Delivering DDLR & DDeLR: Reflections

Life got quite busy in the last few weeks, so screenface had to go on the back-burner for a little while. I think it’s worth taking a look at what happened with the DDLR & DDeLR (Design & Develop Learning/eLearning Resources) subjects and what I might do with them next time.

What happened?

The majority of teachers taking the DDLR subjects have a reasonable expectation that this is a class where they will be able to develop some rich skills in using our eLearning platform to make new things for their students.

The units and elements of competency however are heavily focused on a design and development process for learning resources. The assessments for the teachers (who are the students in this case) hinge on providing evidence that they have considered the characteristics of their cohorts and mapped out a plan for whatever resource they are building. (This should include documenting necessary materials, sources of support and risk planning possible contingencies that may arise). They then need to create the resource, test it with peers or students and make refinements to it before final implementation.

All in all, sensible practice and (I assume) something that most teachers already do as a matter of course in their teaching practice. (Whether or not they formally name the steps in the process is another matter)

What the units and elements of competency don’t particularly care about is what the teachers learn about in terms of usability, readability, general design principles and, of course, the use of a range of new technological tools to get it all done. (Which is what they are most interested in addressing)

So we already have tensions built into the subject in the conflict between what the teachers want and need and what they have to demonstrate and be assessed on.

While we started with a full house of 14 people on the first day, numbers quickly dwindled to a dedicated core of 6 – 7. (A number of factors came to play here including personal issues for a couple of the cohort and running this subject at the very end of semester, when these teachers are themselves inundated with their own grading and teaching responsibilities)

For those that remained, we were able to provide what I hope was an engaging range of activities and training in design principles for usability, copyright and the use of our eLearning platform. (I was well supported by a member of my team – Jo – who also kindly filled in for me when I was away).

Assessment items have been slow to come in – possibly due to the onerous nature of evidence requirements for the subjects. Learners are required to provide 4 draft learning resources (with accompanying design documents and student group profiles) of which 2 are then tested and refined into final learning resources.

I tried to streamline this process in the first week by having the class work on a draft learning resource in the first week – a checklist that might be used to test the quality of their other learning resources. There has been a fair amount of confusion about this and I need to consider whether it is worth trying again and also how I go about explaining the concept.

The idea was to get the class thinking about important qualities in their learning resources and also to get some more buy-in in their own assessments, by effectively designing part of their grading tool. (This is not a graded subject but my intention was that by having them use their learning resource checker on their other resources, they would be more mindful of issues relating to pedagogy, content and technology.

What have I learned?

I need to lower my expectations of what can be achieved in the first lesson. We were beset with technical and enrollment questions that disrupted my carefully planned series of tasks and activities.

I had also put too much faith in the technical skills of the cohort and their ability to effectively use our LMS. I tried to do too many clever things – setting up conditional release on activities so that the learners could only access certain activities or resources after completing others.

I didn’t provide sufficient information about how the class might submit assessment items which were from their own development courses in our LMS. The assessments were set up as an assignment dropbox to receive files. I ended up telling people to create a word document with some screenshots and a link to the resources that they had created but this should have been explicitly stated in the assessment instructions.

I am happy that I was able to be flexible enough with the course to ask the learners what tools they were most interested in learning about and reshaping the course to accommodate this. A core principle of adult learning is that adults need to see the value in what they are being taught and this was an easy way to achieve this.

I’ve been able to speak to the previous teacher of this subject and she also struggled with a number of these issues – hopefully input from a wider group of colleagues might offer some solutions.