Saturday, June 28, 2008

Week Thirteen: National and International support for flexible learning development

When it came to thinking about funding for this project I was initially confused about what the cost of this plan would be and if I would actually need any funding.

It took a minute but I soon realised funding is an important factor to be considered. The main funding opportunity, initially would be through the Otago Polytechnic Teaching Innovation Fund. An application here would be to cover the costs of the initial set up, such as:

Training - Of the librarians about the use of Blackboard, how to post announcements, add discussion threads and oversee the relevant areas.
Set Up - Time take by myself to meet with relevant personal to create log on and passwords for the librarians. To set the blackboard sites up for the courses and to ensure all the relevant information was available.
Running/Maintenance - Both the librarians and myself will be required to provide input into the blackboard sites while the students are enrolled in the courses. This is anticipated at being approximately 2-3 hours per week.

After looking at the other sites provided on the Designing of Flexible Learning Practice site I began to look at other possibilities also.

Ako Aotearoa provides funding for activity or research proposals which should align with their vision to create and support the best possible educational outcomes for learners in the tertiary sector. This would be an appropriate possibility for when I want to complete a research project about the success of the plan, as I think its going to be an important aspect to assess the success of this plan

Thursday, June 19, 2008

DFLP Presentation

Please follow the attached link to view a copy of my presentation.

My Presentation

Please feel free to add comments if you would like to

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

DFLP - Project Plan

Project Name: Flexible librarian support for Occupational Therapy postgraduate students through the use of Blackboard

Date: May 2008

Organisation: School of Occupational Therapy

Project plan author contact details: Penelope Kinney, School of Occupational Therapy

Executive summary
Summarise as much of the information in the rest of this template into a concise statement.

Project background
As part of my coordinator of the Postgraduate Programmes role I have had a lot to do with the day to day needs of the students enrolled in the courses. One of the things that became obvious to me is that within the institution not all students are equal. The courses that we run are entirely by distance and advertised as such. This means we can get students not only from all over the country but also the world enrolling in the courses.

Accessing library catalogues and databases is an important part of completing the assignments. Due to the students coming from around the country those students can utilise the remote library services within the Otago University. This allows them to access books, journal articles and other resources from both the library shelves within the Otago University as well as other libraries. The remote service is willing to send these books and articles across the country if they require. What happens for the Dunedin based students is that they are required to come into the library (any of the Otago University libraries) if the book or article they require is held on site.

Now for some you might think well whats the big deal? Our students all work full time, often they have work loads that require them to be a work longer than the 40hrs per week. The bottom line is they don't have the flexibility to have to come to the school or to the library to access what they need.
What has happened in the past is that I end up photocopying, scanning and sending articles to students. I had one student who was considering pulling out of the distance course due to her frustration she was experiencing with the library.

Another aspect that has become clear to me during this semester is that for a large number of students (either Dunedin based or remote), getting back into study is new and accessing library services can be daunting. As a result I have done a lot of the running around and being the middle person between the librarians and the students. Making the library service more user friendly would be better for all the students.

Aim - The aim is provide flexible online library access, resources and librarian support for Occupational Therapy Postgraduate students.

List of objectives -
* Create a user name, login for either the reference team or individual librarians to be attached to the blackboard site.
* Set this group up with instructor status.
* Discuss the scope the librarians will be responsible for.
* Change all the library information to the Community Tab of the Postgraduate Organisation
* Enable the statistical tracking to monitor the usage
* Set up a number of discussion threads.
* Place an announcement to draw students attention to the change.
* Engage students into discussion threads - create FAQ
* Evaluate success of support tool
* Explore and negotiate with the librarians/reference group, the types of resources your students need and the best way for the library to provide them.
* Implement changes as necessary

List of performance indicators (outcomes) -
The librarian will be actively involved in the discussion threads.
The librarian will make changes and monitor the information on the blackboard site.
Students will be utilising both the discussion threads and information folder.

Flexible learning analysis
What are the perceived flexible learning needs of the people that your plan is targeting?
Accessing library information to enable equity for all students and to make the library services more accessible to all students.

