Friday, July 8, 2011

Teaching Contact doesn't = Quality

This post is of interest to those in education but hasn't anything to do with maps beyond discussing a GIS course.

Best Buy Facts of Uni Courses: Recently its been announced that English universities will have to collate and publish a set of 'key facts' about each course they offer to the public, kind of the equivalent of the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) that credit cards must publish enabling customers to easily compare card with card to see how much interest they'll be paying. In theory I like the idea but the devil is in the detail of what measures you use and what they communicate to students. Amongst a series of possible problems that were suggested at the GEES conference I was at last week one is particularly close to my heart: the measure of teaching contact time with staff. I unpack this issue in the rest of this post.

Value of Blended Learning: The main project I'm working on this summer is developing a blended learning course: We have over 300 students due to take a second level GIS course this autumn and who need to complete practicals on computers. Running standard face to face computer room practicals has obvious problems so this year I am rewriting the practicals so they can be completed without face to face support. In effect we are making a big investment (my time) to produce highly polished written materials. These will offer students a better learning experience whilst avoiding the cost of face to face support. Students can still get staff support but it will be via forums and drop in sessions. If I can pull it off, blended learning offers the best solution for the staff and students in this situation.

Contact Time = Good? The problem is that this blended learning solution reduces staff contact time. Every student will think that high contact time with tutors is a good thing when looking at the key facts sheet. However, that measure has not included the value of my highly polished practicals that (I hope) more than make up for the lack of direct support.

My expertise in converting courses to blended learning comes from my time at the Open University who offer distance learning courses with even less contact time, I wonder what they think?

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