Blended and Online Learning with Diana Laurillard from the UCL Knowledge lab

Delivered last week as part of an observed PGCE class – it worked. With some adjustments I’ll use it again.

This matters. I do a few of these online courses a year with FutureLearn (and a few with Coursera). I do all courses on e-learning. (Well, I take an interest – I cannot do them ALL!) But I do many of them and have done a few since the invention of the ‘Massive Open Online Course) or MOOC. For example, I have completed ‘Learning How to Learn’ (Coursera) twice, took an additional course on how to be a moderator online (required) and moderate on this and a course on photography from Duke University.

If you’re in education then ‘Blended and Online Learning Design‘ is the course that in only a few hours each week, over just three weeks – will help you to understand how everything is changed in education – and how you can be part of that force for change by designing learning that works online.

It’ll change how you do things in the classroom too.

You will start to get your head around their ‘Learning Designer‘ platform. It’s a free to use ‘open education resource’. It is a bit ‘2013’ – which in development terms means it has some catching up to do. It could do with a couple of million spent on making it to make it as intuitive as we would expect in 2021 – but it does the job. As my PGCE tutor put it, “We need something as easy to use as Amazon”. We should be careful what we wish for – surely Google, Microsoft, Apple and LinkedIn, let alone Pearson, City & Guilds and Facebook are lining up to run the world’s education. Would that be such a bad thing? If we think there is a ‘digital divide’ in the West, read a study of education in Ghana – there isn’t so much a divide as a vast gulf.

I digress. ‘Learning Designer’ lets you sprinkle in aims, objectives and key approaches to learning while setting durations and playing with modes of delivery. You can lift a ‘design’ created by someone else and adapt it for you own use. You can use it for one class or a series. And you can export your finished plan into a linear doc, so use it for a running order for the session, or adapt it as an essay, blog or for private reflection.

In time educators will have entire suites of such plans to call upon, that they have made, that their department have produced – and hopefully, that the world of education has contributed. This will deliver better learning. It offers a democratisation of approaches – even where resources are thin or non-existent for some.

I would like it as a running order with a set of suitable photographic screenshots to remind me what’s up next. And a countdown clock. I’m too fresh to the reality of standing up in front of a class (face to face or remote) not want a tight schedule to follow – not quite to the minute, not without some flexibility built in – always with a contingency plan for when the Tech: fails.

For now, for me, it is still OK to go online and use a webcam, external mic, a whiteboard, a bit of chat, a link to a video and a formative quiz, break out rooms and plenaries. A simple mix. I’ll record it too. I have invested in an LED light. I fancy trying an external webcam. I’m yet to get the green screen out of the box – its too big for the tiny room I operate from.

I do not have months with a team to re-engineer complete modules of content for an entirely asynchronous, self-paced delivery – and who wants that anyway? Students want tutor contact – that’s the point, that’s one lesson well learnt.

They want to see and hear from you.

Be there, in real time ‘live’ and when you cannot be there – still be there, in a short video or pop-up thumbnail for feedback.

Try stuff, experiment, be brave – your students will prefer you take a risk and fail, then bore them to death with another PowerPoint.

I made it to the end. I completed the exercises as required. I did some peer reviews. I made noise in the discussions. We were privileged to have Prof. Diana Laurillard with us throughout with other other UCL contributes feeding into the conversation too (this is rare – probably a lockdown thing!).

I purchased the certificate with an upgrade out of respect to the team who produced this break-through course and so that I have long term access to the content, the app and the conversations. The ‘Learning Designer’ is now my go-to platform to think through a class that I might be delivering and that I have been asked to work on with others. It lets you play around with the options, lets you check back with how things went on the day, adapt, improve, move on.

We’re all on a learning curve so we had might as well find a way to make the ride a smooth one.

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