What type of flexible learning services will you provide?
· enrollment - this is more about ensuring ongoing re enrollments from previous and current students - the support is enough for them to feel as though they can complete the study. Possibly this could be used as a marketing tool for new students who don't have as much knowledge about how to search databases or who are not able to go and look around the library.
· communication strategies - this is the main reason, ensuring good communication is maintained with all the students and everyone is hearing the same. Students will be encouraged to utilise the discussion threads, that no question is too small and in fact these could be questions that all actually have. One of the reference team will attend the Postgraduate teaching team meeting to hear what the school is doing and provide information as appropriate too.
· information formats - librarians will be able to update any new information for all students to be aware of. It is planned the librarians will be involved in a number of ways. They will be able to establish discussion threads, to encourage students to ask questions. These can then be developed into FAQ to also be put onto the site. It is anticipated a range of threads can be included from - Searching databases and catalogues and Assignment preparation. They will also be responsible for overseeing the information that is on the blackboard sites regarding the library, updating as this changes, ensuring it is all current. They will eventually provide links on blackboard to the library web page. This will include providing guides for the different databases the students may use. The Online Information Literacy Modules (OIL) will also be linked in this area. Eventually these modules will be developed to be more specific for the occupational therapy courses.
· learning support services including technical support - this is about students using the librarians as a support tool for their on going study.Indicate the type of services which already exist that compliment and/or compete with your plan.Access to the library services already exist within the postgraduate courses. This project aims to complement what already exists. For the Dunedin students they will now have a contact within the Bill Robertson Library and will be able to find out information regarding their courses quickly.For all the students the hope of having librarians attached to the blackboard sites will be to make accessing databases, catalogues etc more user friendly. They will be informed of any changes and are able to ask librarians for help directly. Answers that are given to questions will benefit all those enrolled.

Outline how you will address the following items in your flexible learning services:
· sustainability - In terms of the triple bottom line, this project will address social benefits for all the students enrolling in the courses. Though it doesn't address the issue at a institutional level it is a step to allowing Dunedin students access to librarians, which may get rid of the need for them to drive to the library. Environmentally this project may eliminate the need for students to get in their cars to drive to libraries. Potentially with the sharing of information students may choose not to print resources if they realise they don't need to. Finally Economically, potentially if this project makes studying more streamlined and user friendly then the likelihood of students remaining in programmes increases and this will also encourage those apprehensive about study to engage as we will be able to use this as a marketing tool. By ensuring all of the resources are in one place and therefore easily updated this will reduce the amount of time needed to complete the task and therefore ensuring this will be more likely to continue.
· access & equity - I think this has been addressed in the above statement. One of the concerns that led me to thinking of this project was the fact that Dunedin based students are disadvantaged. Also for some students the prospect of searching on databases can be confusing and daunting so by having librarians accessible this makes life easier for them. By providing materials and support to students to improve their digital information literacy, access and equity will be enhanced, ie, making it more likely that all learners will be able to access the materials they need for their study and therefore reducing the barriers for students who are currently disadvantaged.
. cultural diversity - Cultural needs and cultural differences need to be taken into account at every phase of the design and delivery of online materials and support if courses and learning content are to meet learner needs (Australian Flexible Learning Framework). For me this hit home, especially as my project is about adding to an online component of the distance courses we provide in our Postgraduate Programmes. Thinking of cyberspace as having a culture in itself means there is much more to think of. In terms of my own project often the thought of using "new fangled technology" for some of the students puts them off before they start and by not meeting their needs in the first place we get the withdrawals from programmes. By adding this more personal support tool the aim is to address some of the needs the clients have.
. strategic plan - I believe this project complements the Otago Polytechnics Strategic Plan .It aims to provide students with better learning opportunities, creating better equity between students, providing relevant, flexible and accessible learning opportunities and providing an environment which supports innovative thinking.

Learning theories/models and/or examples

Rough list of costs and resources of key steps in your plan
The cost for this project will involve staff input and training.
- Training for the three reference librarians in the use of blackboard and their scope. This potentially will take a few hours
- Time spent accessing blackboard by the three librarians over the 14 weeks the courses run. Potentially this will take between 1-2 hours a week.
- Postgraduate Coordinator time to set the blackboard sites, train librarian and informing potential and current students.

