#ocTEL Activity 2.4(b): design an authentic learning activity

This activity involves designing an online, authentic learning activity. It was only after I designed the activity that I re-read the instructions and saw that it was meant to be a “short” activity; this one is designed to last for a full year. Nonetheless…

 

Activity title: “Producing: Practice”

Cohort & rationale: The activity is designed for a final-year university Bachelor’s degree unit in which approximately 10 teams of up to 5 students undertake industry-based projects for a full year. Each team is attached to an individual industry partner with whom it works for the year. The projects are different from internships in that students are working in teams, and they are working semi-autonomously on projects given to them by the industry partner. In this sense, the student project teams work more like consultants or subcontractors than interns. Students are from the Entertainment Industries course, which educates students for intellectual careers in the entertainment sector, working as entertainment Producers. This activity is specifically designed to address a problem in the unit. At present, each team goes off and has its own learning experience, but there is very little peer-to-peer learning and support between groups. There is no peer learning from cohort to cohort, particularly because this is a final-year unit and students graduate immediately upon completing it. Although many of the teams are dealing with similar issues, each team’s learning remains fairly discrete.

The activity: Build/update the “Producing: Practice” wiki

Following the “contributing student approach” (Collis & Moonen 2001), and grounded in Kolb’s experiential learning model, this activity involves students sharing and researching their industry project experiences, and then creating (in subsequent years, updating) a wiki of support resources addressing key issues which arise in those experiences.

Weeks 1-2 Equipping: in these weeks, students watch a video of the unit coordinator explaining the assignment. Students are then given links to the various technologies they may use in their assignment work over the year, as well as links about how best to use those technologies. Students will complete one of the “are you ready for online learning” questionnaires (see ocTEL activities week1) to identify areas in which they require development. Students will be required to pass a short online quiz about the technologies before they can continue in the unit.

Weeks 3-10 each student keeps a blog about her/his project experiences. The blog will be visible to other students, but not to the wider public: it will be hosted on the university’s VLE, Blackboard. For reasons of commercial confidence (most student project teams are asked to sign non-disclosure agreements by their industry partners), the blogs will focus more on generic issues such as time management, communication, research, and management styles. To ensure inclusion, blogs can be in written or video format.

Weeks 11-13 As a cohort, the students will be required to define up to six key issues identified by the blogs. How the students do this will be up to them, although there will be a video from the unit coordinator suggesting ways in which group discussion and decisions can be handled. This will cause students some discomfort; as Panos Vlachopoulos observed this week, shifting learning responsibility over to students can cause discomfort for both students and the instructor. Ideally, this task will empower students to take ownership of the project and to begin to self-direct their learning.

Weeks 14-18 each student will contribute to building a wiki: the wiki will become a resource for Project students. The wiki will provide support and information about dealing with issues students face while doing industry Projects. Each student will select one area of the wiki on which to focus. Each student will be required to make “substantial contributions” to the wiki in the form of links to research papers, links to how-to videos and guides, recordings of interviews with students in the unit, and any other relevant online material.

Weeks 19-20. Students edit others’ wiki entries where useful.

Assessment:

  • 30% blog
  • 20% productive professional behaviour
  • 50% contributions to wiki, including editing

Intended learning outcomes:

Students who complete this unit successfully should have developed:

  • advanced research- and peer-informed professional practice
  • an understanding and identification of many of the key professional issues faced by Project students, and strategies for addressing these issues
  • a network of peers for learning and professional development
  • the ability to communicate in a variety of modes

In terms of the “development of skills and literacies needed in professional practice, and which reflect{ } the nature of the discipline” aspect of this ocTEL assignment, the project is reasonably generic in itself: this type of project could be used in any industry placement/project context. However, the resource produced will be highly profession-specific, giving students a sense of the industry-specific aspects of their future profession. How does communication work in the industry? How does time management work? This learning will complement more generic “prepare for your professional future” resources available. The activity builds students’ capacity for professional reflection, and research-informed practice. It scaffolds their becoming networked peer learners, an attribute which will be highly valuable post-graduation. The wiki becomes a reusable learning object that can be updated and drawn upon by subsequent cohorts.

 

Technical issues: Some resourcing will be required to set up the initial template for the wiki: the first cohort of students to undertake the project should not have to design the front end of the wiki. Some moderation may be necessary to ensure client confidentiality is not breeched, and to facilitate discussion. Weekly ‘prompts’ may be emailed to students to suggest questions they might address in their blog posts. Pre-unit preparation will involve filming and editing the online video lectures, building the page of possible technologies and technology support links, and including links to the online learning self-assessment material.

 

Drawback: Ideally, the peer-to-peer learning would take place in closer to real time. With this activity, the wiki is not complete until the end of the semester, when students are completing their projects. I need to consider how I could build a reflecting-in-action (Shon 1983) element into the unit. Ideas, ocTEL?

 

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