This post comes one of our recently completed ‘eScholars’- Zoe Mason. Zoe has really shone with her blended learning skills and is fast becoming the ‘go to’ person in Learner Services for anything ‘blended’ or ‘moodled’. Enjoy her thoughts and please feel free to leave a comment.
To briefly set the scene, I created a course using Moodle for the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) Foundation Level, Unit 1 Work Related Skills (WRS). It was pretty exciting to be selected for the eScholarship program but as I had participated in a number of blended learning PD sessions with the Learning Innovation team prior to this opportunity and had found them highly engaging with my youth based client group but I was a little overwhelmed by the idea of the amount of additional work I had just agreed to undertake and also by the infinite possibilities, directions and tools available. I guess I really didn’t know where to start!
I initially wanted to write an online unit for students, the idea was for this to be accessed by students with mental-health or isolation/transport issues who did not attend campus. I found it really difficult to predict how the students would engage in the course. Student relationships and engagement (emotional engagement not physical evidence of engagement) are of fundamental importance too and some evidence suggests are linked to success in our VCAL program. So, how could all that be done with technology? Could I achieve the same layering, spring-boarding and flexibility when there’s no relationship and limited interaction?
I was really stuck with this dilemma for a couple of weeks. The breakthrough was when I started treating it as blended learning rather than a pure online unit. In a blended format I was going to be there with the students so all of the previously stated obstacles could be eliminated or dealt with by the teacher as it would be in a normal face-to-face class. I now like the idea of having control of when and how much online work is done at the start of the year while the students are settling and relationships are still forming.
I also treated it like any other new course, I did my best but will definitely have to change and improve it after it has been delivered. After all there is no right, wrong or best-practise of how I should create VCAL Foundation Unit 1 WRS online- it could well be the first! I found the process of writing the unit surprisingly creative and enjoyed going through the course content spending time finding the most up-to-date, appropriate and engaging learning resources and assessment tasks and then twisting them so that they worked within Moodle’s functionality.
Now that I’ve completed it, I can’t wait to trial it in 2011. It may end up being a disaster but it’s not a problem as now I can see and understand some of the possibilities for blended learning and have a few extra skills in my ‘teacher toolbox’.
I now find it really exciting to think about the potential for blended learning-
- Moodle could replace our student resource drive on the network
- The evidence for a whole unit or course could be all stored on one memory stick,
- We could be more flexible about class times and in-class attendance,
- We could reduce the paper based nature of evidence gathering, and
- We could provide diverse and exciting programs that cater for all learning styles and preferences
Just to name a few off the top of my head!
The eScholarship provided me with an excellent avenue for me to reflect on and improve my professional practice while at the same time building upon my ICT experiences and knowledge.
I’d highly recommend it. Please come and have a chat if you’d like any further info.