Bridging the Gap: Teaching Across Abilities Mandy Atkinson Business School University of Greenwich.
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Bridging the Gap: Teaching Across Abilities Mandy Atkinson Business School University of Greenwich
Introducing the course A second year 30 credit undergraduate course. Marketing communications specialism taught over two years –in 2 nd and 3 rd year. E learning course development relates to 2 nd year course which addresses public relations and sales promotion. Historically the course had been taught in a traditional way through lecture and tutorials. In the current academic year, 90 students registered.
Background Weaker students struggled with understanding of course content –particularly PR. Large tutorial groups and practically difficult to adapt teaching strategy to student abilities. High failure rate on completing the course. Learning and teaching strategies needed to be addressed in order to consider student requirements.
E Learning Approach Identified WebCT was used as the VLE for developing the course. The course was developed and delivered simultaneously. The focus changed – emphasis was placed on the student’s responsibility for learning. Students’ played an active role in course development. Students were able to be provided with course materials as they needed them, as the course progressed. Students were encouraged to develop a dialogue with their tutor and to provide feedback in a variety of ways. The tutor and students learned to use the online learning environment together. The course was developed drawing on perspectives from (Scribbins and Powell 2003) using supported learning.(Scribbins and Powell 2003)
The Student Experience of Online Learning Explored Focus groups were organised involving 40 second year undergraduate marketing students. All students had experienced elearning on two courses during the academic year: Tools of Marketing Communications 1 and Understanding Customers. Courses were delivered in different ways using supported and blended approaches to learning (Scribbins and Powell 2003).(Scribbins and Powell 2003) The research considered the student experience of e learning across both courses. It built on the student perception of learning environments (Delvin 2002).
The Student experience of elearning: Summary Students liked the accessibility of course content and tutor communication 24/7. Liked the discussion board –helped each other as well as gaining tutorial support. Liked course materials (such as lecture notes, case studies, web links, quizzes) and self assessment in particular. Felt that developing relationship with tutors and colleagues was an important step in building confidence to use the online learning tools – particularly discussion board and RTC’s.
The Student experience of elearning: Summary Disliked ‘week on,week off’ delivery on one of the two courses and felt that continuity was lacking in face to face tutorials. Felt that online learning worked best in conjunction with face to face teaching. Limited understanding of the communication tools and how each could be used fully. Wary of RTC and discussion board tools and how to use it. Lacked confidence in communicating online. Requested more online learning in courses but to start in year 1 of studies.
Has elearning made a difference? Students felt generally that elearning made a difference to them. It was clear that students wanted elearning to be part of all their courses –especially the more complex ones. Success was achieved in terms of students using course materials developed –too early to tell whether it has had an impact on failure rates from previous years.
Reflections on e practice The importance of developing rubrics so that expectations of students and staff are clear. Developing the role of the e tutor and emphasising the importance of the social as well as technical and knowledge type roles (Salmon 2004).(Salmon 2004). Students need to learn how to be an e learner and how it differs from traditional learning. Key role of the etutor to build confidence in elearning, encourage and explain the value of the elearning experience. A need to allow for a mixed level of ability in terms of information technology in addressing learning and teaching strategies. Making sure that the needs and experiences of the learner remain central to course development and delivery.
Next year? Face to face session on using WebCT to be introduced at beginning of the year. Incorporate RTCs sessions from induction stage and put more emphasis on socialisation and building confidence of learners. An e portfolio has been developed and the course assessment changed to incorporate an element of elearning within coursework. Examples of good practice –past assignments to be included within VLE. Longer term, to introduce an element of e learning into first year student studies, so that students are more comfortable with elearning from the beginning of their University course.