Monday, 19 July 2010

Short distance learning

In a couple of months I shall walk into a classroom and there'll be around 20 new faces looking at me and wondering just what they've let themselves in for. I tended to think the same thing some years ago but I seem to have got the hang of it now although I still get nervous which is silly but there you go.

There are a few things I can do between now and then which will help enormously. So this is my list of things to do over the summer break.

1 Write a plain English intro for the course, module or unit that reminds them that it can be interesting and can be useful stuff to know or be able to do in the real world

2 Look at the criteria or learning outcomes again and check that the tasks, exercises and assignments I've got in mind will meet them and that they don't have to do a whole load more for no good reason

3 Re-write the tasks and display them in an appealing way. It's bad enough calling something an assignment, never mind giving it to them as a long-winded form that puts them off and has the actual bit about what they're supposed to do buried on page 3.

4 Do the tasks myself, not just to make sure I'm not asking something silly but also to create a sample that they can see where appropriate. This will also give me an idea of how to extend the task for the smart guys and perhaps make it simpler for the less able at least to achieve something.

5 Make the tasks easily accessible on-line, on web pages rather than Word documents. Add links to notes, the criteria they're supposed to meet and my sample effort.

6 Write bundles of notes on related topics and some specific guidance for the tasks themselves. Make the notes look nice, with illustrations where appropriate, and presented well, including as web pages that load quickly.

7 Provide links to useful web sites and further information on the topic or tasks.

That's really what I've got to do, and what they've got to do in a nutshell. The funny thing is that I wrote these notes for a totally different institution's tutors who all work on distance learning courses. I also wrote some notes to guide students through their side of the process and how various web tools can be really useful. I might add those here too next.

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