For future development of this project then an application to the Teaching and Learning Innovation fund will be appropriate

Time line for development
- To be set up for the semester two courses, evaluation to occur at the completion of the courses.

Rough dates that indicate the time needed for key steps in your development plan
June 2008 - Set up usernames, login for the reference team, establish the scope the librarians will be responsible for. Promote this resource to potential/current students
July 2008 - Set up the discussion threads, train the librarians on the use of blackboard, familiarise them to the environment.
July - November 2008 - Librarians actively participating in the discussion threads, monitoring the library information
November 2008 - Seek feedback from students/lecturers/librarians on how this worked.
January/February 2009 - Implement changes where necessary.

Please feel free to write me some comments on any area you think you maybe able to help. I'd appreciate your thoughts and ideas.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Week Twelve: Flexible learning in Educational Organisations

The organisational document that I have chosen to use will be that of the Otago Polytechnic Charter.

The very first strategic goal that is outlined in the the charter is that of:

" To provide relevant, flexible and accessible learning opportunities which build capability, are stimulating and challenging and foster life long learning."

To me this is fairly obvious as relating to that of flexible learning. The word is in the statement! However I also believe there is a challenge there too. The aim of the flexible learning is that it is both stimulating and challenging and will foster an interest in life long learning. That to me is important, what I develop in this plan should be of a flexible nature but also promote the student to continue with the journey of learning.

" To developing and environment which stimulates creativity and supports innovation in all that we undertake"

Another statement which speaks to flexible learning. How each different student's creativity is stimulated will depend on how they learn. If we continue to deliver and assess in one set way then potentially we will lose students.

The other statement that spoke to me about flexible learning was that of equity. By providing equal opportunities to allow participation and success for all students means both delivery and assessment needs to be in a way that will ensure this.

Listening to the Elluminate presentation by Phill Kerr I was impressed with the commitment that Otago Polytechnic has to providing more flexibility for learners.

I believe the plan I have developed for the Postgraduate students at the School of Occupational Therapy fits nicely with the strategic goals of Otago Polytechnic.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Week Eleven: Issues with flexible learning - Cultural Diversity

My observations:

This again was another topic which has lead me to think more in depth about both my own knowledge but also the institution/environment which I work.

I enjoyed listening to the elluminate presentation with Kate Timms. I thought the three categories she spoke about - "stereotypes, generic characteristics and unique aspects" was very helpful. To be honest it got me away from thinking all students were the same and made me more aware at how little there actually was that was common between all students.

When I had first started thinking about this topic, my first assumption was about relating designing flexible learning to the Treaty of Waitangi. Now this in my mind is without a doubt the most important aspect. How can you ensure you are incorporating the Treaty of Waitangi if you haven't actually completed a workshop or in fact don't know about it? It's why I believe its very important all teaching staff have participated in this. Now that I have had a rant about that I also (after listening to Kate) began to think broader in regards to cultural diversity. I went on a search and found an interesting site (through the Australian Flexible Learning Framework). The site identifies why considerations to cultural diversity is important.

"When pedagogical values in one culture are culturally inappropriate to another, students question knowledge, or may challenge the teacher's view" (McLoughlin & Oliver 1999). Students then may question the merit in participation, or worse, feel disenfranchised if the course or learning resources do not fit their world view. They identify drop out rates are high in online courses - this is a world phenomenon.

"Lack of culturally appropriate learning is considered to be a major cause of unsuccessful completions. Inadequate teacher and provider sensitivity to cultural differences, lack of teacher relations with students and their communities as well as language difficulties all contribute. Distance from providers is also critical in some rural and remote parts of Australia." (A&E R019RL, p. 5)

Cultural needs and cultural differences need to be taken into account at every phase of the design and delivery of online materials and support if courses and learning content are to meet learner needs (this to me can be related directly to the Treaty of Waitangi).

