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Kim Aling

ocTEL MOOC activity 1.2 My Course

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Put yourself in the shoes of a student on a course you might be teaching,

 •at what points of your course are there opportunities to express opinions and instincts?
 •at what point do you have to absorb information and how?
 •at what points do you work with fellow learners?
 •what percentage of the course is assessed individually or as a group?
What do you think this says about your teaching approach, and what would you like to do about it? How might technology help, or hinder, you in this.

An Open University course is subtly different to courses in traditional university settings and technology plays a central role for our students.

There are opportunities to express opinions and instincts at all points though the course.  Students are encouraged to comment on ideas in the course material via the forum and sometimes it generates discussion. As a tutor I sometimes pose questions to get students thinking more about the material.  Within the material itself there are often activities to stimulate thought and ground theory to everyday life and the more familiar. There is also space to express opinions at f2f tutorials and which take place about every 6 weeks and online tutorials which are  more adhoc. The main difficulty is that students are often reluctant to express opinion as they are not confident in their learning.  The trick is to use real life and everyday situations to represent the theories they study.  Then take them back to the theory and show how their opinions relate to it.

Information is being absorbed all the way through as they work through the course material.  This consists of written material, audio CDs, DVDs and online activities. Activities embedded in the material, encourage students to think about the material, possibly creating tables or diagrams. The online activities build on the written material, reinforcing learning.

Working with others occurs in f2f tutorials on the forum.  Some courses have collaborative exercises embedded, such as a group role play activity on the forum which is then used as the basis of an assignment.  Other courses have collaborative activities creating artifacts on wikis or by sharing documents on Dropbox or Google Docs.

Unfortunately almost 100% of the assessment is individual.  Students are assessed by regular tutor-marked assignments and sometimes by examination, as well as other elements such as their contribution to forums or collaborative exercises. The ability to collaborate is an important skill, both academically and in terms of employability.  It would be good to see more use of groupwork and some assessment of how learners work as a group. 

It's difficult to say how this reflects my teaching approach as courses are designed by others to work in this way. As a tutor I see my role as facilitating the learning and helping with the process of understanding and assimilating the information provided by the course material.  I aim to develop students' skills of critical thinking, developing arguments using concepts, ideas and theories, and communicating their arguments effectively. Technology plays a central role in OU study and tutoring and for distributed learners is vital for communication and the discussion element of learning.

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