Saturday, 18 July 2015

A Year of Digital Learning Design

As the first year of Digital Learning Design is almost upon me, it's a good time to reflect on how it has been and what could have been better.  I'm sure a lot of other organisations have or are going through a similar experience with planning and delivery of both the Level 3 and 4 Diplomas in Digital Learning Design.

Barnsley College has benefited greatly from the service we offer with these programmes, in the form of a learning company.  We have had 7 apprentices on the Level 3 programme and now 4 have progressed onto Level 4 with us.  Both programmes are on a year and a day format.  We also have a number of off-site apprentices with external organisations.  The apprentices are instructional designers which the College has never had before in it's history.  The main barrier that the teaching staff experience is not having enough time to create their own eLearning packages and activities.  But this has now been removed as teachers now have instant access to a service that allows them to get high quality and interactive eLearning materials suitable for inside and outside of the classroom.

What went well:

  • Regular and ongoing support, mentoring and encouragement to the apprentices.
  • Enabling creative freedom within the apprentices.
  • Developing a collaborative and supportive team.
  • Returning quick assessment decisions and feedback.
  • Facilitating the online group with developmental feedback and resources.
  • Managing the apprentices, assessment and qualification.
  • Developing and marketing the learning company.
  • Dedication and commitment to developing a new eLearning workforce that is current and relevant so they are fit for the industry.

To be improved:

  • Pedagogy is essential.  Introduce pedagogy from day 1 as it takes time to embed this within individuals.  I'm going to be emphasising pedagogy a lot more in future as discussed here.  Technical and design skills can be developed quite rapidly, if given the right prompts for inspiration and resources.
  • Develop eLearning more in line with the learning, teaching and assessment cycle.
  • Encourage more storyboarding and include learning theories to embed them.
  • Evaluation and feedback of the products created.  We haven't done enough of this in my opinion so this has now been revised with a new organisational structure.
  • Encourage deeper and proactive reflection through blogs and/or contributions to the online group.
  • Project planning of individuals work.  It was good enabling flexibility within individuals but too much of it let them wander and lose focus.  But now the Level 4's will lead on this in the new organisational structure.  A tight project planning and monitoring structure is now in place with the use of collaborative technology.
  • Enable more independent activities of research and discovery.  As educators should know, spoon feeding should be kept to a minimum.  So more hands on learning experiences that are authentic to tasks and duties; project based learning at it's best.
  • Better blend of using technology.  It's worried and annoyed me that I haven't used enough and effective use of technology, so I want to practice what I preach.
  • Our Moodle course pages are currently being redeveloped to be more interactive and are in line with the qualification criteria.
  • Assessment of learning.  This needs to commence on day 1, especially if you are running it over a year and a day format as time is learning and learning is assessment time.  However, I need to emphasise on collecting more naturally occurring evidence as it is Work Based Learning.  Assessment is now going to be on a personal basis with one to ones through the apprenticeship reviews and setting individual targets which will be reviewed on a monthly basis.  For off-site apprentices these will be at least every 10 week face-to-face.

The first year could be viewed as training the current Level 3 apprentices to mentor the future ones.  But they will replace each other every year.  It was all about getting it right and seeing how individuals could slot into the positions within the learning company.  This is the hierarchy I have reorganised in the learning company in a broad format:

Me (tutor, line manager, assessor and internal verifier) > colleague (tutor and assessor) > Level 4's (project manage, create and mentor/train Level 3's)  > Level 3's (create and support teaching staff).

Currently, I'm just midway through planning and putting together a comprehensive training and assessment plan for both on-site and off-site Level 3 and Level 4 apprenticeships.  I'm very excited to see how it will turn out.  As well as delivering these programmes, I'm growing alongside them and learning and researching new material.  However, everyday I think of new approaches and changes I can make.  It's just being aware of them and putting plans in place.  It's important to remember that you can't always get it right the first time.  And if you're a perfectionist like me, this is a real pain!  So it's important to be flexible, as education should be.  Planning and delivery can only go as far as your knowledge and skills go.