While completing courses myself around flexible learning and course construction I am also working on the development and construction of the midwifery practice skills course. There are several features of this course which could be described as ‘flexible learning’. Students will be able to enrol from a variety of locations and study predominantly from those locations supported by a local facilitator. They will also be able to come together as a larger class for some face to face learning. Learning resources will be delivered face to face during the class ‘intensives’ and during tutorials with their local facilitator, students will also have midwifery practice time, working alongside midwives. Learning resources will also be available on-line for the students to access. They will be able to pace themselves through these learning resources and move backwards a forwards through them as they wish, however there will be structure around the course and students will e expected to have completed the learning resources at each stage so that they can discuss and gain practical hands on skills in the face to face intensives and tutorials. Some features of this course delivery will be (following categories from; Gluc, 2006)
Individualised learning – As part of this course students will be developing a portfolio which will include a learning contract. This will allow them to idenrify their own learning needs and to track their own learning and progress towards their individualised learning goals.
Peronalised learning support – Students will have support from their local facilitator and the course co-ordinator and will be able to meet and discuss with them both within the class or local groups and on an individual basis as required. This contact and discussion can take place face to face or online through Elluminate meetings, discussion forums, personal emails, cell phone text messaging or telephone or cell phone chats.
Collaborative learning – Students will meet together as a whole class and will be supported to develop connections and networks with each other through a variety of online resources such as skype, weblogs cell phone text and chat groups. They will also have a local group which will be 2 or more students in a particular location and will be encouraged to support each other through the learning journey. Some course work may be required to be completed in group activities which will involve them working with other students from different locations and networking with them online or by cell phone.
Virtual learning environments– We will not be using virtual worlds initially but we are continuing to explore the possibilities for using a virtual environment for scenario based learning. Each aspect of the learning resources will be accompanied by formative assessments scattered throughout and some of these will include case studies, where the students are invited to consider situations, decisions and actions that they might make.
Flexible study– All aspects of the course will have a thorough online component, which will allow the students to study at their own pace in their own time and wherever they have internet access.
The first step in course construction
After considering our learners and different learning styles that need to be incorporated. We established our collaboration teams to work on course development. I have been working alongside a Christchurch colleague Lorna Davies . We started by brainstorming with everyone from the two schools what the content would be. We then had to consider how this content might be divided up into the three trimesters (This course will be delivered in three trimesters rather than two semesters) of the year. It seemed important that the skills the students would be learning should have some context around them rather than task specific skills. to do this it made sense to develop modules focused around antenatal, labour and birth and postnatal care. These are all in the context of normal uncomplicated birth at this stage of the students learning journey. Some basic skills that need to be covered do not easily fit within these aspects and so a fourth module was decided on which would focus on therapeutic interventions that may be required, either in the community or hospital setting. We then divided these modules Lorna is developing the antenatal and postnatal modules and I am developing the labour birth and therapeutic skills modules. Lorna and I decided very early in the process that we needed to have good communication between us and established weekly meetings on Elluminate where we can discuss progress and brainstorm issues as they arise.
Using EXE as a development platform and moodle for course delivery
Lorna was able to attend a conference where she learned about EXE for developing course content which can then be loaded onto moodle. We decided to give this a go and found it very easy to use, none the less getting to grips with these two new technologies has been a learning curve which is ongoing.
Developing the modules
It became evident that these modules would need to be broken down further into learning units otherwise they would be too large. This has largely been up to our own discretion but we discuss and share ideas in our weekly meetings. I decided that I would like to evaluate the material that I am developing with current students. I would also like to get some feedback from midwives in practice eventually. To this end we have established a separate development portal on our Moodle to allow current students access to modular components that have been developed. I will develop an evaluation tool to get some feedback from these students about the resources.
Gluc, E. (2006). Using Blended Learning to Accommodate Different Learning Styles. University of Hertfordshire. Online retrieved 17th October 2008 from: http://escalate.ac.uk/downloads/2917.pdf
Image: Red sky construction from poagao’s photos on flickr.com