Learning from the past and looking at the future. Closing the evaluation-revision-implementation cycle in an elearning module
MacKeogh, Kay and Lorenzi, Francesca (2007) Learning from the past and looking at the future. Closing the evaluation-revision-implementation cycle in an elearning module. In: European Association of Distance Teaching Universities Annual Conference, 8-9 November 2007, Lisbon.
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This paper will outline the importance of implementing an instructional design model which incorporates a continuous cycle of evaluation, revision and implementation. The context is a case study of a distance learning module which was first presented in 1993 as an introductory module for students taking an Oscail BA programme. As the majority of Oscail students are adults returning to education after a long period of absence from formal education, providing learners with a supportive learning environment which would ease re-entering the educational world has always been one of Oscail’s key goals. Between 1993 and 2002, the Introductory Module was offered in the traditional distance education format and was subject to regular evaluation and revision (Lorenzi, MacKeogh and Fox, 2004; MacKeogh and Lorenzi, 2005). By early 2000, the wider accessibility of technology encouraged Oscail to combine the need to prepare students for university study with the development of e-learning skills. In 2002 the Introductory Module was reconstituted as the SPEL (Student Passport for E-learning) module and was presented for three years. A review of the module in 2006 indicated shortfalls in what is described in the literature as the bolt-on ‘skills approach’ which makes use of ‘a set of atomized skills – removed from subject specific domains’ (Lea & Street, 1998: 158). This prompted a rethink of the overall approach to preparing students for study, and resulted in a decision to adopt an embedded approach to e-skills development. It was hoped that a task-based approach to applying skills to subject specific activities would improve the quality of the learning experience and ultimately result in better retention rates.
A review of the implementation of the embedded approach in the first year reveals that while students reported an increase in skills development over the module, and identified a number of positive features, the approach did not succeed in increasing retention. Detailed evaluation including surveys of tutors and students as well as online focus groups have identified a number of factors which militated against the achievement of some of the goals of the module. These included the scheduling of activities, workload, a shorter than usual academic year, insufficient tutor training and student induction, and administrative support.
This paper will start with a brief overview of instructional design systems and the models used by Oscail in developing its elearning programmes. We will then outline the way in which through a cycle of implementation, evaluation and revision, the original introductory module evolved into a full year-long module comprising an embedded portfolio of study skills tasks. We will describe the outcomes of the embedded SPEL programme and will outline the evaluation process that has led to further revisions. We will discuss the specific issues that have emerged from the evaluations and will show what measures have been put in place to overcome the difficulties encountered. We will conclude with some observations on the changing roles of stakeholders in the context of new elearning approaches.
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