Embarking on a more creative pathway

I started this blog back in 2008 when I was involved in developing a course, to be delivered in a blended format of face to face teaching, small group tutorials, online content and online tutorials. It seemed like a huge task but it is one that was successfully achieved and has been tried and tested for a several years now. It has developed and grown and changes have been made over this time some of which I am yet to blog about. 

Blogging has been very sporadic for me over the last few years, time is the issue and also having ideas to explore and present on a blog is not always easy. 

The stimulus for this blog post is a MOOC I have enrolled in called Creativity, Innovation and Change, from PennState University. The course has several mechanisms for students to connect with each other and a group of New Zealanders, myself included, have joined a Google plus group to keep in touch and to share throughout the course. The course is 8 weeks long and I look forward to seeing where it goes. I have watched one or two of the course videos, which I have found quite generic. Clare Atkins, one of our NZ group participants posted a video, part serious part comedy by John Cleese, which did stimulate my thinking about the whole topic. Paula Lourie, another group member posted a video presentation she had been involved in developing on the topic of this course which also gave me food for thought.

I am not the best student and I am not very good a following the rules and doing what I am told. I suspect many of my students are the same. I tend to follow my own path and explore the things I find to be of interest. One of the first week course activities was to build a paper tower, which many course particpants seemed to embrace with some enthusiasm but it did nothing for me. I was not really that interested. 


Strangely though I have found that my brain is bursting with ideas of things to do, innovations to try and changes that I believe could improve the way my course and perhaps other practice skills courses are delivered to our students and the learning experiences students have. I don’t know if this has anything to do with the course or if it is just something that has just happened. I do know that I am an impulsive person by nature. I feel I have some good ideas burning away I just need to identify where it is that I put my energy and work out how to move things forward.

About Pisa

I attended theEdTech4E (Education Technology for Export) conference in Wellinton on the 12th April. At this conference mention was made of the Pisa study which I had not heard of.
Although this is more to do with secondary school education none the less it sparked my interest and I found this talk by Andreas Schleicher very interesting. One of the points he makes about class size not necessarily being important sparked my interest as this was proposed recently in NZ and squarely rejected by the population. I have to say I was one of those opposed. Our government should have done a better job of explaining what it was they wanted to achieve through this and where these ideas had originated. had they done this they may have experienced less resistance to the idea. I can now see the rationale for this but still wonder if there is some cultural component to class size. Although larger classes work in some parts of the world does that mean they would work here? I agree that a great teacher who is aware of good teaching practice and is able to use up to date and relevant tools to support learning should be able to overcome many of these issues.

Anyway here is a link to the TED talk from Andreas. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this in the comments below
Use of Data to Build Better Schools

EdTech for Export conference Wellington 12th April 2013

On the 12th April I was fortunate to be able to attend the first EdTech4Export conference in Wellington New Zealand. This post is my reflection on the conference, thank to Otago Polytechnic for sending me.

To get me in the mood the taxi driver from the airport had national radio on and they were discussing 3D printers. This whole concept is happening now and is so revolutionary. It seems that we are not in the middle of a technological revolution at all but we are just at the start of it. There is so much more just around the corner and we, in New Zealand, need to be prepared and ready to take advantage of this.

Following are the key points I took from speakers I heard at the conference. Note that the best quote is in my own words and may not be the actual words that were said at the time, but were what I had scribbled down.


Karen Billings, Vice President, Education Division, Software and Information Industry Association (SIIS) U.S.

Key message for me

There is growing interest in personalised learning. However there is also interest in mass media, mobile, global blended and MOOCs (massive open online courses)

Best quote

“Learning is mobile and global.”

What I learned

Innovative Ed Tech solution could help to address the issues of; Disengaged students; Unrealistic expectations; Diversity; Unemployment.

We need to lessen dropout rate; Improve communication and collaboration (with mobile devices) More out of class learning (virtual tours etc);  support education reform; Technology however will never replace instructors. Real human interaction will always be needed.


Ed Tech opportunities in the U.S. exist in: Multiplatform aggregation/ Professional development/ Data analysis and integration (identifying students with problems)


Carl Engkvist, Senior Vice President of Business Development Asia Pacific, Pearson (involved in the development of Blackboard)

Best quote

“Think global- Act local”

“China wants to modernise, not westernise.”  It has a long proud history in education, predating our own

What I learned

Asia needs more education than can be provided locally.

75% use mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) to go online, not desktop or laptop.

One week every year Singapore has an Elearning week, all schools, colleges and universities close and all learning is at home. This is pandemic planning.

When entering the Asian market need t long term view and work to that vision, adapt product to local needs.


Mobile learning is the way to go.


Tim Brooke-Hunt, Controller of Children’s programming, ABC TV

Key message for me

Linear television will not be around in the future. Television needs to be aware of what is happening with print media, it needs to adapt as it is going in the same direction.

What I learned

Very young children are using touch screen technology to learn, as young as 2 years of age. ABC is doing incredible things for education in Australia. They have developed wonderful resources to support teaching and engage children.

 Breakout sessions

Breakout 1

Stephen Knightly; Chair, New Zealand Game Developers Association

Key message for me

Games engage learners and provide great learning experiences if the pedagogy is aligned.

Best quote

Analyse everything and develop content accordingly.

What I learned

Games are effective pedagogically. They need to be enjoyable and challenging, they provide experiential learning experiences.

Identify Clear goals – use the right tools – provide challenges – give feedback

Do not let students stay stuck on a level. If they do not achieve, offer hints or tips.

The learning needs to be made apparent. Students need to know what they are looking for in the game. Play game, stop, reflect, learn.


Maru Nihoniho (Metia Interactive) http://www.tepapa.govt.nz/WhatsOn/allevents/Pages/13AprilMoveoverBoys.aspx

Maru developed a game Sparx which has been found to help teenagers deal with depression as effectively as having counselling sessions. This has been published in the British Medical Journal http://www.bmj.com/content/344/bmj.e2598

Breakout 2 first speaker

Rachel Bolstad; New Zealand Council for Education Research. http://www.nzcer.org.nz/research/rachel-bolstad

Key message for me

Lifelong learning changes the way we need to teach

Best quote

Knowledge is not a noun it is a verb. Knowledge is a tool to help us learn how to learn.

