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Designing database courses for distance learning An Open University view Kevin Waugh Department of Computing Faculty of Computing and Mathematics The Open.

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Presentation on theme: "Designing database courses for distance learning An Open University view Kevin Waugh Department of Computing Faculty of Computing and Mathematics The Open."— Presentation transcript:

1 Designing database courses for distance learning An Open University view Kevin Waugh Department of Computing Faculty of Computing and Mathematics The Open University

2 Introduction:

3 The Open University Teaching and learning context

4 Courses offered by the computing department CourseTypeLevel Size (credits- months) Student numbers Associate lecturer numbers M358U/G330 – TM422U/Gproject (final)30 – M876P/Gconversion15 – M877P/Gmasters15 – The department has around 5 central academics and 2 staff tutors directly involved in database courses.

5 Teaching and learning model Supported distance learning personal tutor (phone, ) face-to-face and on-line tutorials (optional) residential schools (none in u/g computing) in reality <20% of the students make effective use of these mechanisms Supported distance teaching associate lecturers (ALs, tutors) supported by staff tutors and the course team (tutor notes, teaching summaries, assessment guidance, phone, )

6 Course development model Production course materials, support and assessment strategies for a course are designed by a small number of academic and educational specialists Presentation course materials supported by large number of associate lecturers to teach and assess very large number of students

7 Production: overview Timescale: years before first presentation Course team: 3-12 academic members,course manager, industrial and external academic advisors, consultants, academic editors + experts from specialist departments (IET, LTS, Graphic designers, Assessment office, …) responsible for the planning, design and implementation of all aspects of the course, inc. fitness for purpose Need to get it right – cannot depend on tutors or presentation team to overcome course deficiencies and the production team will not be available to patch Need to communicate within the course team and to the tutors and students (the end-users).

8 Production: documents generated Course design documentation for production team and presentation teams Teaching texts for students and associate lecturers support texts for associate lecturers Assessment guidance for assessment authors and associate lecturers Administrative documents for presentation team, university, ….

9 Course design documentation? What is this course? (analysis) Draft zero (Overview – narrative outline) Content description (topic detail) topic scope style narrative detail teaching and learning aims and objectives assessment objectives description AL guidance documents Student (and AL) workload planning Case studies and scenarios Unit zero (style sheets), dictionary, standard form of words, notations, etc.

10 Presentation: overview Course team: course manager, 2-3 academics, external examiner, industrial consultant, staff tutor Day-to-day activities to run the course (light) maintenance assessment evaluation of feedback examination and assessment board follows the production teams strategies, plans and direction (nothing to design)

11 Presentation: documents generated Annual admin Study timetable Standard course web site Routes - library managed web links Stop Press Errata University reports Examination board e.g. monitoring reports Assessment materials TMAs TMA question booklet tutor notes sample solutions Examination papers exam paper/solutions special paper/solutions marking guides for tutors

12 Production or where the design happens The M359 experience

13 M359? An update/replacement of M358 u/g, 30 credit, 9 months, ~60% new material due for first presentation in Feb 2007 Analysis complete (we know what M359 is going be!) and business appraisal complete course team chair and course manager working since April 2003 Curriculum and resource planning complete. Draft zero ~5 course team members since Jan 2004

14 Design issues in M359 Course aims and objectives Student learning issues Maintenance schedule (feedback from students, tutors and course teams on previous course) Narrative Teaching strategy Practical activities Assessment strategy Delivery mechanisms Support mechanisms supports design choices regarding..Awareness of

15 Student learning issues Isolated Poor workload management skills Diversity of cohort academic backgrounds, ages, learning styles, confidence, study skills, reasons for studying Varied access to support mechanisms M358 (2003 intake) New to OU study – 8% Registered before 1990 – 5% Age: 50 – 9% Educational achievement: =1 st degree – 20% BFPO: 1% (low in recent years)

