Sam’s Experience

I was particularly excited to help develop this research because of the rationale that lay behind it: although, with the move to the Waterside campus, there is a need to incorporate more online and blended components into our teaching, there is no consensus on the ‘right way’ to do so. Instead, we want to see which strategies, activities, platforms, and ratios work for students themselves.

Before joining the English and Creative Writing team at Northampton, I was a lecturer at a university in Australia, were I helped to first put in place, then review, a number of pilot digital learning strategies. These included:

  • using an online virtual classroom (through the program Collaborate), where lectures were delivered with a powerpoint online, and students could ask question in real time (participating synchronously), or watch a recording of the online presentation and engagement if unable to attend (participating asynchronously);
  • delivering classes through a ‘flipped classroom’ model, where students watched preparatory videos, explained key concepts, and then led discussion in class;
  • the recording of all lectures, which were available online after the class

The major drawback to this new style of delivery was that it did not factor in students’ own habits of learning, and did not phase these strategies in; it seemed to encourage a level of disengagement almost entirely the opposite of what had been intended. When these strategies were reviewed, moreover, the team was asked to evaluate the outcomes (students’ grades, attendance levels, and overall satisfaction) without factoring in students’ ideas about how they could be used more effectively, or which specific elements they found more helpful. This meant that, ultimately, no changes to the new program took place following the review, despite the lowered engagement.

I am attracted to different models of teaching and learning when they empower students, and give them the authority of co-creators of knowledge (for more on this, see Dave’s earlier posts). The online pods we have designed are certainly built around this idea. So too is this research: by developing teaching strategies with students, rather than for them, we give them a stake in their own education, and incentivize (rather than discourage) engagement.

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