The challenges of digital poverty are making the news, with demands to ensure students have access to devices and connections. What isn’t making the news so much is demands to rethink the curriculum design and delivery so that it is less reliant on high end devices and good broadband!
Could we deliver content and learning via an USB stick or even on DVD?
This tweet by Donald Clark of a suggestion by Leon Cych to use USB flashdrives, reminded me of a presentation I delivered fifteen years ago.
As suggested by @eyebeams why not load a ton of stuff up on flash drives and send them to people with low or no bandwidth… this has been done for years in some countries
Back in 2006 I was looking at how learners could access learning content despite not having a fancy laptop (or desktop) or even internet connectivity.
I was intrigued about how consumer devices used for entertainment, information and gaming could be used to access learning.
I also did a fair amount of work reflecting on how to convert learning content (from the VLE) to work on a range of devices from the PlayStation Portable (PSP), iPods, mp3 players, as well as devices that usually sat under the television, such as DVD players and media streaming devices.
So for an online conference I prepared a presentation on this subject.
Despite many people talking about the death of the VLE over the years, the institutional VLE is still an important component of most colleges and universities offer in the online space, whether this be supporting existing programmes of study, those offering a blended approach, or even fully online programmes.
For the purposes of this blog post I see the VLE as a concept, more of a combination of tools, that includes the institutional LMS/VLE alongside other tools such as Padlet, WordPress, Twitter, Adobe Connect, etc..
The challenge for many academics and staff is the assumption often made by managers and learning technologists that they are able to create curriculum models that incorporate the VLE in a way which flows and is integrated for the learner. This is exacerbated if the VLE is more than just a Learning Management System (LMS) and incorporates other web tools and services.
Why would they?
Unless they have a core understanding of the potential of the different functions and tools within the VLE, how are they able to ensure they are fully integrated into the curriculum flow.
The result is more often the VLE is bolted onto or duct taped onto an existing curriculum model. This process creates extra work for academics, who they find the whole process of adding (not embedding) the VLE a chore, an extra, so no wonder we occasionally see resistance.
Now I am not saying that academics are not capable of building curriculum models where the use of the VLE is embedded and integrated. What I am trying to say is that when it comes to embedding the VLE, it’s more than just training and development in the use of the functions and tools. This will certainly enable academics to start along the process of developing curriculum models. However by creating some exemplar and example curriculum models where the VLE is embedded will enable academics to reflect and think about how to embed the VLE at a faster pace. Once academics are creating their own models or adapting those provided these can then be shared back.
I’ve always thought when it comes to change, how can you make it easier. If something you’re doing isn’t working, then do something differently.
Finally always reflect on why you are doing this, as I posted recently though we talk about embedding digital technologies into practice, the reality is what we want to do is to undertake practices differently, and one way of doing this is through the use of digital. This isn’t about trying to increase the use of the VLE, it’s about using the VLE to solve a range of other issues such as how to ensure learners can have access to a range of materials, resources, activities and conversations at a pace, time and place that suits them on a device of their choosing.
So could your institution replace 15% of their curriculum with online study packs?
At the ALT Large Scale Curriculum Redesign, Peter Kilcoyne of Worcester College of Technology explained in his presentation how his college did just that.
Every course had to replace 15% of the students guided learning hours (or contact time) from classroom delivery to online study packs. These study packs, called PALs (Personally Accountable Learning) were designed to be delivered by the VLE (Moodle) and accessed remotely and independently by learners.
This was, according to Peter, a real challenge, with lots of issues and problems. As well as the inevitable, “I don’t have the time” and the usual sceptical resistance from staff, there were also lots of other real issues such as curriculum planning, technical training, course and activity design. All this taking place in a time of transition and concerns about jobs and pay. There was also some resistance from learners.
Curriculum areas were given a degree of freedom about how they would use their 15%. Some courses for example made 15% of every module delivered in this way. Whilst other courses found some individual modules were more attuned to this method of delivery and therefore most modules were delivered as before with a couple of modules delivered in their entirety through the packs.
Overall the main reason for this approach was to reduce costs. This was achieved by reducing staffing costs for courses by reducing teaching time by 15%. To ensure that the independent learning that took place in the 15% gap was covered by staff using OER (Open Educational Resources), YouTube, NLN Materials and other resources to create study packs.
There was an interesting “discussion” at the end of Peter’s presentation about was this really about saving money, the increase in workload that this approach would bring. I think there was some confusion between what we would call e-teaching and e-learning. What I understood from the presentation was that 15% of “guided delivery” by teachers would be replaced by “independent learning” through the internet. In terms of marking assessment, this is never part of the guided learning hours so replacing 15% of the learners’ classroom time with remote learning wouldn’t have an impact on the time taken to mark assessments, as marking wouldn’t happen within classroom time anyway.
This approach may appear to be controversial to some (and certainly some members of the audience weren’t too keen on it) but if your institution is facing a difficult economic climate it might be a solution to cut costs.
On a more positive note though, I can see this also as a great solution for small class sizes. Can’t fill a group, well use study packs so that the class can proceed, as I am sure learners may prefer to attend a course then have it not run at all!
Where this could really start to save time and money too, is if institutions start to share their packs. How that could happen and work is a bigger different kind of problem.
The aim of the event is to provide participants with practical ideas and strategies for technology-supported curriculum redesign which will have an impact on large numbers of learners.
I am interested to hear from the many different (and in some cases controversial) speakers about what they have done in their institutions, and how they have used technology to make change happen.
Where this event, hopefully will be different, is that the approach many of the speakers have used in their institutions has been holistic and large scale and involved all curriculum areas. This must have been a real challenge, but is really the only way forward to make change happen within an institution. I am hoping to hear about some of the barriers they faced and how they overcame them.
Often in education we focus on the small scale pilot and project to look at the impact of technology on learning, and then before we embed it across the institution, we move onto the next shiny thing!
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