16 Practical activity meets isolated learner Having done battle with this question most of yesterday to no avail, your this morning gave me hope. But after battling again all day from 9.00 this morning till now (5.10), and holding my head in my hands, banging it against the wall, and kicking the cat into next week, I finally got something to happen but the tables are empty!!!!! (conference note from M358 student) (The rest of this message made it clear the student was well aware the question was worth 4 marks in the 100 mark TMA)

17 Supplied scenario meets assumed knowledge In the domains list, what does the acronym ISBN mean? It must be really obvious but I just cant see it. It stands for International Standard Book Number and is a reference code used to identify books individually (see …. for more details). Where about in the coursework is it explained what 'ISBN' is? Its probably assumed to be common knowledge. Doesn't help if you didn't know it i can see must have been wondering what the hell page was missing from your book.. (8 hours between 1 st message + 1 st reply) I can find out how many of each book have been bought and what each one cost but I dont see how to work out the total amount spent by each customer.

18 Teaching strategies Clear narrative (and a clear place in the overall course narrative) Appropriately chunked Clear learning objectives, stated and re-stated Flexible Consistent OU Production also requires: Student support documents study guides, course guides, … workload planning support Tutor guidance documents learning and assessment objectives

19 On-line comments - M358 students (oh dear!) I read the course work and the more you read the more you are confused by pointless techno babble. All you want is 3 words to explain and you get I have worked on databases for some years, and can set up a database as a set of related tables fairly easily. Why oh why, does the text (block 4) make me think I am reading some totally alien subject. As for what we are learning I was talking to a friend of mine (who has a MA in computing applied to archeology/specializing in databases) and hes never heard of half of it!!

20 Conference comments from M358 (is this the same course?) … I have found M358 to be very interesting and fulfilling. The one thing I did notice was that it is definitely a level 3 course and noticeably more in depth than any level 2 courses I have taken. That said, if you are interested in databases, this is the course to do. From personal experience (list of commercial database and technical authorship roles deleted) … and 15 years' previous experience in the industry, I say the course is very relevant, very thorough, and of great relevance to modern practice in the serious software industry.

21 Practical activities Problems: interruptions inevitable - support is far away, equipment may fail, what if the student is unable to do the activities? students without support will hack exercises must be repeatable and non-blocking chosen software must support the narrative examples must be inclusive and documented in detail M359 practical style: show, explain, try, review - embedded in the course text limited number of teaching and assessment scenarios larger activities – workload planning support (essential, necessary, handy, optional), timing advice and yes it is problematic!

22 Isolated student … complex software The main problem, for me is not knowing whether I am getting it very wrong or the software is playing up again. Please forget my message. I resorted to speaking to the tutor and found I had done it correctly. Just couldn't understand what the instruction was supposed to do. Also I understand we learnt in block 1 where to see references - now back to the database to look for this information. … yesterday I opened up InfoMaker as I do everyday and had lost all the study.db files as well. I had to reinstall from the CD and then re-enter all my tables again not having a clue as to why they disappeared. Interesting.

23 Delivery mechanisms Available to production teams paper, e-book, CD-ROM, Web – PDFs, Workbooks – electronic, audio, DVD, animation, simulation, (TV) need to be: appropriate for student cohort, flexible to varying learning patterns, support chosen teaching style, enables study any where and any when? M359 main texts – paper ( with copies available on the web ) study guides, course guides, assessment booklets, glossaries, etc – web practical exercise in-line in the main texts (no workbooks)

24 Summary

25 Is the OU different? OU course production teams develop supported learning materials supported teaching materials and assessment and support strategies for students and tutors to use at times, in places and in ways over which they have no control at a scale that makes impractical any direct contact with the end-users.

26 Documented design is essential The separation of production and presentation teams, central academics, associate lecturers and students and the long lifetime of an OU course (5 years production for 8 years presentation) requires a clear communication of design intentions regarding teaching, learning and assessment strategies.

27 Students will find distractions everywhere… I cant help wondering, why does the entity type LawnMower have a capital M. (28 conference messages resulted!) Thank you.

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