CSU Interact – working with and beyond the LMS

In this post I am going to reflect on my teaching strategy, theoretical and methodological influences (thus far) and the creation of the Interact site for Advertising Portfolio, a final year undergraduate subject offered in the School of Communication & Creative Industries. ADV312 LMSPic. 1. Advertising Portfolio (ADV312) – Interact – Main page

Firstly some background and context: I am now entering my fifth year in Higher Education as a teacher / educator / researcher. Having embraced three distinctly different cultures – European, South East Asian and now Australasian – and three different Universities – Northumbria, Curtin and now Charles Sturt – on reflection I remain divided on the value of technological driven choices I have been guided towards or experimented with in educational development.

In late 2009 after consuming some of the writings of Rogers, Vygotsky and Bruner as well as Skinner and Pavlov I concluded that the “three main pedagogical themes of Humanism, Constructivism and Behaviourism  .. formed a strong basis for further exploration. Whilst I aspire (d) to be a humanist in practice my teaching align (ed) itself closer to a behaviourist / constructivist approach.” (Reid, 2013). Why is this? The subjects I teach (Advertising and Digital Media) and the content within is very practical – students need to understand the basics prior to advancing to graduate study or employment opportunities.

More recently I have been looking back at Blooms Taxonomy of Education Objectives (adopted worldwide) and in particular the effect that the current technological revolution (more people say evolution) has had on our perception of it, and more practically addressing and implementing Blooms ideas in my own teaching.  Blooms original Taxonomy was brilliant in its simplicity and arguably was developed at a time (the 1950’s) when technology was only just beginning to impact on education. The original taxonomy splits educational objectives in three key areas: Cognitive, Objective and Psychomotor. (Bloom, 1956). Or another way of understanding them is knowing/ head, feeling/ heart and doing/ hands. Each area has a series of levels through which the student travels in the learning process.

Many Academics have updated / modified or even re-versioned Blooms Taxonomy but it is only recently that I came across Blooms ‘digital’ Taxonomy (2009) by New Zealand teacher and technology in the classroom evangelist Andrew Churches. His adaption acknowledges the major impact of technology on humanity – its ever increasing ubiquity. For Churches this revised and updated taxonomy is “not about the tools and technologies, these are just the medium, instead it is about using these tools to achieve, recall, understanding, application, analysis, evaluation and creativity.” (Churches, 2009.)

Blooms DigitalPic.2. Churchers. A. Blooms ‘digital’ Taxonomy. (2009)

What I am attempting to get to is an acknowledgement of the rich technological complexity that faces us as educators in the modern academic environment. This has a significant impact on the way we choose to teach, and in particular the level we choose to engage, embrace and utilise technology in our educational processes. Lankshear & Knobel’s quote brilliantly articulates the crux of the issue: “The use of educational technologies is situated within the concept digital literacies, which can be described as a set of social practices and meaning making of digital tools.” (Lankshear, 2008)

What tools do we then use? Charles Sturt University (like its competitors) offers a range of technological resources as a means of enhancing and supporting student learning. Interestingly a significant number of these affordances are linked (made available) through the Universities learning management system ‘Interact’. In my opinion this is a poorly designed LMS and whilst originally developed by leading world Universities under an open source umbrella, the platform has been weakened by minimal development (a pre web 2.0 offering). I believe its technical limitations ultimately reduce what can and can’t be achieved in terms of any technology based teaching and learning strategy. That said I am also acutely aware that one has to work with the resources provided.

The Division of Student Learning at Charles Sturt University offers clear online guidance on the many and varied tools available through the LMS. They are split into four categories: ‘communication’, ‘enriching resources’, ‘collaboration and assessment’ as well as ‘reflection and feedback’. When considering communication a number of factors need to be considered. Is that communication to be synchronous or asynchronous? Will it be face-to-face or remote? One-way or two-way? What is my approach to communication? I take an integrated approach  by offering students a number of different routes for direct contact, including telephone discussion / feedback, regular bookable face to face meetings, social network discussion (synchronous and asynchronous), Skype, Google+ and Apple Facetime (all synchronous). The opportunity afforded by the next category, enriching resources, allows the most creative freedom in delivering additional educational resources. The ‘Web content’ edit function grants you the license to ‘publish’ beyond the LMS. I continue to ‘add value’ utilizing this option by creative tabbing as opposed to hiding content in the resources folder. Content in Advertising Portfolio made available via the tabs includes content filmed by LTS and made available through CSU Replay, the subjects Facebook page as well as consultancy monitoring. Collaboration and assessment resources utilised /or suggested for student will include the Digital Portfolio platforms The Loop, Wix, Yoola and Weebly. In regards to the category ‘reflection and feedback’ I am using the EASTS online submission system for both submission and summative feedback. I also monitor Interact site statistics and the Facebook page insights to gauge interaction, response and virality. There is considerable value bestowed upon the Subject Experience Survey, and I discuss how I help elicit position response shortly. In support of this CSU endorsed approach to student feedback I also aim to run an end of session subject coordinator anonymous survey using the Survey Monkey platform. This independent anonymous survey allows for greater student feedback relating to the teaching and learning within the subject. Survey Monkey

