My presentation at the 2014 SAAHE conference

Here is the presentation I plan on giving at the SAAHE conference tomorrow. It describes an open online course that I ran in collaboration with Physiopedia last year, and now presents some of the results obtained from student interviews.

Presentation on an open, online course

Last year I ran an open online course in Professional Ethics, in collaboration with Physiopedia. Earlier today, I presented the process of designing and implementing that course at a conference on Transforming Education through Technological Innovation, hosted by Stellenbosch University. I really enjoyed the morning and thank the event coordinators for inviting me to present.

Open, online course on Professional Ethics

Selection_001I’ve been wanting to run an open, online course for a while and have finally managed to put something together in collaboration with Physiopedia. I’m interested in exploring new conceptions of curriculum and what it means to teachers and learners when we do something different. How would learning change if the learners decided on the content they cover? If they had control over the direction and pacing of the course?

The idea is that students not only need to learn about principles of ethical practice, but also to develop what are being called 21st century skills. Things like being able “to find, evaluate, analyse and apply information” (Bates, 2012). These are skills that can be taught, or perhaps more accurately, facilitated. And the only way to do this is to actually use them and to see them being used by others.

In addition, how are we teaching them to manage with the overwhelming amount of information that’s available to them. There’s too much content and so they need to learn how to navigate through this by “connecting with themselves, by connecting with other people” (Downes, 2012). What would happen if we look at the course as a starting point for stimulating students’ thinking, rather than a place to memorise as much content as possible?

I’m going to be running the course over the next couple of months with my 3rd and 4th year students, and will research the outcomes when it’s finished. One of the things that I’m really excited about is the idea that my students will be interacting with qualified health professionals from around the world. We don’t have very many people from outside the university who have registered, but enough to make me think that when this pilot project is done, we’ll be able to try and run it on an even bigger scale next year.

I’d be interested to hear what you think about the course, so let me know in the comments.

Problem based learning: transitioning to an online / hybrid learning environment

A few weeks ago I attended a short presentation by Prof. Meena Iyer from Missouri University. Prof. Iyer spoke about how she moved her PBL module from using a traditional, mainly face-to-face approach, to an online / hybrid approach. Here are my notes.

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“All life is problem solving” – Karl Popper

How do we get students to think like professionals in the field?
How do we foster group interaction in online spaces?
How do I assess learning in online spaces?

PBL addresses the content issue, as well as enhancing critical thinking through the collaborative solving of authentic, real-world problems

Mismatch:

  • PBL → solving problems is the tool, learning is the goal
  • Traditional → content is the tool, problem solving is the goal

PBL is all unstructured (but it can be scaffolded), and there’s not necessarily a right/wrong answer

Six steps to problem solving (IDEALS):

  • Identify the problem (What is the real question we are facing?)
  • Define the context (What are the facts that frame this problem?)
  • Enumerate the choices (What are the plausible actions?)
  • Analyse the options (What is the best course of action?)
  • List reasons explicitly (why is this the best course of action?)
  • Self-correct (What did we miss?)

The problem should be authentic and appealing (a mystery to solve)
Clearly outline expectations for each step of the process

Why move from face-to-face to online?

  • In F2F, you can only move forward at the speed of the slowest learner
  • Significant time requirements for F2F
  • Identify…can be anonymous online → fewer preconceived biases among students

Challenges:

  • How do you transition F2F to online
  • What tools are appropriate / feasible / viable / affordable?
  • How do you do collaborative work when everyone is online at different times?

Format:

  • Cases are presented in multiple formats / media
  • Introductory week to familiarise students with online environment. In addition to learning the content and critical thinking, students also have to learn about PBL
  • Scenarios are released in 2 stages over a 2 week period
  • Scenarios are accompanied by a set of probing questions to stimulate discussion
  • Teacher provides support during the discussions
  • Students must also design their own case
  • Assessment is based on content and depth
  • Wiki used for question / answer. Each student must answer each of the questions, each answer must be different i.e. must add to what has already been added (this means that the question can’t just be a knowledge question)
  • Discussion boards are used for students to dissect the cases (All and Group)
  • Each group assesses their own knowledge base, and define what the gaps are, and therefore what they need to find out (who provides the links to the resources, or can students use any resources?)
  • At least 3 posts per student, including: Summarise and question one citation; Answer another students’ question; Follow up any discussion on their own posts
  • Reading assignment: written, critial appraisal of a published article relevant to the case study. This summary must be posted online.

Important for students to learn how to share information in supportive environments

Assessment:

  • What parts of the process need to be assessed?
  • What parts can be graded as a group?
  • What needs to be submitted for individual assessment?
  • What are the time constraints for the grading?
  • How do you balance grading workload with the need to externally motivate student performance?
  • There is also a syllabus quiz to ensure the students actually know the content

Design:

  • Make the problem compelling
  • Outline expectations
  • The problem analysis should relate to the professoinal field
  • As student proficiency develops, withdraw support
  • Use learning issues to encourage EBP
  • Ensure that solution development is based on critical appraisal

Resources

  • Barrows, HS (1996). Problem based learning in medicine and beyond: a brief overview. New directions for teaching and learning
  • Barrows HS & Tamblyn, RM (1980). Problem based learning: an approach to medicla education. New York, Springer Pub. Co.
  • Hmelo-Silver, C (2004). Problem based learning: what and how do students learn? Educational Psychology Review, 16(3)
  • www.criticalthinking.org

 

OpenPhysio launched

OpenPhysio is an attempt to create a free, online, learning resource for physiotherapy students, physiotherapists and physiotherapy educators that anyone can edit (think, Wikipedia for physio’s).  While I’m sure the idea of students creating content in a (*gasp*) non-accredited, non-peer-reviewed, unstructured and unsupervised environment is horrifying to some, I believe that this is partly where the future of education lies.

Rather than creating walled gardens and restricting students in what they can read, write and learn, why not give them the opportunity to find their own voices and to describe the world as they see it?  Of course, we’ll need to make sure they have the tools to navigate this brave new world and maybe that’s the problem.  Not that they’re doing it their way, but that we don’t always understand what their way is.  Oh, and also that they’re not doing it our way.

Bear in mind that OpenPhysio is a new project and as such is very limited in the scope of it’s content and the reliability of using it as a resource at this point is questionable.  However, rather than condemn it for it’s limitations, students and educators should look to it as a tool that can be improved by anyone.  I’m excited by the prospect of seeing what physiotherapy students come up with when we set them free, and how educators make use of new technologies to better facilitate the teaching and learning process.