What I learned

Personalise learning – built around the learner

Work with diversity – diversity is strength. Plurality valued and students engaged.

Use Knowledge to develop learning capacity – collaboration and connectedness

Rethinking learner and teacher roles – building learner capacity, building curriculum

Continuous learning for teachers and education leaders

Partnerships between schools and community.

Breakout 2 second speaker

Garry Faloon; University of Waikato

Key message

Researched 5 year olds use of touch screen games for problem solving and learning.

Best quote

The best apps model good teacher practice.

What I learned

Rewards should be appropriate. Smaller achievements should get smaller rewards and completion should gain a larger award. Giving big rewards frequently reduces the effectiveness.

Formative feedback is important. Where students have tried and failed come in and ask “have you tried this?”

Breakout 3

Nick Billowes, Director of Development, Core Education

Best quote

It is not

Key message for me

Technology is a transforming agent in education.

Best quote

It is not about doing old things in new ways but doing new things in new ways.

Andreas Düesner. Senior research scientist. HITLab.(Human Interface Technology.)

Key message for me

Increasing costs of education means we need to be more efficient, effective and ecological.

Best quote

It is not about doing old things in new ways but doing new things in new ways.

What I learned

Asia is our market



Learning in the 21st Century is any time, any place, any pace and with or through any device


Learner controlled, learner choice. Empowerment to act. Personalization. Lifelong learning. Universal design.


High level collaboration. Rethink concepts such as ownership. How knowledge is controlled and how it can be shared


David Copeland, from Learning Media was MC for the day. He was very skilled at keeping things to time and identifying the underlying threads from speakers. He really made the day fun. It was great to get together and have the opportunity to chat with people interested in using technology in education. I was amazed at the number of people who had great ideas and some great products that they were developing and looking for investors to take their ideas further or looking for a market for their products. If I had one criticism of the conference it would be that there were so many there looking for these things but not so many investors or markets represented to take their ideas further.

It was really interesting to hear what these people had been doing and developing. Some wonderful educational gaming activities being developed by many, one I spoke with was Dan Milward from Gamfroot, something I will need to explore. I also spoke with Stephen Clarke and his sister, from pixelBook, who can create wonderful Ebooks with any content.

It was great to catch up with John Enlow from ADINSTRUMENTS. This is a company who already provide software packages to Otago Polytechnic and I will be talking more with them about how there software may be used in our midwifery blended learning programme.

Interesting conversation with Mark Zuckerberg

I found this interesting you may too.

Slideshare presentation about EXE and Moodle

This is a link to a slideshare presentation principally for Otago Polytechnic staff. Others usin EXE as a development tool for online learning packages may also find it useful
View more presentations from Carolyn m.

Virtual International Day of the Midwife, May 5th, 2010

May 5th is the International Midwives Day. Here is what theInternational Confederation of Midwives say about this day:

“The International Day of the Midwife is an occasion for every midwife to think about the many others in the profession, to make new contacts within and outside midwifery, and to widen the knowledge of what midwives do for the world. In 2010 and in the years leading up to 2015, ICM will use the overarching theme The World Needs Midwives Now More Than Ever as part of an ongoing campaign to highlight the need for midwives. This reflects the WHO call for midwives and the need to accelerate progress towards the achievement of MDGs 4 & 5.”

How about participating in the Virtual International Day of the Midwife. This is a free conference for midwives. An opportunity to come together from the comfort of your own home or from your workplace. You can access all the sessions online through the links that you will see beside the sessions. Come and join us. You will have an opportunity to ask the presenters questions or to share your own thoughts.

How to get started as a presenter on Elluminate at Otago Polytechnic

This is a wee presentation I put together with voice over. It is not great and there is no content other than voice on the first slide but it might be useful for some

End of first year of new Bachelor of Midwifery Programme:Reflection on “intensives”.


The academic year finally ended yesterday for  first year students in our new undergraduate midwifery programme in the South Island of New Zealand. This is the first in a series of posts reflecting on the year. I wrote extensively in this blog about my development process for the first year practice skills course. It has been a very busy year one way and another, and I have been somewhat less diligent in blogging about progress during the actual first year of course delivery. Now that we have reached the end of first year it is timely to reflect on how the programme in general and the practice skills course in particular have gone.

We started the year a couple of weeks before other Polytechnic students began and have ended the year a couple of weeks later than other students. This is because we are now delivering the equivalent of a four year midwifery degree programme in three years (more about that later).  As a lecturer it has been challenging to be working with students from virtually the very start of the year right through until  my last day in Polytech. Anyone involved in undergraduate education will know that the start and end of the year are times of preparation and consolidation when a lot of administrative tasks are undertaken. Having to do these things while also continuing to be involved with preparation and assessment of students is a challenge. In this post I will overview the class “intensives” where the student all come together as a class at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin. Our programme involves the students coming to Otago Polytechnic for classroom learning and assessment four times in the year. We call these blocks “Intensives”.

Intensive 1

Students arrived at the beginning of February. We all went off for a couple of days stay at Wairua Scout camp after a couple of days looking around campus and introduction to lecturers and courses . Staff from the sports school came along and ran some activities for us. We also did some work on communication as well as having fun and getting know each other. During the second week we started formal learning with face to face lectures and skills practice. In the practice skills course students learned about standard precautions and vital signs monitoring.

As the year progressed we have reflected on what we are doing. Everyone seemed to feel the camp was a good activity helping us all to get to know one another and particularly useful as we were then going to be working at a distance from each other. I felt there was a problem with the second week. Lectures are now all online as self learning packages and the idea is that students learn online first then come to class ready to focus on learning the practical skill. There was no time for this online learning to occur so we had to deliver some lectures around the topic before the students could start to practice the skills. This meant that there was not really enough time for the class to work together on the practice skills. As a result of this reflection in 2010 we will split the first two weeks of the course. Students next year will arrive for the first week of the intensive and will then have a couple of weeks to work with the online learning resources before completing the second week of face to face intensive course work.

