This project connects to the growth of interest in the role of students as co-creators of curriculum, an approach which can now be described as a robust and well-established movement with Higher Education. Burnapp (a member of the team) stated in a report of an earlier pedagogic research project concerning educational innovations that:
Put simply, even if elaborate teaching materials were written and an attractive and an up-to-date virtual learning environment was produced, this in itself could not be a guarantee of success. If any aspects of the module were not considered suitable by any of the stakeholders concerned (including managers, students, and staff) for any reason at all (including different expectations of what form the learning activities should take, or lack of conviction concerning the suitability of the learning approaches incorporated into the course materials, or issues relating to acceptability and accessibility of social networking tools) then the materials simply would not be used and the ultimate aims of the project would not be achieved.
Burnapp 2012, p 176.
Money et al (2016) report on a project similar to the one proposed here, where students initially were seen as ‘pedagogic consultants’ to review course amendments proposed by academic staff, but then moved on to become more proactively involved in the construction process. McPherson & Heggie (2015) stress that such involvement of students makes them active agents, engaged as active learners, and pedagogic partners.
This proposed project intends to enhance the sense of ownership (of both students and academics) of innovative approaches to learning which the students (who could be considered as digital natives) may be more at home with than the staff who instigate the changes. The Virtual Learning Environments which are the backbone of many HE attempts at social networking are often seen by student users to be ‘clunky’, and the online sharing activities designed by staff may be seen as missing better opportunities which may be more obvious to the natives than to the incoming migrants to this space.
How will this be achieved?
For ethical reasons the project is making use of a PhD student as a research assistant, which will allow there to be a buffer between the lecturers and the students. In this way we will be avoiding the dilemmas of the ‘dual roles’ of being both teachers/assessors as well as researchers in relation to our students.
This research assistant is responsible for recruiting the undergraduate students who will be the project partners, hence the teachers will not know which students from amongst the total cohort are taking part in the data collection. The research assistant is also responsible for anonymizing all data before giving it to the academic staff.
The project funding allows for up to 12 students to be recruited, and each will be paid for 4 hours for their participation, consisting of online discussions of aspects of the blended learning approaches which are used in the module, and responding by email to specific questions sent by the project researcher. As well as ensuring anonymity, this arrangement will also allow us to elicit from the students their frank evaluation of the materials and approaches used, and to gather suggestions concerning how things might be done better. Later in the academic year the students will be asked to look at and comment on new examples of blended learning activities which are going to be developed as a result of the earlier student input.
Burnapp, D. (2012). University Collaborative Links: Discourse and Development. In M. Stiasny, & T. Gore, (eds) Going Global: The landscape for Policy Makers and Practitioners in Tertiary Education. Emerald: Bingley.
McPherson, N. G. & Heggie, G. (2015) Transitioning to Students as Partners, Producers, Collaborators and Co-creators. Are We Serious? Enhancement Themes: Researchgate.
Money, J., Dinning, T., Nixon, S., Walsh, B., & Magill, C. (2016). Co-Creating a Blended Learning Curriculum in Transition to Higher Education: A Student Viewpoint. Creative Education, 7, 1205-1213. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ce.2016.79126