampus’
6. Development• Richer mediums of delivery: use of screen capturesoftware and audio-visual techniques to deliver richercontent• Synchronous sessions, using webinar software (Adobeconnect etc.)• Focus on improving:– Induction process– Student engagement with wider University• Standalone modules / mini-MOOCs as taster/introcourses