Intensive 2

It was good for all to get together once again in intensive two. This was also a two week intensive and had been planned as we felt there would be things that required face to face  delivery to the whole class. While this is the case for some  courses items we discovered that there was less needing to be delivered face to face than we have previously thought would be necessary, as a result this intensive will be reduced  next year from two weeks to one week.

Intensive 3

As with intensive two there was actually less teaching that needed to be done in this intensive than we had thought would be required. Students began the course on Maori health during this intensive and students and staff spent a couple of days and one night on a local Marae learning about issues around health care and birth for Maori women and their families. Students commented on how relaxed this was and how good it was to have another activity where they had an opportunity to come together in this way, but this time knowing each other a little better. I have to admit that I was somewhat skeptical about these two overnight activities before we began the new programme but I do now admit that they are valuable additions to a distance based blended programme such as ours. I would recommend this to any other institutions considering adopting a similar approach to midwifery education.

Intensive 4

The first week of this intensive  is the time for assessment and of course nerves are high at this time. Our students had some traditional class exams to do. The first was a three hour bioscience examination. The next was an exam loosely based on an “OSCE” type practice skills exam. Here student are randomly allocated one of 5 scenarios that they are already aware of and have had the opportunity to practice. Within these scenarios are two practice skills that the students have learned during the year. Women from our local community role play for these scenarios and a lecturer marks the students practical skill ability while the women are able to comment on students communication skills. Finally the students sit a one hour mathematics examination on professional calculations including drug calculations and infusion rates. We had intended to bring all students to Dunedin for all of these examinations but, in response to students feedback, we arranged supervised examinations for Bioscience and Procal in the students own area, with their practice facilitator invigilating, and they were only required to travel to Dunedin for the OSCE.

The final week of the year for students is the second week of this intensive. It is taken up with Midwifery Integration. This is a short course which is completed in both first and second year of the midwifery programme. Students are given a scenario and are  randomly allocated to groups. They have to explore the scenario with consderation of all the different aspects they have been learning about, in all their courses, over the year. At the end of the week they give a presentation to the class and lecturers about their scenario. This is an opportunity for students to integrate learning and consider a practice scenario from a variety of professional perspectives. This is a course we have run over the past five or so years at Otago Polytechnic. We usually run it over two weeks, one in the middle of the year and the other towards the end of the year. This year we dropped the first week as it has always been a challenge to find things the students can explore at this early time. The work the students did in this final week was extremely good. The presentation were generally excellent and the scenarios were well explored. As a lecturer it was very satisfying to see how the students were able to work with these scenarios and suggested that our new programme is working well and students are learning. Some of the work was well in advance of what we would generally expect in first year.This was a good way to complete the year and a nice way to say goodbye to the students.

Final reflection on the intensives

The intensives will always be an important part of this blended programme of midwifery education. It is interesting however that we did not need as much time for these as we had thought we would. In part this is probably because of the weekly tutorial groups which students attend and support a great deal of their practical learning . In my next post I will reflect on these tutorial groups. Students are aware before they enrol that these intensives are a key part of the programme and that they will be required to travel to Dunedin for them. This did not stop some students from complaining about the cost of travelling to Dunedin, of course, understandably, money is always an issue for students. As a result we did do more in the local areas with students than we had thought we might. Student also made connections with Dunedin based students and all our distance students were able to find billets during their stay in Dunedin which would reduce the cost to them.

Feeding back in assessment

What feedback models or processes do you prefer?

Nicol (2006) states that good formative feedback provides clear guidance to students about what constitutes good performance while helping students to develop self assessment and reflective practice skills. It involves dialogue between students and lecturers, motivates learning and promotes self-esteem.

While formative feedback is important to guide student learning summative assessment give student the key to what counts for the course (Boud, 2000). Summative assessment suggests that there is an end point in the learning process where the student will have met learning outcomes is then assessed and pronounced competent or otherwise. It does not consider the nature of learning as a life long process which students need to engage with. While summative feedback may suggest ways in which the student can improve performance there is little opportunity for the student to do this unless there is a resit or resubmission opportunity. In my experience these opportunities are usually only given to failing students. Summative feedback therefore may have little influence on continued learning.

Why is feedback important?

Feedback helps students to close the gap between their current and desired performance and provides lecturers with information which can help to structure ongoing teaching. Feedback is of particular importance in formative assessment where the goal is to support student learning by identifying knowledge gaps and creating learning opportunities to bridge those gaps. It is important the feedback is closely related to the learning outcomes for the course and matches those outcomes with the students’ current performance. It is also important that students have an opportunity to consider and reflect on feedback and strategise how to meet their own learning needs.

What are the challenges or issues with assessment feedback?

If the goal of formative feedback is to assist student learning and identify how any further learning needs can be met, how do we know that the feedback we are giving students is effective in this way? It may be relatively easy to respond to areas of weakness for a whole class but how do we do that on an individual level? Do some types of assessment support this type of feedback loop more than others? It is important that feedback is given in a timely fashion and this can be a challenge if there are large numbers of assessments to consider.

How do you balance how much feedback to give?

I find sometimes that I spend a great deal of time giving feedback to students which is probably never really considered in any depth, this may be because much of the feedback I am giving is on summative assessments. It would probably be better to develop the art of skilful inquiry, asking the students to identify themselves where there learning needs are and how they well they feel they have achieved the outcomes. Students then need to have an opportunity to prove that they have met their learning needs and identify further goals. This process is a process well suited to a learning contract process of assessment.


Boud, D. (2000). Sustainable assessment: Rethinking assessment for the learning society. Studies in Continuing Education, 22, (2), 151-167

Nicol, D. J., McFarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in higher education. 31, (2), 199-219. Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 15th September 2009 from http://www.reap.ac.uk/public/Papers/DN_SHE_Final.pdf

Assessment of midwifery practice skills in a distance based blended learning course

Introduction / Background

The learning contract, which is the focus of this post, is an assessment in the first year practice skills course in our undergraduate midwifery degree programme.  Although this three year degree has been running for around 16 years this is the first year on the new model of course delivery. I have described this course in detail in previous blog posts. The new undergraduate degree programme is very similar in content to the previous programme however the process of delivery has changed dramatically this year. In this post I discuss the learning contract and explain why we are using this as an assessment in this course I also explain how this assessment is presented to the students and how it is marked.

