Good uses of ICT in undergraduate courses

Reviewing USQ courses for ICT pedagogy.

As part of the Teaching Teachers for the Future project, Digital Learning Futures has undertaken to determine how well preservice teachers at USQ can use ICT in curriculum and how well they demonstrate ICT pedagogy.

 DLF has analysed 12 units in depth from multiple perspectives to meet several project agendas and reviewed a further 10 to identify the type of ICT experiences in a students program. There are more to consider. However, some early observations can be made.

ICT Pedagogy in courses

Generally speaking, there are many opportunities for preservice teachers to develop knowledge and understanding of ICT pedagogy. This occurs through the subject matter and pedagogy of some courses, through required assessment pieces and through flexible assessment pieces where students could use an ICT lens to complete their task.
Curriculum methods courses generally provide the most learning experiences for preservice teachers. Most do an excellent job. Apart from some stand-out exceptions, the inclusion of ICT pedagogy in other education courses is quite minimal if at all. However, it is not appropriate that every course include ICT pedagogy as subject matter or a context.

There is continuous improvement of courses and this includes increasing and deepening treatment of ICT pedagogy as subject matter or in assessment.

Staff participating in the reviews are very positive about considering ICT pedagogy ideas and are strong ICT-using practitioners. They also have high expectations of their students ICT pedagogy ideas and practices, and value their creativity.
 With some minor modifications to assessment and content, a much deeper and more creative treatment of ICT pedagogy is easily possible in methods subjects and most staff have seriously considered ideas presented to date and run with the ideas. Some staff agreed to enable DLF to participate in a course-makeover process where use of ICT is deepened in the coursework and assessment.
Broadening the range of ICT experiences in courses and deepening knowledge of how ICT can be used to develop conceptual understanding and change pedagogical techniques, needs to be the focus on new course development projects. The ICT experience in courses needs to be more forward thinking and needs to facilitate students using an ICT lens to interpret curriculum.

Important opportunity

By completion of their program, students of USQ develop much expertise and experience of using online content management systems as learners. There is a great opportunity to develop a unique niche for USQ students in the employment market, by enabling them to deliberately develop online pedagogy and online program development expertise, as beginning teachers. Deliberate focus on strategies to build learning communities in the context of contemporary online tools would be essential. This need in school systems would enable USQ graduates to lead the changes in how schools use their networks for more than an Internet connection to access information and an administrative tool.

Study desk

Generally speaking most courses have a good to excellent study desk where materials developed and lectures/activities are firmly established. There has been much hard work and good progress in developing usable Study Desk environments for learning.
Staff have developed much competence at developing materials and embedding use of Forums in the course activities.
The general layout of study desks is variable and although this is not problematic, it is often very difficult to find
o    The assessment descriptions
o   The list of forums / Wimba sessions and their dates/times
The current study desk environment is not that attractive. There also seems to be competing organisation systems for developing content. The history of development has left a legacy. An important component of the roll out of the next version should be to assist staff to organise their content, build a useful menu system as student needs change over the semester, and to improve readability and “look and feel”.

Online pedagogy

 Generally “delivery of content” dominates the pedagogical approaches to most courses.
Most courses use some communications tool, mainly forums, for peer-peer and lecturer-peer interaction, to check on concept development or to share experiences and reflections.
Developing learning community as a deliberate pedagogy is less prevalent, though some designs suggest that is an intent that is being gently explored. Some assessment designs are encouraging greater interaction.
Strategies for engaging students in learning conversations and facilitating learning experiences online needs to be the next step in improving online pedagogy in courses. ( E moderation techniques)
Designing for alternative models of pedagogy within courses needs to be encouraged. (Online learning pedagogy)
There is a missed opportunity for students to lead activities, write to the study desk and contribute in a stronger way.
 There is a perception that an online course needs to be “the same as” a face-to-face implementation. This causes some lack of experimentation and generates a “sameness” in approaches. This perception really needs to be broken down
Most courses have a variant on
o   Online content in modules with reflection questions, readings and videos
o   Videos of lectures or voice-over powerpoints used in face-to-face classes
o   Forums with an activity or discussion point
o   Questions from students about assessment
There are some variants
o   Online seminars
o   Collaborative research projects
o   Peer Reviewing of resources and curriculum planning
o   Sharing finished products as resources
o   Webquests as a pedagogy for collaborative learning
Use of Wimba is strong is some courses, used casually in others and omitted in most.

