Last week I joined an impressive line up of panel members for the Scaling up online learning panel session during the Learning and teaching practice experts group meeting that took place in the inspiring Studio venue in Birmingham.
The panel session, chaired by Sarah Sherman (University of London), resulted in a really interesting discussion. Questions for the panel were encouraged both from the delegates present at the meeting, and those following it virtually via twitter and resulted in a wide range of issues being covered – from the barriers to scaling up online learning through to the need to challenge institutional myths around what can and can’t be done when incorporating innovative and new learning approaches. This blog post shares some of my own personal take-home points from the session.
From the responses that the panel members gave to the questions asked, some common themes came through: post-graduate and professional courses still appear prevalent in the online course provision market and this was complemented by the importance of institutions having a good understanding their market to ensure successful online course ventures. Panel members also identified institutional processes as a recurring barrier to the delivery of online learning, but encouraged those looking to develop online courses to investigate whether existing processes can be adopted to suit, rather than just assuming it won’t be possible. When asked for advice on how to practically run an online course, panel members said that one of the most important first steps was identifying the key staff roles that would be needed and where these would be sourced from within the institution.
One question that led to more debate than most of the others was around the willingness and readiness of students to learn online. From the further education perspective, one of the methods that panel member Katharine Jewitt shared was the provision of bite-sized online courses for students during the summer holidays. These mini-courses help students gain confidence with learning online and also get them familiar with the course learning environment they will be using when they start in the Autumn. Other suggestions from the panel included taking advantage of peer support – getting more motivated and confident online learners to mentor those students who are less confident. Another way identified was to improve student motivation and readiness for undertaking online learning by ensuring they have a good understanding of what they are taking on. This could include anything from being clear on how many hours study per week is expected and what technology the student will need to have access to, through to information on what other students (current and previous) say about the course.
The scaling up online learning project
Being part of, and listening to, the panel session was very heartening in terms of the outputs which are being produced by the Jisc Scaling up online learning project. All of the question areas discussed during the panel session are covered in one form or another in at least one of the set of 3 guides that are being produced for the project (and which will be available before the end of the year) and will (I hope!) prove valuable to the community. The three guides are:
- Business case and models for online learning
- Design and support for online learning
- Online learning – Technology & Tools
A question for you
Finally, just before the start of the panel session, meeting delegates were asked what online learning meant to them in their context and their institution – due to time restraints, we never got chance to hear those definitions, but I’d still be really interested to hear from anyone there what they wrote down for this (or indeed anyone reading this blog) – so if you are happy to share, please do add your answer as a comment below.