What assessment in being used in the practice skills course?

One of the main assessment tools that is being used in this course is  a learning contract. The students are required to identify a learning need around a midwifery practice skill. They have to identify the knowledge they already have about this and what it is that they need to learn. Students then explain how they will go about meeting these learning needs, what resources they will access and how they will improve their knowledge and/or experience with the skill. Students thenrecord what they have learned and what, if anything they still need to do to feel confident in their knowledge of the skill.  Finally the student prepares a reflective piece about their experience of undertaking this project. This assessment gives the student 50% of the  mark in the practice skills course.

Why is this assessment being used in this course?

This assessment forms part of the students Midwifery Practice Portfolio. The Portfolio is a structured document outlining all the practice experiences a student has during the three year degree programme. Students also reflect on their learning and experiences within the portfolio.  They maintain a record of the skills practiced and competence achieved with these skills.  The portfolio also provides a mechanism for reflection on midwifery practice and professional relationships with women and colleagues.  Portfolios have been identified as a useful tool to assess learning and competence amongst health professionals and are commonly used in nursing (Joyce, 2005; McMullan, Endacott et al, 2003; Scholes, Webb et al, 2004). The professional portfolio has been identified as a useful tool to develop critical thinking, promote adult learning and is geared to the individual needs of the learner (ibid). Portfolios are a required component of the recertification programme for midwives in New Zealand (http://www.midwiferycouncil.org.nz/main/Recertification/)

As a component of the portfolio, learning contracts also fit within the pedagogical framework of adult learning. Anderson and Boud (1996) suggest that learning contracts are useful assessment tools for flexible learning courses. Learning contracts support and encourage student autonomy and responsibility with regards to learning. Anderson and Boud recommend that  learning contracts should be used across the course and should not be a single isolated assessment tool within a course. Within the learning contract students  identify when, what, how and why they will learn a particular skill, they perform a self assessment of their own learning and provide evidence to corroborate this, they also identify their future learning goals.  This prepares the student well for the reality of midwifery practice where lifelong learning is essential (Boud, 2000). It will give the student a model to follow as they progress from undergraduate midwifery education to midwifery practice. It is an important aspect of practice, for students and midwives, to identify learning needs and how these learning needs can be met.

How this assessment is is being implemented

Students have been encouraged to use the learning contract process to identify their learning goals, learning activities and learning achievements within the portfolio and are being asked to identify one skill which they will submit for assessment and marking within the practice skills course. They have been given a table, within the portfolio, as a guide to help identify the process they need to follow to do this.  Students have been asked to keep their topic focused on the skills which they are learning  in the first year of the programme and will record their learning experience and reflections on this experience. The learning outcomes for the practice skills course are

  1. demonstrate an ability to use communication skills to develop effective professional relationships with their peers and colleagues.
  2. utilise an awareness of effective communication to enhance the quality of the childbearing experience for women and their families.
  3. safely perform a range of selected practice skills and be able to outline their underlying theories and rationale.
  4. accurately perform drug calculations and demonstrate skill of medication administration.

This assignment is designed to meet outcomes 1, 2, and 3.

In the course outline students have been asked to identify a situation in practice where a midwifery assessment has been carried out and write a reflective account of this experience. Students then develop a learning contract relating to this subject area. The student reviews her existing knowledge around the subject area and identifies her learning goals. She then reviews how these goals will be met and verify that they have achieved these goals. Students have also been given guidance within the portfolio to demonstrate how they can prepare and present this learning contract.

As the assignment date approaches students have been asking questions about this assignment. While I believe this is a good assignment technique in this course I am not sure that we have clearly articulated how this relates to the learning outcomes. I think this assessment will develop, change and grow for subsequent years.  I am interested to see how the students work with this assignment.

Is this assessment appropriate?

As described above there is a rationale for this assessment. Student are only now engaging with the process for submission of their learning contract. This may be because I am only getting my head around it too at the moment. I welcome your thoughts on this. If you are an educator of undergraduate health students do you think this would be a good way for your students to learn or be assessed? Are their any suggestions you have where this process could be better? I welcome any feedback on this. Please leave your comments in the comments tab below this post. Many thanks for coming to my blog and reading this post.


This post has outlined the learning contract which the most significant piece of assessment in the practice skills course in the first year of the undergraduate midwifery programme at Otago Polytechnic. Learning contract has been identified as a useful assessment tool for flexible learning, supports adult learners and gives the student skills which support lifelong learning. This is further described within the learning outcomes of the course, information in the course outline and within the portfolio document.


Anderson, G. & Boud, D. (1996). Introducing learning contracts: a flexible way to learn. Innovations in Education and Training International, 33, (4). 221-227.

Boud, D. (2000). Sustainable assessment: rethinking assessment for the learning society. Studies in Continuing Education, 22, (2). 151-167.

Joyce, P. (2005). A framework for portfolio development in postgraduate nursing practice. Journal of clinical nursing. 14, (4). 456-463

McMullan, M.,  Endacott, R.,  Gray, M. A.,  Jasper, M.,  Miller, C.,  Scholes, J.,  Webb, C. (2003). Portfolios and assessment of competence: a review of the literature. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 41, (3). 283-294

Scholes, J.  Webb, C.  Gray, M.  Endacott, R.  Miller, C. Jasper, M. McMullan, M. (2004). Making portfolios work in practice. Journal of advanced Nursing. 46, (6). 595-603

Assessment in the new midwifery programme

I have started the final course in the GCTLT at Otago Polytechnic. Here I am starting to reflect on the assessment process.