Pic.x3. Digital Media (COM112) – External site – Survey Monkey independent survey

Site StatsPic.4.Advertising Portfolio (ADV312) – Interact – Site Stats

Feeding into this is the need to understand the diversity of the student cohort. This is critical; it creates an awareness of the complex cultural issues that factor into higher education. The student diversity module in EEL416 highlights some interesting statistics, including:

  • “1.8% of the CSU domestic population are indigenous Australians
  • 352 International students
  • 22% of domestic students are from LSES backgrounds
  • 70% of domestic students are the first in their family to attend University
  • the ratio of on campus to distance students is 3:5
  • approximately 3000 students are from non-English speaking backgrounds.
  • CSU students work approximately 16-20 hours per week (AUSSE figures)
  • 25% of undergraduate student’s transition or have TAFE qualifications
  • students coming back to study after a break have a higher retention rate than school leavers
  • 50% of students studying by distance live in regional and remote areas. “

Some of these statistics are shocking (1.8% of the CSU domestic population are indigenous Australians), others simply interesting. However as a quantitative summary of CSU student diversity it helps guide us as educators to design assessment activities and criteria that addresses the complex needs of the students which hopefully are in alignment with CSU assessment policies.

It feels appropriate and effective to adapt a widely accepted methodological approach (Blooms) to my own teaching as a means of eliciting positive student feedback in the sessionally available Subject Experience Survey. As required I have selected three particular items from the survey and I believe I have addressed them clearly in Advertising Portfolio (ADV312). These core items are:

Advertising Portfolio (ADV312) runs as a series of intensive day long workshops. In an attempt to engage further with the cohort, open up communication (on topic) and give the individual students formative feedback on their work I have rolled out bookable consultation’s – up to three 30 minute (or a minimum of two 30 minute) one on one meetings for all students. These consultations are tied into assessment. Consultation is monitored and a ‘live’ spread sheet of bookings is made available within the Interact site.

ConsultancyPic. 5. Advertising Portfolio (ADV312) – Interact – Consultancy monitoring page

Supporting resources in Advertising Portfolio (ADV312) have been made available both within and beyond Interact. Within Interact I have attempted at aid student time management by utilising the ‘Sign-up’ tool for off campus Industry visits and end of session presentations. Previous Industry presentations for the subject captured by the Division of Learning Teaching have been made available via CSU Replay. This presentations offer the students significant insight on the roles and experiences they will experience on graduation. Beyond Interact I have opted to use the social network Facebook by creating a subject ‘page’. This site is used for both synchronous and asynchronous communication. Why Facebook? Current statistics on social network usage in Australia highlight significant usage of the SNS Facebook. March 2013 figures available via Social Media News state there are 11,489,600 active Australian user accounts on Facebook – a significant number are in a younger demographic – therefore it feels highly appropriate to drive engagement across this space. (Cowling, 2013).

Sign UpPic. 6. Advertising Portfolio (ADV312) – Interact – Sign-up tool page

CSU replayPic. 7. Advertising Portfolio (ADV312) – Interact – CSU replay link

FacebookPic. 8. Advertising Portfolio (ADV312) – External site – Facebook page

References

Bloom, B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives : the classification of educational goals. New York: D. McKay Co.

Churches, A. (2009.). Blooms Digital Taxonomy.   Retrieved 12 April., 2013., from http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Bloom%27s+Digital+Taxonomy

Cowling, D. (2013). Social Media Statistics Australia – March 2013.   Retrieved 12 April., 2013., from http://www.socialmedianews.com.au/social-media-statistics-australia-march-2013/

Lankshear, C. a. K., M. (2008). Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices. New York: Peter Lang.

Reid, D. (2013). Values theory and research that underpin educational practice.   Retrieved 12 April, 2013, from https://northeastkiwi.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/values-theory-and-research-that-underpin-educational-practice/

University., C. S. Supporting Learning and Teaching Strategies with Educational Technologies.   Retrieved 12 April., 2013., from http://www.csu.edu.au/division/lts/blended-and-flexible-learning/affordances

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