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

Introduction

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.

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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.

Elluminate,

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.

Reflection

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.

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.

Background

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.

Highs

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??

Lows

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.

Conclusion

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.

Mahara in Moodle

Following is an interesting video I came across about wroking with Mahara in Moode. This is of interest to me as our midwifery students will be working with eportfolios in the future, probably Mahara. As we are also moving into using Moodle as our learning management system, away from Blackboard it is interesting that Mahara can be used through the moodle interface. I have a lot of learning to do in order to become familiar with all of these tools and Youtube How to videos cerainly help. None the less it is a time consuming process as the only way to really learn is to get in and give it a go, make mistakes and try again.

Blended learning in midwifery education.

Do we really understand the potential?

I have been looking at this video. Wouldn’t this have been a great conference to be at? How exciting that we are entering a new era of midwifery education at this time and potential that is there for us and our students, as long as we leave the doors open enough to be able make the most of what the world wide web has to offer. As Myles says the virtual world has a lot to offer but needs to stay connected to the real world. We can do that, we can make the most of both!

It is a connected world: Implications for flexible learning in tertiary education.

I am very much enjoying thinking, learning and reflecting on learning as I progress through the Graduate certificate in tertiary learning and teaching through Otago Polytechnic, Particularly the design for flexible learning practice course. I am investigating so many new ideas, theories and knowledge about how we learn and how the process of learning is being influenced and changed by communication technology.

Yesterday I attended a meeting at Otago Polytechnic hosted by the art and design department. This brought people who have an interest in digital literacy together from around the institution with an aim of a coordinated approach to developing support for digital literacy. The design school have developed a program which they are using with their students to assist students to develop confidence in the use of communication technology to support their learning. We discussed the importance of blogging as an additional learning tool for students. Most seemed to feel that blogging should not replace other aspects of course work but should provide an opportunity for students to reflect and learn from their own and others reflections. A couple of the participants in this meeting commented that students who were reluctant to write and did not demonstrate a high level of written work seemed motivated and produced high levels of work on blogs.

Today I have been watching and listening to a presentation given by George Siemens last year at the 2007 Online connectivism conference in Manitoba. This is an hour long presentation which presents the case for life long learning and the use of blogs and tools to connect, share and grow knowledge. George talks about the new age of communication and explosion of networks and opportunities this presents for learning and developing new knowldege. The slide share is accompanied by and MP3 sound file which needs to be downloaded from the conference page here

Another interesting related post by Steve Hardigan discusses the changes that are occuring in education and the need for us to adapt and change the way we organise teaching and learning. The world is not the same place it was 10 years ago or even two years ago. Change is inevitable and we need to embrace this. I am very pleased to have the opportunity to consider these ideas as we will shortly be starting to look at how we can support students in the new midwifery curriculum. I am convinced Blogs must have a place in this new program to support our students learning and connectedness. I believe that digital literacy is also and issue for midwifery students who would benefit form a program such as the one which has been developed by the design school. To be able to make the most of these technologies students need guidance and support to gain skill in their use.

I also found John Seely Brown’s web site and this video. (Unfortunately there is no wordpress link so you will need to go to youtube to view.) Again this is about an hour long and I have to say I skipped some pieces of this. None the less it is interesting particularly in relation to open source learning.