Thursday, June 9, 2011

Development Ideas

Course being developed: Risk Management: The balance between risk containment and therapeutic risk taking (Level 8).

As this is a course being developed for the School of Occupational Therapy Postgraduate Programmes there will be no face to face teaching opportunities. The programmes are 100% by distance and students enrol from all over New Zealand and often internationally. Therfore it is important that there is no expectations for those students to attend workshops or lectures at a designated location. This means costs can be contained for the student.

Therefore this means the teaching strategies involve a mixture of online forums and tasks through the learning management system (MOODLE) and fortnightly group sessions through a web based conferencing system (Adobe Connect). The group sessions are an important component to the courses as this is one of the few opportunities the students get an opportunity to talk to each other (and form connections with peers) and to their lecturer in real time. They do get opportunities to communicate via email and discussion forums however this is not often in real time.

Existing learning activities critically reviewed – what works and what doesn’t.

I have identified a range of learning activities as being possible options for this course based on what has worked for other distance based postgraduate courses. As this course is yet to run for the first time my review of these learning activities is based on what I know about the students from past postgraduate courses and my experience in teaching at this level and teaching that is 100% by distance.

The table that I have developed to reflect on each learning activity is attached to the forum which this blog was access through.

Proposed learning objects, media and activities are described, as well as the way in which they will be used

Moodle – The Moodle shell will be kept relatively simple. The main shell is used as the first point of call for all the students. All information will be made available through the course shell. They will see photos of the lecturers (with contact details), weekly work outlined in separate boxes, external links to helpful resources, links to other Moodle shells (such as the PG Community Resources shell) where they will find material on the library etc. Students will be encouraged to log on regularly, edit their profile which will include their preferred email address.

Moodle books – The books will be used for the weekly work/tasks. They will be titled with the relevant week dates and this will be where students can go to find out what they need to do for that week. By having this in a book it keeps the main shell less cluttered and easier to negotiate. Postgrad at OT school prefers to use the books rather than eXe packages. By continuing with this limits the confusion for the students.

Adobe Connect – Will be used fortnightly as an opportunity to discuss the material the student have been asked to work on in the previous two weeks. They will be used as an opportunity for students to ask questions and to connect with each other as well as the lecturer.

Moodle Discussion Forum – Forums will be opened each week to invite the contributions and discussions from students on the weekly work. The very first discussion forum will allow students to introduce themselves and give a brief background on their practice area and postgrad study to date.

Wiki (Wikispaces) – The wiki will be used in the group work. This will be the place students will go to add their contribution to a piece of work that everyone is building on. Students will be introduced to this in the first weeks of the course and it will be demonstrated in the first group session.

Moodle Quizzes – These will predominantly be used at the beginning of the course. Quizzes will be used to help students hone the way they critique their literature. Students will be given a research article/s which they will be encourages to critique themselves and then a week later they will be given an opportunity to complete a quiz on the article to see how well they had critiqued the reading.

Reflection on resourcing, including any new technologies, staffing and training provided.

New Technology

Adobe Connect – As the Otago Polytechnic is moving away for Elluminate in 2012 this course will use Adobe Connect as the web based conferencing system. The OT school is attempting to use this software in second semester in 2011 which will allow staff and some students to become used to using the new technology. Therefore by the time this course runs (second semester 2012) staff should be familiar with it. Students potentially will never have used it (or in fact any type of web based conferencing system).

Moodle – Moodle has now been running for 3 years at the Otago Polytechnic. For existing students the use of this learning management system is known and reasonably straight forward. However it will be anticipated there will be students new to the programme who have never used web based learning technology. The Postgraduate Coordinator (happens to be myself) is usually the first port of call to help talk through issues with students. They are advised they are welcome to contact the coordinator to ask questions.


Adobe Connect – Students are offered training sessions in Adobe Connect in the first week of the semester. They are given opportunity to log onto it, use some of the basic features and talk with the facilitator as well as the other students there. This will occur at least a week before their first group session for their course begins. They are also provided with IT support 0800 number and email so they can contact them when needed. Staff will also be offered the opportunity to take part in these training sessions.


Guides – All postgrad students are email a guide on using Moodle and (soon to be) Adobe Connect at the point of their enrolment. They are encouraged to follow through the advice given on these guides. For example there will be the web page they need to go to, to ensure they have the needed software for running Adobe Connect (eg Adobe Flash). They will be encouraged to have downloaded this prior to their training sessions. They will so be advised in this guide they will need to purchase a microphone head set prior to the training session.

Readings – Postgrad students are sent a CDRom of readings that contain essential readings for the course. These will be collated by myself however the readings wont be the entire literature that will be used. Students are expected to search for more literature during the course.


IT Support – The contact details for IT support are given to all students enrolling in the course. They are encouraged to contact the support when the have issues with both the web based conferencing system as well as Moodle.

