Friday, 18 February 2011

Levels of abstraction - Practical vs pedagogy

I've done a lot of work these past few months on helping academic colleagues who are thinking about converting their courses from face-to-face to be delivered through blended learning or purely online. This is unsurprising as this is a core component of my job! However, things have been pretty active recently as HE looks for additional modes of delivery to bring in more students and, by consequence, more money. Whatever the motivation, I'm happy.

As a result, there's been lots of learning that needs consolidating. Firstly, I had an interesting discussion the other day about the levels of abstraction. This is in terms of how abstract you discuss things with educators when helping them design an online course. I've always tends to try and grounds things in reality and talk in terms of practical components/examples/templates rather than pedagogical models. This is probably partly because its in my nature to do this but also because my experience is that this is what they want - or at least this is what I think they want. There are a number of reasons for this which I won't go into here. But getting the balance right on the scale of abstraction is a judgement call that a constant issue for any learning technologist. It's certainly important to be able to talk pedagogy if the need arise but it is the best starting point? I don't have the answers. My instincts and practice keep such dialogue in my back pocket. You might be thinking why not do both, why not do everything. Well, you need to be careful. Educators often approach you looking for clarity, looking for answers. Clarity is so, so important and I guess this is the heart of the matter. You have to choose what to say first and how to say it to give maximium benefit to the educator. This will be different for each person but common is the need to practical guidance on how a course could look online and what key decisions need to be made first. My next post will reflect upon the practical advice I've been championing in this post.

2 comments:

  1. Pragmatic=Good. Now then, I have a F2F course that is 2 hours long and critical to the process of authorizing a volunteer. How do I begin? What steps are necessary? Does the vehicle (CMS, LMS, shared spaces) determine the process?
    --Michael

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  2. Hi Michael, thanks for commenting and sorry for not noticing your comment sooner.

    I'm finding it difficult to answer your questions properly as I need more knowledge of your context. Are you looking to convert a 2 hour F2F course to purely online mode delivery? If so, my next post (later today) should be of value to you. The vehicle or environment you house your online offering from shouldn't determine how you teach as they have mostly similiar tools (albeit with different usability). Happy to advise further with more contextual knowledge.

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