For me this hit home, especially as my project is about adding to an online component of the distance courses we provide in our Postgraduate Programmes. Thinking of cyberspace as having a culture in itself means there is much more to think of. In terms of my own project often the thought of using "new fangled technology" for some of the students puts them off before they start and by not meeting their needs in the first place we get the withdrawals from programmes.

Definitely something for me to be thinking about!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Week Ten: Issues with flexible learning - access and equity

Now I thought it was interesting that in the week titled Access and Equity I try to access the Willems (2004) article to read, "OLT2004 is no longer available to students on OLT". I see we need a password and I'm not sure I have one. Now I realise that I am a few weeks late in my blog but did we always need that or am I just late?

As a result I have headed into the article written by Zondiros (2008).

The focus of this article is to discuss Online and Distance education as being both a product and producer of globalisation. It starts by defining a number of terms and concepts and defines Distance Education as

Distance Teaching + Distance Learning = Distance Education

The article starts by saying that with the ever increasing technologies in the area of "Information and Communication Technologies - ICTs" the world is getting a smaller place. With these developments it is expected that barriers to education (by increasing access for those in locations not easily accessible) will be reduced. This however assumes that all people are equal and both have the knowledge of the developments and the ability to take advantage of the developments. It is interesting how this assumption can be made when Reddy and Manjulika in Zondiros (2008) state that 80% of the earths population have actually heard a dial tone. As a result the technologies that are developed to increase access can in fact highlight inequalities in a different sector of people. For example those people who do not have the means to purchase equipment needed to gain the benefits of the ICTs.

The article states that online students are expected to demonstrate a range of academic literacy's. Online and distance education tends to be restricted to learners with certain characteristics and as a result there are only a selected number of people in the world with these characteristics. From an economic point of view, space, time and money are sources of value and power and the vast majority of the workers in the world do not have them. As a result their employment is unstable which makes them vulnerable and the danger to exclusion is evident.

From a technological point of view the article states that demand for education is created less about providing people who are socially and economically disadvantaged with educational opportunities and more about focusing on those with the social and economical standing with opportunities to develop their professional and technical knowledge and skills. This is in contrast to the first paragraph of article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It identifies both challenges and opportunities when trying to incorporate Open and Distance Learning into a Flexible Learning context. It is important that pedagogy is seen in a wider context than just the classroom, in fact it is able to accommodate different people with different needs, again as outlined in article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Access, inequality and exclusion are topics of significant importance in both developed and developing countries. Access is often given higher priority because inequality and exclusion is more deeply rooted. Universities are attempting to address this, as seen in their mission statements, response should be more tailor-made pedagogy that is aware of students needs and alternative Open and Distance Learning and Flexible Learning.

My thoughts on access and equity
Now this is an interesting topic especially in regards to the postgraduate programmes at the School of Occupational Therapy. I see it that at times when solutions have been produced as a way of combating limited access it produces more inequalities. For example, by making all the courses 100% distance this has enabled a large number of potential students enrol in courses. Both from a financial and time and sustainability angle. No longer are students expected to pay for flights or take time away from families to come to Dunedin to teaching. They can do their work in their own homes and at times that suit. However, a large part of the courses now require students to go online, to use blackboard and to access databases and catalogues via the web. Now for many that seems really straight forward and simple, remember that OT is a developing profession and many of the registered therapists working for decades don't have degrees but diplomas and have not completed any type of study since they got their diploma. The thought of postgrad study can be overwhelming by itself, completing it without face to face can double that anxiety.

With the introduction of the Health Practitioners Competency Assurance Act (HPCA), there is an expectation for all OT's to continue with their professional development, as a result these students look to us (the school) to provide them with those opportunities. We need to ensure that as much as possible is done to elevate concerns and anxieties. This is why I am keen to get the librarians on board, not only because Dunedin students are not treated equally with the other distance students but also as a tool to elevate anxiety when researching literature, answering those questions that may very well benefit a large number and to keep the students aware of any changes or new information that comes to light in regards to the library service.

This is of course only one area which I work in at the school, the bachelors programme has its own issues and opportunities too.