3353295436_0916afc680Image:  X class examinations from Bindass Madhavi’s phtos n flickr.com

In midwifery it seems  to me that much of what students learn is assessment driven, this is common amongst health professional education (Wass, Vlueten, Shatzer & Jones, 2001). The reality of student learning is that students feel pressured from their workload and gear their learning to meet the criteria of course assessments. Wass et al, stress the importance of ensuring that assessment of students is aligned with the competencies expected of them in clinical practice. They suggest there is no one way to assess clinical competence for medical student, the assessment process will comprise a variety of assessment styles which provide the students with a variety of ways to demonstrate their understanding. Factual written tests can demonstrate what the student’s background knowledge, written tests with a clinical focus can demonstrate that the student knows how to approach clinical issues, OSCE (objective structured clinical examination) allows the student to show the skills that they have developed and performance assessment (through practice supervision, video of skills in clinical practice or reflective logs can demonstrate that the student can act appropriately in the practice setting.  Osce’s have been found to be a useful tool for supporting learning and identifying competence in the nursing professions (Mason,  Fletcher, McCormick, Perrin &Rigby, 2005; ) however, although they have been found to be beneficial they need to be part of a broad picture of assessment of students competence (Rushforth, 2007).

In the school of midwifery we are always trying to look critically at what we assess and how many assessments we require students to do. In the new curriculum much of the online material is accompanied by formative assessments, quizzes and such like, which are not marked but will guide the students through key points of the learning resources they are accessing. A few students complete these and value this process however the majority seem to ignore them and only concentrate on assessments that are marked or are at least looked at and acknowledged by the teaching staff. This suggests to me that we need to consider carefully what we assess, how we do it and how this will support students learning.


Mason, S.,  Fletcher, A., McCormick, S., Perrin J. &Rigby, A. (2005). Developing assessment of emergency nurse practitioner competence – a pilot study. Journal of advanced nursing. 50 (4), 425-432

Rushforth, H. E. (2007). Objective structured clinical examination (OSCE): Review of literature and implications for nursing education. Nurse Education Today. 27 (5), 481-490.

Wass, V. Van der Vlueten, C. Shatzer, J.  & Jones, R. (2001). Assessment of clinical competence. The Lancet, 357,  945-948

Me being interviewed by Sarah Stewart

Last evening I spoke with my buddy and colleague Sarah Stewart about the development work I have been doing and my ideas around flexibility in courses. Sarah recorded this interview and has posted it on her own blog linked here. Sarah has loaded this interview onto Slideshare.  At the time I thought I may not have come across very clearly however when I listened to this I realised that it does articulate a lot of my ideas around flexible course delivery and how we have gone about this so have decided to put this inteview on here as well. So here you are.

By the way we do not usually wear hats like that (just in case you thought otherwise). It was an afternoon tea party, at the Savoy in Dunedin,   where we had the opportunity to pick a hat out of a box. I loved them, mine looked just like something my Aunty Nettie would have worn when I was a wee girl.

Back in class for the undergraduate midwifery students in our new blended learning programme

I have been blogging about the development and progress of our new programme for undergraduate midwifery education. Class of 2009

This photo graph and article appeared in the Otago Daily Times during our first intensive in January.

Our new programme has a longer academic year than our previous programme, beginning earlier in the  year and finishing later. Instead of being divided into two semesters our new programme is divided into three trimesters. Each trimester begins with the students coming together in class for two weeks of sharing, learning, doing class presentations (which are part of the assessment processs) and having some face to face lectures.  It is really good to see everyone back together. We all know each other quite a bit better and there is an air of cammeraderie and friendship.

How is it going?

We decided to get some feedback from the students about how the programme is going for them. What is working well and what they feel needs to change.

Yesterday the students got into groups and discussed this then fed back to the class. This is what I took out of this discussion.

It was overwhelmingly postive. The students said they are enjoying the course and the online learning. There were only one or two who said they felt they would prefer to be in class and have lectures, most are more than happy with being able to engage with the learning resources when they want to and in the way that suits them.

Online resources:

Feedback on the online learning resources was very positive. Most like this way of learnign and enjoy the quizzes and activities.  They have aparticular topic that they cover each week and are given a list of questions related to that topic to investigate and discuss in the Elluminate session later in the week. The students wanted the questions to be posted at the same time as the modules.

Online quizzes

The learning resources are interspersed with quizzes and case studies to make the students think and to improve the learning experience. Most of the students enjoy these althous some acknowledge that they feel now compulsion to do them and so do not bother.  They felt it might help if the Quiz had to be completed before progressing on with the module and this is something I am going to look into. They particularly liked doing the crosswords but some of the quizzes were less useful. In particular they mentioned a memory game that I had set up so I will not bother with that one again. I have had trouble getting crowwords to work for me so I will have to find out how I can do this from those that are managing to get crosswords up. I was told Hot potatoes was a good programme for this and I have tried but have not managed to master it yet. I have done some lovely crosswords in Eclipse but i cannot get them to load properly so that the students can use them. These activites are formative assessments which are recognised as an integral part of online learning and so it is important that we find ways to help the students engage with these to improve their learning and the retention of the material they are covering.


We use Elluminate for weekly class tutorials which the whole class can attend online. Again most really appreciate this and find these tutorials useful the questions that have been put to them in the online learning for the week are discussed here. A couple of students said they would prefer video conference . There was also some discussion about the possibility of having a class session for those in Southland and Dunedin who can attend while doing the same think on Elluminate for those who cannot attend or prefer to be online. This would be very tricky I think as there is alot for the lecturer to consider in facilitating an Elluminate session, text chat, voice chat and running the material on the white board screen. I think trying to manage this online and face to face at the same time would be too difficult and we do not have the manpower to run session twice.

Some students are very willing to discuss issues in Elluminate, some prefer just to text. some said they would be happy to speak face to face but do not feel so confident online. They wanted to point out that if they do not speak it does not mean that they are not engaging or learning. Some just like to sit and listen and learn. This is very similar to the classroom situation and it seems to be the same people who are happy to talk in class that are the ones who are happy to speak online. The lack of body language cues was discussed as a disadvantage.

Practice skills

The students are really enjoying the midwifery practice experiences they are getting. They are aware that thsi is much more than the previous students had and they really appreciate this. I had hoped that some of the skills assessment would be able to be done in an actual clinical setting with the midwives in practice but this is proving very difficult to achieve. The midwives feel a bit threatened and overwhelmed by these skills assessment forms and this is not happening so we will have to go back to doing this in the class room setting.

Small group tutorials

The students really like the small group tutorials and most feel that these are working really well for them, helping with the course work and learning and providing an opportunity to debrief and learn together.


