Using online lessons and encouraging independent learning

During the autumn semester 2011 a trial looking at changing the way skills are delivered in a practical module took place.

The Online and Mobile Journalism module, taught by Glyn Mottershead, experimented with delivering some of the course content online. The results have been encouraging and will lead toward more use of this method. I provide teaching support to the module and planned and designed the online material. I discuss the reasons and results of the trial below.

The Online and Mobile Journalism module aims to introduce the skills required to produce online content but with 90 students, 30 computers and less equipment it is always a challenge to teach these skills effectively in the timetabled sessions.

Typical issues encountered were:

  • Lessons were repeated 3 or 4 times to accommodate all the students
  • Repeating classes meant less time to teach and spend in class
  • A limited amount of kit shared during class
  • Less practical experience gained by the student
  • No account of the student previous knowledge or experience

When reflecting on the module we knew the delivery of these skills could be done better and that both the teaching and learning experience could be improved. It was decided to try a new approach by delivering skills training online.

The module required the students to write a blog and produce multi-media content for an assessed project. It was therefore in the students interests to take advantage of the online lessons available to them.

The initial learning takes place outside of the classroom, in the students own time, when learning online. That learning was backed up by using classroom time to assess how they had done, troubleshoot problems and encourage further learning.

“Working with Audio” was the first skill to be made into an online lesson. This lesson would normally require two class-based sessions; recording and editing. When planning and designing the online lesson it was important not to let it become too long and so the lessons were split into five smaller lessons; audio basics, recording, editing basics, further editing and improving audio quality. Usability and accessibility were also key considerations.

The lessons were built using software called Adobe Captivate which allows all sorts of content and media to be used. The finished products include narration, text, closed captions, audio, images and video. Assessment is also included in the form of an interactive quiz. These lessons were then uploaded to Learning Central so the students could access them at any time and statistics on usage could be collected.

The feedback received from the students was very positive, with comments such as they enjoyed listening to the lessons, they could replay what they didn’t understand or skip bits they already knew. The statistical feedback from Learning Central is also encouraging with the lessons getting 188 hits to date. Interestingly it shows that the lessons were accessed the least on Thursdays but have also been accessed since the project!

Benefits achieved were:

  • Students were able to learn in their own time, at their own speed.
  • Further guidance and troubleshooting could be given during the classroom
  • Tutor time was more effective
  • The student could gauge their own learning needs based on previous knowledge and experience
  • The student learnt independently encouraging a mature approach to learning

Since creating the lessons it quickly became apparent that these lessons would also be of use to other modules. To make them available to everyone the lessons are also hosted on my blog How do I…? You can do.

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About shazmagill

I work as a Senior Technical Demonstrator and Lecturer in digital storytelling at Cardiff School of Journalism, Cardiff University. I teach and support any tools necessary for our students to function as journalists or media practitioners. This means anything from audio recording techniques, video editing, photography and print and mobile publishing. I have recently completed MA in Arts Practice (Fine Art) at the University of South Wales exploring the subjective and objective view and community storytelling through art of the Rhondda valley.
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