WCPT course: Creating and running an open online course

I’m in Singapore for the 2015 World Confederation for Physical Therapy Congress, which is the largest gathering of physiotherapists in the world. I’ve never been to a WCPT Congress before, so I’ve really been looking forward to this for a while now.

Tomorrow I’m presenting a half day course with Tony and Rachael Lowe from Physiopedia, called “Creating open online courses“. We’re going to try and figure out, together with participants, if there’s a place for these kinds of online (or blended) courses in formal physiotherapy education. I believe that it was one of the first courses to sell out at the conference, so there’s definitely an interest in the topic.

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We’ve set up our workshop so that the major concepts we’d like to cover are presented, not as PowerPoint slides but as an online course that anyone can work through (see image below). We included our topics, learning outcomes, content overviews and resources on the wiki at Physiopedia, as well as set up a shared online workspace in Google Drive. Course participants will work through the topics in small groups, using the topics in the online course as inputs for discussion, and then collaboratively document what they are thinking and learning during the course. We will act as facilitators and guides, presenting the initial concepts, adding a few thoughts from our own experiences and then facilitating group discussions. We thought that this might be an interesting approach (for this topic in particular) where instead of participants simply being introduced to the concepts involved in open online learning, they actually work in that space themselves.

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It’s a bit of an experiment so we’d really like to hear comments and feedback, not only from course participants but anyone else at the Congress who thinks that this might be a useful way to run future workshops. The hashtag for the workshop is #wcptooc, so please feel free to send a comment or question, whether you’re signed up for the course or not. We’d love to be able to incorporate thoughts and ideas from people who aren’t in the room.

On a related but separate note, part of the reason for me being here is also a funded research visit to try and set up meetings with potential collaborators for our International Ethics Project. If you’re interested in collaborating on an international research project that aims to develop and run a course in professional ethics across multiple institutions, I’d love to hear from you (there’s a Contact page on the site).

An international project in professional ethics

Earlier this year I began working with several colleagues on an international module in professional ethics. We’re going to spend 2015 collaboratively designing a module that students from a variety of undergraduate physiotherapy programmes can complete, in both online and face-to-face contexts. The project builds on the work I’ve done previously as part of my PhD research (these notes are in progress), as well as on a pilot project I completed in 2013.

We currently have collaborators from several countries, including Brazil, Belgium and South Africa, and I’m hoping to get a few more during the workshop I’m running on Open Online Courses at the WCPT congress in Singapore in May. If you’re interested in the idea of collaborating on an international course in ethics, please let me know.

You can read more about our plans at the project website.

Starting new projects and catching up with old ones

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated my blog, for a few very good reasons. The first and most important is that in the middle of last year my daughter was born. I took time out from as many non-essential work-related activities as possible so that I could spend time with her whenever I could.

During this same period of time I also developed and ran an open online course on Professional Ethics in collaboration with Physiopedia as part of a sabbatical project I was working on. While I blogged extensively as part of the course, it meant that I had no time to write about other things I found interesting.

At about the same time, I agreed to chair the organising committee of the 2014 SAAHE conference, which was recently held in Cape Town. The conference organisation and sabbatical research project, together with my normal workload and commitment to family time meant that I had to take a step back from blogging.

However, now that the conference and research project is over and our family have settled into a more structured routine, I’m finding that I have a little more time to start blogging again. I thought that I’d get back into the swing of things by saying a little bit about the main projects that I anticipate working on during the next few months.

The first is my Clinical Teacher mobile app. It’s been ages since I’ve added any new content and I’m feeling really guilty about that, especially since interest in the project seems to be growing. I’ve slowly been adding bits and pieces to a few articles that I wanted to write but never had the time to finalise any of them. Over the next few months I’m hoping to finish 2 or 3 articles and get them published into the app. I’m also going to work on a visual refresh for the app. I’ve been really impressed with the material design principles highlighted in the the developer preview of Android “L”. The flat design and use of colour and depth, together with new ideas about fonts and how they display on many different screen sizes, has got me thinking differently about the app.

