#ocTEL Activity 5.1 Course dimensions

This activity is based on a consideration of how course dimensions as identified by Hill et al (2012) may influence technology use.  The table from the paper is shown below – I’ve included it as it’s under a creative commons licence which allows remixing.

Table 1.  Pedagogical dimensions.
Logistical Practice-based Pedagogical purpose Participation
Size of student enrolment Course activity type Pedagogical plan Contact environment
Duration Participant expertise Guidance to instructors Extent of web work
Academic group Analogue of familiar service    
Academic schedule      
Academic programme    

I think I would add a couple more dimensions when I consider my own practice.  

Logistical – class diversity – e.g. which programme(s) are the students on – are some majoring in my subject, are others studying related subjects but accounting is not their core one?, what nationalities do I have in the class – impact on cultural norms, language skills etc

Logistical – level of study.  Hill et al (2012) mention UG vs PG etc but what about UG level – I would have different expectations regarding independent study of level 1 than level 3/4 UG students.

Logistical – what about pedagogical affordances of the available technologies? I think the ped-tech link works both ways (i.e. both ped first then tech, and sometimes tech first then work out ped!).  Sometimes I am constrained by what the available technologies can do.  By available, I mean those that are feasible, cost-efficient (hopefully free!), institutionally supported or at least compatible with our VLE, stable for use over a period of time, not too fiddly or offputting for me or the students etc).  Sometimes I have an idea about something I want to do in my teaching and then set about looking for a tool/combination of tools that will support this use.  This is where I sometimes set brainteasers for our learning technologists – although I’m not that innovative, so normally someone has done what I want to do.  I don’t kid myself that I’m a trailblazer – after all, I’m a risk-averse accountant!

I found the ‘extent of web work’ an interesting factor.  I do consider this – but it may not be set at one level for a whole course, so I would want any template to be sufficiently flexible.  In the past, I’ve taught blended courses which don’t have both tracks of f2f and distance learning running in parallel, but instead they start off distance, then there’s an intensive f2f section, then it goes distance again. 

I like a fairly blank VLE template (sort of basics+)- which, happily, is what my institution goes for.  I find this leaves me with plenty of flexibility to enhance my VLE site to scaffold the uses I want to put it to during my courses.  There is support if any teaching staff want to do something beyond the basics – our blended learning team will make suggestions based on the pedagogical uses we articulate in discussion with them.  I guess the philosophy is implicitly based on the 3Es framework.  

Now to the actual questions we were asked to consider in this activity!

Which of these considerations is the biggest driver towards your adoption and choice of technology?

I can’t break it down into which is most important for me- they all interact.  Although the logistical ones are pressing, I tend to think about what I can then do in spite of logistical constraints.  So, that one does not dominate my thinking.  There is a thread of philosophy in my courses – about developing digital literacy and independent study skills, enrichment of core content with supplementary resources etc, so I think there are common themes in terms of the participation consideration.  Also, they are all delivered from within an institutional Blackboard VLE, so platform does promote some consistency/constraint (depending on whether you are glass half full or glass half empty about this aspect!)

How do these dimensions change each time you run the course and what effects does this have on technology choices (e.g. ‘scale/capacity’ of certain activities for class size, physical location of activity)?

They do change – and I have repurposed materials for different courses, with different contexts e.g. the relative size of the f2f/distance components within the blended learning mix.  During the ash cloud a few years ago, I was prompted by circumstance to learn about how to do screencasting because so many of my students were stranded overseas close to exam time and needed to attend a virtual class, asynchronously as they were in multiple time zones.  This emergency meant I started to use this technology and have returned to it many times since!  So, there is serendipity as well.

How does this relate to the learning activity dimensions you may have identified in Activity 1.2?

I think the considerations discussed above probably overlay the 4 dimensions social, individual, directed and autonomous – these impact on each of the pedagogical dimensions.  It’s a bit like a giant cauldron, with more ingredients going in there as I get more granular on the course design.

So, for example, within the logistical, I have a final year class.  Therefore, I would expect that the position along the spectrum directed to autonomous is more over towards autonomous than directed, given the level of study.  So, there have been some more directed workshop activities, and some which were less directed and more open – I’ve explained that you get out what you put in to these!  I try to reward students who have gone beyond the course constraints and found their own examples etc in the assessment criteria on the course.


One thought on “#ocTEL Activity 5.1 Course dimensions

  1. Pingback: Some (late) notes on platforms and technologies | OCTEL

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