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Launch day of our new online module for teacher education

Wednesday evening saw the BIG LAUNCH NIGHT of our online teacher education module. Over 60 students eagerly waited in the lecture theatre for the presentation of the module that would occupy their lives for the next seven weeks. The feedback was very positive; they found the navigation straightforward and were able to get to grips with the tasks easily. Many of their anxieties of participating in an online course were dissipated as soon as they had a play.

Before we gave the students a chance to use the course the teaching team presented the concept behind the project and stated that we would be seeking their evaluations and feedback to help develop the module further. Some students were concerned that they were participating in a brand new module and that this could affect their course. However, we made it clear to them that the course content and outcomes were the same as previous years (updated of course), it was the delivery method that was different and it was on this we wanted feedback.

main screen of the curriculum design course

The course is split into four main topic areas and each tutor, who was involved in their development, presented an overview of their topic and the tasks involved. Throughout the four main topic areas there are key questions the students should answer in their blog as formative assessment. The students can then use this work, and the feedback from their tutor, to develop their assignment. There is one final essay which they submit electronically to their e-portfolio.

My key concern was the navigation of the course. The content is fantastic and the tutors have made good use of a mix of media to make it really interesting and interactive. However, if I did not design the navigation well then that would all be in vain. From working with our partners on the project it became clear that visual ways of navigation were much more intuitive than Moodle's (our VLE) standard ways of clicking through a course. Hence the development of the circles and the use of image maps to embed links to different parts of the module. Initially this has received massive praise from the students and this is a relief to me.

Ironically the main complaint on the night was that there was going to be fewer opportunities for the students to meet the peers. We have made it clear that they can still come into college and meet in their usual rooms if they want face-to-face contact, or they can discuss work through the forum and chat facility. Tutors will be available online and in 'real-life' throughout the module.

After a short pause for breath and an analysis of the initial feedback forms we can move onto Phase 2. For me that means: Live broadcast of assignment workshops, bringing online the live broadcast\recording of lesson observations, Skype support for staff and animating the reading rooms.

No rest for the wicked ;-)

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