Overall it seems that the programme is working well for the students. I would like to try to do something to help them engage more with the formative assessments we have in place and will look into the idea of making these compulsory to complete before moving on. At least for some of the quizzes. I think the change to doing some of the skills assessment in the weekly face to face session will be positive. I have been reluctant to do this previously as it would be outside the topics time tabled for the week and was worried that this may confuse the students but I think they can all see the rationale and I think this will work. It is very pleasing that this feedback was so postiive. We also gave the students a questionnaire to complete and that is being analysed. It will be interesting to see if these results are any different to this feedback.

Start of the new Bachelor of Midwifery programme

It has been an incredibly busy couple of months since I returned from a brief summer break to finish preparations on the midwifery practice skills course for the start of our new programme. There were some last minute adjustments to make and I completed work on the documentation section of the communication module. All of the other learning resources required for the start of the programme were ready but required proof  reading and correction. A couple of resources, not required until later in the year, will be developed as time allows. I will not discuss here the other teaching and administrative duties that are part of my workload however it is worth noting that they exist and required some of my time initially. I have had to put all of these to one side as the start of the new programme neared.

2nd February 2009.

Start of the new combined Bachelor of Midwifery programme with OP and CPIT.

We welcomed our new class on the 2nd of February, much earlier than any of the other programmes begin and well before our other students returned. This is because our new programme has an extended academic year, allowing increased practice hours for the students. This increase in practice hours is a new requirment from our Midwifery Council and is part of the reason for changing our programme of study. Orientation week began with a welcome to otago Polytechnic  lead by Kaitohutohu Dr Khyla Russell. The rest of the day was an introduction to the institution and the programme. When I had a chance I mentioned the facebook group I had established to keep the students connected to each other and was happily surprised by how many were existing facebook users. The requests for membership of the group came thick and fast after that.  The next day we went off to Whare Flat scout camp and spent the next couple of days there. Staff from the sport institute came along and did a great job in with some team activities. We also ran a couple of workshops on communication. In the evening we did some belly dancing, very novice but fun, we all got involved. We have a staff member and one of our new students who are instructors in this art. We also went for a hike, needless to say I was the tail end Charlie, but I made it. We all seemed to find these two days very worthwhile for getting to know each other.  On Thursday students had another day full of polytechnic information, I had to cover things such as fire safety, harassment and bullying prevention etc. This was the end of the week as it was the Waitangi weekend holiday.

I had the students all day on Monday and introduced the concept of professional portfolios then went on to introduce the practice skills course. We then started the skills with standard precautions, infection control and handwashing. Tuesday we were introducing the students to recording vital signs, one of my colleagues gave a brief lecture to outline key aspects before they got down to looking at equipment and doing this skill. All the learning resources around these topics are online for the student and we have linked to excellent freely available resources such as:

Unfortunately I came down with a horrid bug on Tuesday and was forced to come home where I have been moaning a groaning ever since. Today I am feeling almost Ok so thought I might use a little of my time to record this.

I am aware of the huge amount of work I still have to do in organising the midwifery practice placements and finding women willing to have students involved and share their experience of childbirth. If you happen to be a pregnant woman in Otago or Southland and are willing to have a student please drop me a line to cardacs@gmail.com. There is still the small amount of development work to do and we may need to fine tune some of our existing resources in response to student feedback if this is necessary. Of course all the other things I have had to put to one side are urgently calling for attention.

My reflections on the start of the programme.

It is a shame I was not around for the whole week. My sense was that the students have gelled quite well and that is has been a positive start.  The Scout camp was fun but was also a good team building opportunity. I was dubious about conducting the communication workshops there but it actually did work quite well.

It is a  hassle that we have to organise MRSA screening and Mantoux for the students, just another little job amongst so many. It would be much easier if the students came with this already competed.

We have the portfolio, which is an over-arching programme document positioned in the first year practice skills course. I think this is a mistake as it makes this course appear overly complex where in fact it is simpler with fewer assessment components than we had in the old programme. There are components of the practice skills which fit within the portfolio and there are components of other courses that fit here too. I believe it needs a separate  but linked place in the overall programme interface. We need to come together as a team to decide how to do this and how to present it to the students in the future.

I am not sure about having these two weeks combined. I believe it would be better to have one week for orientation, giving the students access to the learning resources. I would  then give them a week away to get to grips with the material followed by another week to come together, brain storm how they are finding the online resources, what questions they have and provide any support they need. The students would also be prepared for the practical skills and we would not need to cover so much additional material with them. I may have a go at drawing up an alternative orientation time table for consideration by the midwifery school team.

The facebook group seems to be working well, nearly all the students are members and they are communicating with each other through this group. I have seen a suggestion in facebook that they also connect through Skype, so I am pleased that this network is becoming established.  Hopefully it will prove supportive for the students. There is another resource being established as a joint project between OP and CPIT called ‘The Midwfery Junction’ which is intended to connect midwives on a wider plane.

Overall I think it has been positive. I remain a little apprehensive about the students experience and would love to hear what they think. So if any of you are reading this please drop me a comment here and let me know, or write something in facebook about how this has all been for you. My particular interest is in the practice skills course but of course this is only part of the whole for the students and their experience will be coloured by the other courses also.

We finally seem to have our Moodle site looking good! It has taken a long time to achieve.

Signing off

Well now I have done this I have to go a tidy up my house a bit if I can find the energy.

Using web based quiz in a LMS

As readers of the blog will be aware I am developing course material for a new undergraduate midwifery course using the Moodle learning management system I have been using Exe as a development tool. It is a great programme and really easy to use but it does have some limitations. In particular I have found that the quizzes are cumbersome and slow to create, it is a long a protracted process and I find the results less that satisfactory, particularly for  formative assessments, which  I think should be fun as well as educative.

I have started using free online tools to create these formative assessments. Exe has the ability to link these in as websites so that they open seamlessly directly into  the moodle interface. My favourite is Interactive Games. This plays online and so can be linked directly into the moodle interface without having to follow hyperlinks. I really like to look of some of the resources in Classtools but ahve not yet managed to use any in my course work. I have also used Mystudio and it produces very nice looking multichoice quizzes, however I cannot embed them into Exe on Moodle and so have to hyperlink to them.

