These "personal story" notes focus on describing my online teaching experience and practice.
What I do
I (James Neill) am fundamentally interested in emancipatory education. I develop blended learning experiences at a tertiary-level in psychology and research methods at the University of Canberra and strive to use open educational resources. I use a variety of educational technologies, currently mostly Moodle, Wikiversity, and slideshare.
- I have been developing and offering blended learning experiences in psychology and research methods using open educational resources at the University of Canberra and the University of New Hampshire since 2000.
- Blended learning strategies I have used (and continue to use to varying extents) include:
- Lectures - traditional but shared/recorded - see ideas developing at Lecture 2.0
- Tutorials - hands-on experiences and skill training - have been wikifying and modularising descriptions of group games and activities and class tutorial activities (see teaching
- Open educational resources: I use a combination of institutional and externally hosted platforms to serve online materials:
- html-based materials on an externally hosted server (http://wilderdom.com)
- blog-based materials (mainly via blogger: http://www.blogger.com/profile/01303497574192570961)
- wiki-based materials (mainly on Wikiversity and http://ucspace.canberra.edu.au)
- presentation slides (mainly on Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/jtneill
- LMS-based materials on university-hosted installations (mainly WebCT and more recently Moodle)
- All the units I formally teach are credit-based, on-campus units, however I seek to deliver them as "blended learning" (by personal choice/action), so I use a combination of face to face teaching accompanied by online learning pathways. More fundamental to me in the design and delivery of my tertiary teaching is flexible learning - by this I mean facilitating multiple pathways (e.g., face to face and online) by which students can meet the learning objectives.
- In the process of seeking to provide flexible learning, I've gravitated towards a "free pedagogy" philosophy - or open academia - consistent with my underlying motive towards participating in emancipatory education - i.e., I strive to maximise the "freeness" of all content, processes, and outputs in my teaching, research, and service.
- I have found that "blended learning" and "openness" can be used to provide a tasty and nutritious educational menu for teachers and learners - as long as one is prepared to bleed at the edge. This is an important point - one needs to be intrepid - such an approach is a lot of work and not for the faint-hearted. For example, a good dose of gall will probably be needed to overcome institutional barriers/disenablements/inertia/conservatism/blindness with regard to online and blended learning and particularly also to openness - and this is a barrier at which many good-meaning educators understandably falter. Nevertheless, I feel that it is important territory to explore and develop.
- In my experience with online and blended learning, Amara's law seems to have applied — i.e., that "We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run". I've also sought to apply Clarke's Second Law that "the only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible".. Clarke's Third Law probably should also apply to blended and online learning, that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic".and that as educators our job is to weave "spells of learning".
- Personal goals teaching development goals I have set in the past include:
- Digitise all hard copy teaching materials (ongoing)
- Digitise as many teaching administrative processes as possible and make servicedesk and/or policy recommendations about how any non-digital teaching admin processes could be made digital (ongoing)
- Digitise the unit outline (i.e., an interactive, online document)
- Switch all images in slides and course materials to open-licensed images
- Switch from MS Powerpoint to Open Office Impress; and from MS Office to Open Office more generally
- Make all teaching material open access
- Invite peer review of teaching materials
- Experiment with innovative assessment methods and/or learning activities such as blogs and wikis.
- Switch from SPSS (proprietary) to R (free and open source) software for statistics
My educational philosophy
- Emancipatory education - free education for all
- Experiential education
- Challenge-based education (or more precisely, Challenge + support = growth (based on principles of experiential / challenge-based learning)