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David Appel’s design narrative: Developing blended learning elements which facilitate group work and peer-feedback
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30 March 2015
My role was to support a teacher in conceptualising, designing, development and implementation of an online learning activity.
University of Applied Sciences, Department for Social Work
Compulsory elective subject in a bachelor curriculum for Social Work.
Students (approx. 40) attending the course into their 3rd or 4th term, having completed several courses covering theoretical and methodical basics of the field.
Students have to deliver a report on a project they have worked on during the course. This is a group work of 3-4 students and delivered at the end of the term.
Previously, a significant proportion of the face-to-face course time has been used for organizing group work, providing instruction and facilitating communication. Peer feedback in the face-to-face environment has proven to be very time-consuming and has often not been leading to satisfactory results
LMS: Moodle (Students have worked with Moodle before, but are not necessarily experienced with collaborative elements and practices; teacher is fairly familiar with Moodle)
I have focused on opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness of group collaboration in this course. I decided to use blended learning elements which would allow to guide students towards group work and communication in a virtual environment. I selected administrative, organizational and methodological elements of writing a term paper which could be supported by with online components. The measure of success was a reduction of administrative and organisational efforts by the teacher and administrative staff.
I also included elements of reflection and evaluation for the students to take an active, participative, and critical role (providing peer-feedback at several stages of the paper writing process). The success factor was a consistent quality in the term papers delivered, not below the quality of previous papers delivered in the standard course format.
Together with the teacher in charge I drafted a concept for the course, including goals, key stakeholders, format and sequence of elements included, implementation of a pilot, implementation of the final course, and evaluation by students, teacher, and supportive staff. The result was a common understanding of the goals as well as the actions to be taken and related responsibilities.
I then developed the main elements and run a pilot with a few selected testers not yet involved in the course design. It turned out that several elements were not sufficiently described or did not work exactly the way they were intended.
On the basis of the pilot we adapted the course design were necessary and then run the course for an entire term. At the end of the turn we evaluated the results, questioned students, staff and teacher and analysed the overall outcomes.
The papers delivered were of a consistent quality at about the same level as in the previous version of the course (without blended learning elements). The effort for preparing and developing the course was significant, during the course support and occasional adjustments were necessary which also meant some additional effort for both teacher and supportive staff. However, most of the issues could be resolved for the next term and without the one-time preparational efforts qualitative as well as quantitative objectives could be met.
A survey conducted among the students showed that most of them appreciated the design of the course, but would have liked to use the space for further collaboration more extensively.
It is important to create a detailed design of the course - including goals, key stakeholders, elements and sequencing, evaluation, etc. - in order to make sure that all involved parties have the same understanding of the project. However, even with a detailed design there are issues which cannot be anticipated and therefore running a pilot with people who have not been involved previously is crucial to discover any gaps and flaws. At the end, an evaluation can reveal further gaps and issues, but also provide input for further development.