One of the many advantages of using web based quizzes is the ability to change the quiz, make alterations, add new material, without actually having to take down the whole Exe file, change and reload. The link to the file remains the same only the content has changed.

Does anyone know of any other webbased resources for creating an  online quiz?

PLEs and Eportfolios online meeting

I got an email form my friend Sarah Stewart telling me about an  upcoming online event to do with personal learning environments (PLEs)  and eportfolios. I am posting this here as I want to attend this and I am hoping not to forget, so here is the link to the Elluminate session.

Here is a link to a world clock with the time  of the meeting if you are interested in attending.

Round up of developing a midwifery practice skills course for flexible delivery.

Image: Pohutakawa, the NZ Christmas tree. from Andy Eakin’s photos on Flickr.com

As the year comes to a close Lorna and I have been making great progress towards the midwifery practice skills course we are developing in a blended 334968150_7632df69fddelivery format. I have not been blogging much because I have been so busy working on this but I now need to record what I have  been up to for the last few weeks. So to bring you up to speed on what this is all about here is a brief outline of the programme.


We have been developing a midwifery program to be delivered in a blended format over the last couple of years. We start at the beginning of 2009. Students will be located in groups or cohorts in various rural towns as well as the main centers. Otago Polytechnic are developing this in collaboration with Christchurch polytechnic.  The process we have developed is as follows

We are using the moodle LMS for the online course delivery. All content is being developed in modular format using EXE as a development tool. We are using a mix of written material, links to online content and free online resources. We are also using  powerpoints with voice over, converted into shockwave flash files with ispring and either embedded or hyperlinked to exe files. Students are given a plan for progress through these modules although they can also work at their own pace if they wish. It is expected that they will progress through this material ready to attend the face to face components ready to discuss and debate the theory they are learning and to gain experience with the practical skills they will need for midwifery practice.There are formative assessments, such as quizzes and interactive games, to support learning in the online resources. Each section has clear learning outcomes to help students understand what they are expected to learn from the resources.

Students will meet in their local groups once a week with a local midwife/educator who will facilitate their discussion, direct them to learning support services if they are having difficulty with the learning and provide teaching and guidance with selected midwifery practice skills. The facilitator will also encourage the students to share and support each other through their learning experience and will coordinate placements in the various clinical or midwifery practice areas, liaising with midwives and other health care providers.

In addition the entire class will come together at four two week blocks in the year. At the start of the year they will be introduced to each other, the courses, the technology and  support services they can access. Some face to face teaching and team building and group activities will be scheduled. Later their will be more face to face teaching and at the final two week block examinations and summative assessments will take place. In addition to this teaching and learning students will  have midwifery practice placements in a variety of settings.

Progressing to this point

As we approach the start of this new programme. I am feeling very positive about it. We have been working very hard to structure our course in a logical way which should clearly link theory and practice and progress the students through from the basics to to more complex practice skills, while keeping these firmly linked to the context of midwifery practice.

As I have recorded in previous posts we separated the skills into modules which made sense in terms of midwifery practice. These are, antenatal, labour and birth, postnatal mother and child and therpeutics. More recently we realised we needed another module for the core component which overrides all of these others, that is communication. In this fifth module we will have material on communication skills and also include material on documentation, which is another form of communication. We were going to put material about the components from this course which will fit into the student developing portfolio, either paper based or electronic. However at the moment we feel that we will keep this alongside the course information, which is where the students will enter the course.

I have been working on the EXE files, which are on my hard drive, developign the course content. I then felt I needed a better overview of how the students would actually move through the course material. Which aspects would be taught face to face in the intensives. Which would be taught face to face in the tutorial groups and which would be principally online learning. I sat down and worked out where all these components would fit within the year of the course. At this point we hit a small block as we were not all thinking along the same lines here. My boss, head of the school of midwifery and head of the health group at Otago Polytechnic, Sally Pairman, obviously liked the way I had shaped this up and developed this further alongside all of the other courses the first year students will be involved in.

Earlier this week I flew up to Christchurch and had a meeting with Lorna. This was very positive. Lorna and I share very similar ideas about how the course will work and so we have very few problems in working alongside each other. It was lovely to spend some time with her and her family, she gave me a bed for the night.  We have negotiated with the math department from CPIT to run the examination of Math for our students and to take a couple of tutorial sessions with them as well. This is fantastic and will definitely be a bonus for us.

So now the road ahead is very clear, there is still some development needing to be done with the online resources but I am feeling confident and positive about the programme.

What have been the highs a lows of the development process.


I have been very lucky to be working alongside Lorna in CPIT. It has been great that we agree so well on so much. Lorna identified EXE which has been a godsend for course development and also ispring which has been great for converting power point to shockwave flash files.

I am sooo…  glad I participated in the Facilitating online learning communities course with Leigh Blackall and Bronwyn Hegarty and also the Design for Flexible Learning also with Leigh and Bronwyn. I would not be nearly so able to engage with this process without the learning I did in these courses.

Finding all the great stuff that is out there on the internet, free for anyone to use has been just amazing. The generosity of those who have developed these resources is amazing. I wish we were able to reciprocate, perhaps in time??


The main point of difference is with our institutions and the way that they perceive students should engage with learning. OP has an open policy where we as lecturers own the material we develop, we can take it with us when we go as long as we acknowledge OP if we use it. We can make it freely available on the internet if we wish to. CPIT on the other hand have a closed policy, all of their resources belong to CPIT and cannot be shared in an open environment. None the less I have loaded some of the content I have developed onto wikieducator and slide share etc, and I hope to do more development of this as time permits.

The time frame has been tight, the pressure has been quite enormous, and the workload allocation for development in no way related to the reality of the job. It has also been a struggle to do this and keep our existing students ontrack. I have to say our first year students this year have been a group of wonderful women and have been enthusiastic is supporting us as we have worked to develop the new course materials. Some of this new work has also filtered through to them to their benefit also I think.

A times I have felt quite alone and isolated. It is hard to get the IT support needed as we are experts in midwifery and so we really have to develop things ourselves. I do think the IT support has been less than it could have been at times however.


So now I am on leave for abpout 3 weeks. I am going to have a total rest from this and back into it on January 5th.