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The change won’t be anything drastic but I do want to give the app a more modern look and feel, and remove the faux leather covers and gradients. I also want to come up with a consistent image theme for article headers. The more recent articles have had an “animal” theme, where I try to find an image of an animal that somehow speaks to the topic (even if the link is only in my mind). However, there have been times when I’ve ignored that trend and just used something clearly related. I haven’t yet decided what to do but am clear that it will be a design decision that will be consistently applied moving forward. Finally, I want to experiment with the new features that Snapplify have been building into the platform, including publishing video and audio, annotations, and text highlighting.

I mentioned earlier in the post that in 2013 I ran an open online course on ethics, and would now like to build on that work. I’ve submitted a funding proposal to support the next phase of the project, which is to offer the course in a variety of countries and educational contexts, and across a range of professional disciplines. We learned an enormous amount during the 2013 experience and we want to build on those lessons by doing something that really challenges how we think about physiotherapy education in an international context. I’m definitely going to work with Physiopedia again, since we had a really great experience during the first course and their input was invaluable. I’ll post more about that project once I’ve found out about the funding outcome and ethics approval.

Finally, and on a somewhat related note, we’re going to be developing a few courses within our department, which we will offer to our clinical supervisors and clinicians at the placements where our students work. They will most likely be a blend of online and physical components, and be relatively short in duration (ranging from a few hours to 2-4 weeks). Our supervisors have identified several areas where they would like additional input that they feel will help them to better support our students. For example, assessment and feedback are two areas that could be improved. So, we’ll be exploring different ways to support our clinicians and supervisors over the next few months.

In addition to these projects, I’m also going back to Brazil in November to attend The Network: Towards Unity for Health conference. The main reason for attending is to try and establish partnerships with colleagues from other institutions, who might like to be involved in the international ethics project that I mentioned earlier. There are many parallels and similarities between Brazil and South Africa, and I’d like to develop stronger links between my own institution and others over there because there’s a lot we can learn from each other.

So that’s it. My tentative plans for the rest of 2014.

Faculty member on FAIMER Brazil (2014)

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I’m spending a week in Fortaleza, Brazil as part of the FAIMER-Brazil programme for 2014. FAIMER is an international programme aimed at developing capacity in medical education and research, especially in developing countries. There are regional institutes in South Africa, Brazil, India and China, and the main organisation in Philadelphia. I was here in 2013 and found the experience both professionally and personally rewarding. I’m not by nature a very sociable person or emotionally expressive…so being in Brazil is definitely an “opportunity for growth” for me, because they are SOCIAL! and EXPRESSIVE!

As part of my time here in Fortaleza, I’ll be assisting with a session on distance and technology-mediated teaching and learning, as well as helping the programme participants with their research projects. During that session I’ll be sharing the results of the open online module on professional ethics that we ran last year, using that project as an example to illustrate some general principles of distance and online learning.

On a side note, a few days ago one of the other faculty members approached me and started chatting. I’d realised that he looked familiar but couldn’t place him until he introduced himself as Roberto Esteves. I immediately recognised him as a physician and teacher who I’d become aware of through his posts on Google+, and who blogs at Educação Médica.

We ended up having a great conversation about medical education in general, as well as the possibilities for collaborative research projects between our institutions. For me, this was a wonderful example of how connecting with people online can strengthen the interactions and relationships you experience in the “real world”. This hasn’t happened to me very often (I don’t travel enough) but when it does it’s really powerful.

Connectivism and connective knowledge, 2009

I just registered for the Connectivism and connective knowledge (CCK09) course that’s going to start in September.  I first came across it when I did the Mozilla open education course earlier this year and have been keeping an eye on it in the meantime.  It’s a massively open online course that so far has 1000+ registered participants, and is hosted by George Siemens and Steven Downes.

From the 2008 course outline, the Connectivism and connective knowledge course is a “…twelve week course that will explore the concepts of connectivism and connective knowledge and explore their application as a framework for theories of teaching and learning. It will outline a connectivist understanding of educational systems of the future.”

Here’s the syllabus for the 2008 course, and the Moodle outline.  If you register for the CCK09 course, let me know so that we can keep in touch.