Robertson Library – We also give contact details of Paula Whitlock (OT subject librarian) to enable students to contact a person when they are having problems accessing needed library resources.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Design Overview

Course being developed: Risk Management: The balance between risk prevention and therapeutic risk taking (Level 8)

This course is being designed for the Occupational Therapy Postgraduate Programmes. Students will be able to select this course (as one of their electives) and when it is successfully completed it will count towards a variety of qualifications including: Bachelors of Occupational Therapy (Honours), Postgraduate Certificate in Occupational Therapy Practice, Postgraduate Diploma in Occupational Therapy Practice and the course work component of the Masters by coursework.
Courses are developed at 20 credit level which recommends students spend 200 hours on a course within a 16 week semester. As students are often working they often choose to only enrol into one course at a time. 60 credits is required for a PG Cert, 120 credits for a PG Dip and 240 for a Masters.

Theoretical Perspective
Initially when looking at both the structure of the School of Occupational Therapy as well as how the courses which sit within the Postgraduate Qualifications I was under the impression a Constructivist model of learning would be the most appropriate theory to guide this development. Constructivism assumes that the learner will develop their knowledge as part of a process they undergo in making sense of their own experiences (Fiume, 2005; Rolloff, 2010). Learners are not seen as “empty vessels” just waiting to be filled with knowledge but bring with them their experiences which they seek meaning to (Rolloff, 2010). Vygotsky’s contribution to this theory of learning was around how students learn, that is how they construct meaning. To learn, Vygotsky emphasised the importance of problem solving within the process and this is reflected in his notion of learning by doing. Vygotsky emphasised the importance of experiential learning and the role lecturers/teachers have as facilitators of the process of problem solving (Jaramillo, 1996). I was comfortable with this sitting well with the Bachelors of Occupational Therapy students and see how the teaching and learning the programme uses fits within this theoretical perspective. I decided to read further because though I do see this as an important factor to how our Postgraduate students work I believe there were some important key areas missing. It was when I came across the Connectivist perspective that I thought this had more relevance to what we do in our programmes.

Connectivism acknowledges the shifts that have occurred in view to learning. It acknowledges learning is no longer an individual activity. It acknowledges the changing technology involved and how learners interact with these in an attempt to learn (Siemens, 2004).

The principles of Connectivism are:
Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
Learning is a process of connecting specialised nodes or information sources.
Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision (Siemens, 2004)

Forming connections are the key to network learning. Yet not every connection has equal weight and influence in the entire structure. Connections can be strengthened based on a number of factors: Motivation, Emotions, Exposure, Patterning, Logic and Experience (Siemens, 2005).
To embrace connectivism then consideration to design of learning opportunities that place the person, their social behaviour and their community at the centre is important (Ravenscroft, 2011).

MacKey and Evans (2011) investigated how teachers engage in professional development. Like occupational therapists they are increasingly looking for online or blended learning as a means to combine work and study. They noted that web based technologies can improve access, equity and quality of professional learning opportunities. Establishing a cohort of professionals from different backgrounds in courses can provide rich interactions regardless of location and work commitments. This research found that the participants blended their formal learning into their daily work. They constructed their own network of practice selecting those they connected with both within the online and professional community. They concluded that a connectivist perspective is a useful tool when interpreting how working professionals access and interact with academic expertise alongside peers from different locations and practice areas. It enables learners to connect to others and learn from those who are expert in scholarly material and experts in professional practice (Mackey & Evans, 2011).

After reading all of this I could see clear links to our postgraduate programmes and how our postgraduate students learn. The vast majority of the students are working in the profession full time and are studying as part of their professional development. They utilise (though confidence and ability vary) the online technology to both build connections with each other and the learning environment. Facilitation occurs to form connections with each other. Students are taken through learning activities which encourages them to connect their learning to what they are doing in their professional life. For me this perspective has clear links to what we do in our Postgraduate programmes.

Please refer to the Discussion Forum on Design overview to view the table I have created that looks at Learning Outcomes, Learning Activities, Teaching strategies, Content and Assessment.

The following web site is where I got the criteria outlined by NZQA regarding a level 8 course.

Level 8 requires students to not only apply their specialised knowledge but critique and evaluate material relevant to their practice area. I believe the course above will enable students to do this. Learners come to these programmes and courses with the expectation they will both develop the knowledge they already have and develop further skills in analysis and evaluation. Often this can be daunting to a new postgrad student who has been away from study for many years and it is the responsibility of the lecturers to facilitate their learning.
The profession has expectations that the students who have completed these courses are better skilled to use evidence to guide their practice, confident in articulating their reasoning and more confident to present their own knowledge to colleagues and other health professionals. Though the OT board does not oversee these programmes (they are not required to as this isn’t the programme that gives registration) they are interested in ensuring practicing OT’s are involved in professional development and are insuring they have the most up to date knowledge.

Fiume, P. (2005). Constructivist theory and border pedagogy foster diversity as a resource for learning. The Community College Enterprise, 11(2), 51-64.

Jaramillo, J. (1996). Vygotsky's sociocultural theory and contributions to the development of constructivist curricula. Education, 117(1), 133-140.

Mackey, J., & Evans, T. (2011). Interconnecting networks of practice for professional learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), 1-18.

Ravenscroft, A. (2011). Dialogue and connectivism: A new approach to understanding and promoting dialogue-rich networked learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), 139-160.

Rolloff, M. (2010). A constructivist model for teaching evidence-based practice. Nursing Education Perspectives, 11(5), 290-293.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved 13 May, 2011, from

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: Learning as network-creation Retrieved 13 May 2011, from