in which more modular online professional development happens, this time with more people, more media and more Biggs. A tale of how a project can simultaneously suffer the same and different fates.
This was another project in which we were assigned to a team and given a brief, focusing again on staff professional development but this time with a multimedia layer over a scholarly base of teaching and learning concepts. Halfway through this project our directorate went through a large workplace change and I was displaced out into a new role in a faculty, which meant I was not involved in the media design or implementation processes for this project. As such I will only discuss the pedagogical base work for this project.
The brief for this project was to create a scholarly professional development program - a sort of small scale informal Graduate Certificate in Higher Education - that was, like Coffeecourses, fully online and could be completed in short, bite-size chunks. A key difference for this program though would be its use of multimedia and interactive HTML elements, and focus on core educational principles rather than innovative teaching practices.
We began by mapping out a full curriculum - starting with conceptual frameworks and understanding (eg Prosser & Trigwell, 1999), then moving through a range of specific concepts like Biggs’ seminal constructive alignment (1996) and authentic assessment, looking at the work of people like Boud (2000). These were mapped into modules, each of which was only intended to take an hour or two (or less, depending on how someone chose to engage) to complete.
Each module was then broken down into nodes made up of text, multimedia and interactive activities. While none of the activities constituted formal assessment, some were designed to give automated feedback (eg a drag and drop widget to align assessment examples with learning outcomes) and others were text entry fields that facilitated reflective practice opportunities, which could then be captured in a summary and ‘transcript’ that was emailed to staff.
I again was developing more diverse skill sets in this project environment - more ad hoc project management, slightly more reverence for traditional literature and pedagogical strategies, and cross-role collaboration - but I perceived these as ‘quieter’ skills, and less ‘on brand’ for my innovator persona. Due to this I don’t think I realised until much later how valuable this type of skill development and growth was.
In terms of institutional impact, this particular project suffered the fate of being cut off at the knees by the purpose of the brief. While it was intended that any staff could access the development, the main purpose was to satisfy probation requirements of new (tenured) academic staff who did not have teaching experience at previous institutions. This was only a small pool of people and probation was only variously enforced at the discipline leadership level. Thus many staff were not aware of the program and those that were mostly believed it did not apply to them or would not benefit them. And then the further evergreen systemic issue that staff were not supported with either time or motivation and reward to participate, even if they did perceive a benefit to their teaching practice.
The Quality Teaching @ UNE site and modules still exist, however, and are quite a nice showcase of what can be done both from a media development point of view, and from an academic development and online pedagogy point of view. It also demonstrates the potential of learning design and media development cross-team collaboration, something that wouldn’t be explored again for a few years when learning design was recentralised.
Biggs, J. B. (1996). Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment. Higher Education, 32, 347-364.
Boud, D. (2000). Sustainable assessment: rethinking assessment for the learning society. Studies in Continuing Education 22(2), 151–167.
Prosser, M., & Trigwell, K. (1999). Understanding learning and teaching: the experience in higher education: SRHE and the Open University Press.