Merry Christmas ( or happy celebration of whatever you celebrate at this time of year). Happy holidays to all.

Pedagogical strategies for distance learning

I came across this article ” Pedagogical strategies for building community in graduate level distance education courses” By Eileen McElrath and Kate McDowell, assistant professors in library information services. McElrath and McDowell describe the importance of community to learning and present Brown’s 15 step process to community building in online classrooms.  These steps are, from 1 to 15, tools, comfort level, self assessment and judgments, similarities, needs met, time allotted, supportive interaction, substantive validation, acquaintances/friends, earning trust and respect, engagement, community conferment, widen circle, long term/personal communication, camaraderie. These steps occur in three stages, making friends online, community conferment or acceptance and camaraderie.  They suggest that these processes are facilitated when modeled by instructors and go on to describe strategies which can support this community involvement and shared learning.  Supporting the students in developing a sense of community helps to prevent student isolation. It helps to keep the students motivated and interested in the course. It creates a sense of belonging, that members of the group matter to one another, which has been identified as important for academic success.  The strategies suggested not only help the students to relate to one another, and gain a sense of community, but they also help the students identify the relevance of the course content to their own personal experiences as well as the experiences of their classmates.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs explains the processes required to reach a state of self actualisation. The basis for this is a sense of safety and security.  This is also important for online learning or distance learning. Supportive interaction is an important part of establishing an online community. Students need to learn how to learn online, they need guidance and support to do this. As they are coming to terms with this new way of learning they need reassurance and ‘reminders to be kind to themselves’ during the course. The distress that can be associated with technology failures, which are bound to occur from time to time, can be alleviated by acknowledging this possibility early in the course and having a back up plan for when these issues occur, both for the facilitator and for the students. In a course that I was involved in, Facilitating online learning communities, several of us had established a network on skype, when we had trouble with the elluminate programme, through which we were connecting as a class, we were able to instantly talk to one another and share what information we had about what was happening. Students also started to use the discussion forum in a synchronus way and established another means of communication through this mechanism. This certainly reduced our anxiety and annoyance with the process and helped me realise the importance of back up communication, whether that is another online source or a cell phone network, anything that facilitates communication when things are not going as they should.

McElrath and McDowell suggest creating a course chat section where students can readily ask any questions in an open format, as they would in a face to face class, allowing other students to share in the discussion and offer their suggestions as well as receiving feedback from the lecturer. They go on to suggest some activities where students can share their own experiences in terms of the course content which can relate to the course outcomes and form a basis from which the students can not only share stories but learn the realities associated with the theoretical components of the course. The entire article is well worth a read for anyone involved in distance or online education.

So how to do I see this applying to the work I am doing at present, establishing a midwifery practice course with a blended learning format. Students will be enrolled in this course, which is part of the entire undergraduate programme being developed in a blended format. Students will not just be based around the confines of Polytech but will be in  groups, some in Dunedin, some in Invercargill and perhaps also in the Central or north Otago areas. The entire class will come together four times a year for a couple of weeks each time and the groups will meet face to face for half a day a week for tutorial support and some learning. The rest of the course content will be online, most of the theoretical components will be learned at a distance. Although the students have regular small groups with whom they can interact on  a regular basis I believe it is important that they also share a sense of identity with the larger class group.

In face to face teaching we often start the session by asking who has experienced this? And start the group discussion from there,  moving on to the theory behind the topic. For example with blood pressures I will ask if anyone has had their blood pressure taken. Has anyone found this to be a painful experience, have they had unanswered questions when their blood pressure has been taken. We then use this as a basis to learn the important aspects of taking blood pressure. I think we could do this online through a discussion forum. We could  use the responses to establish a basis for learning about estimating and recording blood pressure. This is a constructivist approach to learning and the authors of this article suggest that we should be open about this. Students should understand about constructivism and how this applies to their own learning needs. Most midwifery practice skills would be suited to this approach.

I could write more but it is late and I am tired so may return to this another time.

E Learning for midwives

In my roll as a midwife in a rural facility I have been enrolled in a course which is completely online. This is the first practical midwifery course I will have done in this way. It is about breast feeding and human lactation and is an international course for lactation cunsultants. I have bogged more about this in my midwifery blog. I am interested in this not only for the course content which will be useful for my midwifery practice, I hope, but also to see how the course is constructed. It has been deveoped using the moodle platform.

Carrying on with constructing course

I have been very busy creating content for the new midwifery practice skills course that I am co-developing with Lorna Davies. We had developed a clear structure for the content grouping it into modular components to make sense of it and give context to the material but I have been feeling increasingly anxious about how the students will actually interact with the modules and work through the course material. We know what parts we want to deliver face to face in the larger class groups, what content we want to deliver face to face in the smaller tutorial groups and what content we feel can be learned online. Clearly there needs to be a structure to when these various components will be taught.

In the old model we did all skills teaching face to face and students have had access to lecture notes and power point presentations through the blackboard learning management system. In the new course the only face to face teaching that will be done will be actual hands on instruction of the skills. Students will be expected to learn the theory components prior to attending the face to face sessions. Various learning resources are being used. Our online moodle modules are composed of learning units breaking down into individual skills, explanations of why these skills are required for midwifery practice, what context they may be used in and any basic bioscience that is required, to be able to understand the important safety aspects of the skill. The learning units link to youtube videos, interactive learning resources and other freely available online learning resources as well as presentations we have developed ourselves. We are using power point presentations with voice over converted into flash for compression. In this way we can make the most of the face to face sessions for the important hands on components that cannot be learned online. It will be very important that the we have a clear plan of how and when these topics will be covered.

Some students will prefer to follow their own plan for learning the course material and that is fine. However they will need to come to the face to face components having covered the required material. Other students will want a more formal guide about how to work through the course material.

To satisfy these needs I have been working on a framework for the course and a learning guide for students . both of these are still in a draft form. You can see the framework here . Although the formatting did not come through 100% correctly into google docs. The learning guide needs some more work doing and I will post later.

I feel a little happier now that I have this structure for the course which I felt I was lacking previously. I feel now that all we need to do is get the content complete and feel certain that this can now be done within the time frame. Particulalry as we do not need to rush with the resources required for the end of the year.