Thinking about developing our online student experience

Over the coming year all three schools here at GCU are making a concerted effort to increase their fully online provision.  As part of this process the Blended Learning team are leading the co-ordination of support and development activities for all staff involved in the initial programmes selected for development this year.

Last week we started this process with a face to face session facilitated by Dr Alan Mason (formerly of the University of Ulster), Senior Manager, International Customer Success with Blackboard.

To get us started Alan first asked us all to think about what we thought a good  online (not on campus) student experience should be, and what would differentiate any GCU offerings.  Common themes that emerged had a strong focus on the importance of consistency and shared values of the student experience for both online/off campus and on campus/blended access. So for example ensuring that induction for off campus students was comparable to that of students on campus.

We then moved on to a session using the Viewpoints methodology that Alan developed whilst at Ulster (thinking in particular about assessment and feedback).

There was a great deal of lively group discussion. Common areas which everyone identified as important included: setting expectations,  creating meaningful and opportunities for interaction and dialogue, instilling positive motivation (for both students and staff), clarifying good performance, supporting reflection and meaningful feedback. There were many examples shared of how this is being done already in our existing blended learning and teaching contexts.  There was also consensus and recognition of the tensions around trying to develop innovative pedagogic approaches/values and the reality of staff time and resources.

Whilst acknowledging that there is lots to be done in the coming year, everyone is looking forward to being part of working together to ensure we have a consistent student experience however and wherever our students are engaging with learning activities.

Developing for fully not on campus, online delivery does challenge many of our everyday practices, and taking a few steps back to think about how and why were are going to do something is always useful. I think this drawing, inspired by the 8 things to look for in today’s classroom from George Couros, which seems to be doing the rounds in the twittersphere this week  sums up some of discussions we had last week around the student experience pretty well.

(click on the image to see larger version)

sketch note of 8 things to look for in todays classroom


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