Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Designing University Courseware for Micro-credentials and Courses So Students Do the Work

The Australian government has encouraged universities to offer shorter qualifications to provide vocational skills which are in demand, in areas such as cyber security. This includes certificates (taking about 12 weeks full time study) and microcredentials (around 3 weeks, or less). This requires getting students focused on study quickly, as there is not time to waste on an orientation week, or students wandering around finding out what to do. Also learning designers can't afford to spend as much time on a short program as a lone one.

When I first tried teaching online, a decade ago, I tried to emulate a face to face lectures and tutorials. This is a mistake many first time online teachers make, as these are the only formats they are familiar with. Lectures and tutorials are not a very effective teaching techniques, offline or online. 

The approach I developed over ten years teaching online was to design first for pure asynchronous online delivery, then add synchronous components, which could alternatively be delivered face to face. This approach could be extended to micro-credentials which could then be used for conventional courses in a certificate.

What every teacher has to keep in mind is that the task is not to work very hard, it is to get the student to work very hard. Some teachers respond to students who don't seem to be learning by talking at them more, which makes the situation worse. Instead they have to set goals for the students. The only way I have found to do this is with assessment: if you want a student to do something, give them marks for it.

So we first have to set learning objectives for the microcredential or course (preferably based on external widely recognized standards, not something developed at the university), then translate these into assessment tasks, then provide activities for students to learn the skills and knowledge required and lastly provide materials to help. Most of the budget of student learning time should be taken up with individual and group activities, not time spent in "class". Most of the budget for instructor time should be for helping student with their assessed tasks, not giving presentations or leading discussions.

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