What did I do this week?
I was on holiday for most of this week so I didn’t do as much MOOC study as I could have. Notice I didn’t say should have. I try to remember that the relationships between the physical, emotional and professional / productive aspects of our lives are important and nurturing ourselves is an essential precursor to nurturing our students so I’m not going to beat myself up about neglecting the course.
I also have good authority for not getting too fixated on ‘completing’ all parts of this course. Stephen Downes who spoke at the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) Conference last week advocated viewing cMOOCs like this more as resources than courses as such. Thinking about this made me realise that my approach to this MOOC is one of selective learning and the things that I choose to focus on and what I get from them are unlikely to match exactly what anyone else gets from the ‘course’.
I did sit down on Thursday night and watch two catch-up videos of webinars I missed. (One of the aspects of this MOOC I would change if I could, would be the location – being the wrong side of the globe means that I don’t get to take part in person which is a shame.)
The aspect of Tony Bates’ talk that particularly interests me and relates most closely to my professional practice as an Education Developer / Learning Technologist working with staff teaching campus-based courses, is hybrid or blended learning. In particular, I’ve been thinking recently about the ways in which online components are becoming more integrated into campus courses. Bates referred to flipped classes but suggested that there were more possibilitie. This overlaps with some of the things I was hearing about at ALT-C last week (and blogging about in terms of face-to-face using online tech and campus courses learning from online ones).
How might my own teaching be, or become, hybrid?
This brings me to reflect on the nature of my own teaching, which is not straightforward:
- I run some face-to-face workshops for staff in which I try to take a student-centred approach and tailor the content to the learners’ needs. Although classroom based, these sessions are supported with online resources.
- Far more of my work has been in one-to-one situations with staff taking a professional development course. This involved regular meetings, discussions, observations of their teaching, lots of informal feedback and ultimately assessment of their portfolios.
- I also produce materials for a website, blog and paper newsletter and collect and curate a lot of resources that I hope lead to informal learning.
This all sounds pretty hybrid, right? But just because my practice is spread across a range of activities doesn’t mean that the learners I work with are experiencing hybrid learning.
Some clear examples of hybrid/blended learning innovations I’ve been involved in would be the use of online quizzes to provide feedback to students on a campus-based course, or the use of Student Response clickers to increase engagement in a large lecture classes. These are the sorts of innovations people like me support and disseminate, but the techniques rarely translate well to the sorts of teaching that we do ourselves, where numbers tend to be smaller and workshops are one-offs rather than part of sustained modules.
I have to reflect, then, how appropriate this MOOC is for me. I want to learn about teaching online because colleagues will increasingly need to think about how to do that, and will want advice and guidance, but I get very little opportunity to put that learning into practice myself.
Am I already teaching online, albeit in an informal way?
I think that the answer has to be ‘no’. There may be some informal learning resulting from my activity, but can there be informal teaching? In the absence of ‘appropriate learning goals’ and designed ‘course structure and learning activities’ I don’t think that I can claim to be ‘teaching online’ as such. I do try to ‘communicate’ as much as possible and in as many ways as I can, but the possibilities for evaluation are limited so innovation is generally born out of curiosity.
I have written elsewhere about my efforts in Curating and Communicating as possible ‘e-routes to disseminating and sharing good practice among teaching staff’ but although these are intended to stimulate learning and in particular the sort of networked learning that we are experiencing in this MOOC they do not feel like ‘teaching’.
Would the things that I teach formally work online?
That is an interesting question. Many of the workshops I run are introducing staff to using learning technologies and trying to do that online would probably be unhelpful. Face to face and hand to hand interaction is really important when grappling with new equipment or software for the first time. Other teaching and learning topics could potentially be addressed through online modules, but feedback on staff development workshops over the years has consistently shown that the opportunity to meet other members of staff and share experiences has been one of the most valued aspects of the sessions. It seems unlikely that the same level of sharing and peer support could be achieved in an online context unless the topics were tackled as part of a more substantial course where a meaningful community could be established over time.
So, is my teaching now, or could it become, hybrid or blended?
- To the extent that the face-to-face workshops I run are supported with online resources they are minimally hybrid/blended.
- The wealth of online and networked resources I curate and communicate to colleagues provide opportunities for them to get involved in informal online learning alongside / beyond any formal sessions they might attend, but these are not part of any structured hybrid/blended learning design.
- Some topics that have been taught face-to-face could be taught online, but the benefits of this seem limited when staff are all based locally and sharing experiences with colleagues has been such a valued part of professional development workshops in the past.
But this doesn’t mean that I can’t understand hybrid pedagogy and the best ways to engage in hybrid / blended teaching so that students can get the best learning experience and outcomes. It does, however, mean that I can’t do a straightforward application of my learning on this MOOC and will have to think throughout about how the staff I work with can use the ideas that I encounter – nothing new there then 🙂