Good examples

EDS 2401 Middle Phase Curriculum and Pedagogy. Contact: Petrea Redmond. Best overall integration of ICT pedagogy and ICTE into subject matter, assessment and course pedagogy. Excellent example of use of an online professional learning community between students from different universities.
EDX1280 Foundations of Numeracy. Contact: Romena Proctor. Excellent use of learning objects, simulations, games and various web 2.0 tools to develop conceptual understanding.
EDX3280 Mathematics, Curriculum and Pedagogy. Contact: David Martin. Use of webquests -1. A webquest to learn about webquests, 2. Use of a webquest for collaborative learning to develop and share understanding, 3. Student development of webquests for conceptual development.
EDC1200 Self, Education and Society. Contact: Jon Austin and Andrew Hickey. Excellent online lectures genre. Lectures are a conversation and directly connect to the activities to develop concepts. Very active lecturer input into discussions. Considerable effort to build strong relationships with students. It is a good approach to learning community. Students develop more sophisticated products than Powerpoints.
EDC4000 Professional Placement and Portfolio. Contact: Rod Fogarty. Use of Portfolio tool to demonstrate professional strengths. Good use of online collaboration to share ideas for portfolios. ICT is integral to deliver of material and activities during course implementation in all modes. A good model for this. Some collaborative activities and use of discussion boards. Great resources for learning the software.

Watch this space

EDX2190 Australian History and Society: Curriculum and Pedagogy. Clear model of a Help desk – provides a model students might use in setting up a LMS for their work in schools. Well organized study desk and easy to use collection of materials. Good use of Wimba Redevelopment currently embedding an ICT lens across the Historical Enquiry process and more sophisticated use of Wikki’s.
EDC3100 ICT and Pedagogy. Contact: Petrea Redmond. ICT pedagogy is the subject matter of the course. Good use of teaching strategies within coursework and course participation. Good organisation in Study desk though finding assessment needs improvement. Very explicit use of ICTs with great teaching/thinking strategies. Great practical experiences. Excellent resources. Unit development depends on strongly articulated ICT pedagogy. Redevelopment to assist students to develop online pedagogy skills and use web 2.0 and other new tools. Use of digital portfolios as a learning tool in subject matter.

 Policy/issues debate

Policy and perceptions of policy meaning, seem to limit how people use study desk, what they allow students to share, who can become involved in the course as guests and experts, what tools can be used and how/where students present their responses to assessment. It is time to liberate lecturers to develop their online interactions and activities.

 It is really important for the university to develop a belief that online education is not a deficit model. The policies and practices around this issue may have developed when online courses were developing. Now the online content is sufficiently mature for the online delivery to be as a good as or better than the face-to-face delivery of content. There is now room for creative conversations about developing learning communities, strong learning experiences and facilitating professional dialogue.
Large classes in online environments mean workloads for managing online interactions and activities are significant. There may be a tendency to develop pedagogical techniques to manage the volume of mail/marking and interactions.  There is some opportunity to share management techniques and to consider why online loads fall to a small part of the team. The Course Examiner and Moderator roles need re-examination and perhaps different management structures will provide a more personalised service to students and enable scalability of online learning community strategies.
Development of materials and course design is a substantial load for Examiners or course teams.  This needs to be included in measures of workloads across the faculty, particularly for staff ( curriculum and pedagogy leaders) trying out new ideas.