I had an interesting talk with Leigh Blackall yesterday about options for creating flexibility within our programme.
I've talked a bit before about how in the massage department at Otago Polytechnic we are planning to develop a part-time/distance programme. The model for this will be that our students will cover as much of the theoretical learning online as they can, then come to our centralised campus for block courses focussing on practical skill development & assessment.
Leigh suggested that the first part of the block could be based on assessment of theoretical learning that relates to the practical skill development. He stated that in his experience some students find it difficult to complete flexible/online assessments, and that it often works better to have an in-class assessment. I've considered this, and have decided to keep the theory to the online context for several reasons. Most of our assessments are done in the students own time anyway rather than in-class tests and this isn't going to change significantly once we move to online. Also our course is very practically focussed, and we really need all of the time that we'll have in these blocks to focus on practical skills (particularly for those students who need to travel from Central Otago).
An adaptation of the same idea that would work well for our programme is for the first part of the block to be based on practical assessment of the skills which the students learnt in the last block. We would also need to ensure that students had completed asessment for any theoretical materal which was relevant to the practical work.
Previously the idea has been that we can run this part-time distance programme, and also a full-time class-based programme separately. Recently however I've been thinking that it could potentially work quite well to make the block courses standard for all students. This would mean that we would need to run more block courses, which would provide more options for our students with respect to time. Leigh & I discussed this and went further to consider modularisation of online material. If we made the theoretical/online courses standard for all students this would allow us to potentially run the same course at several times through the year again providing more flexiblity for our students.
I haven't thought this through completely yet. There are potentially some problems. What about students that prefer to learn in the classroom? Also breaking the course up into modules that students may or may not enrol in will mean a greater administration load. On the upside these changes would mean considerably more flexibility with respect to time. Students would potentially be able to choose their workload. Distance students would be able to study full-time or any proportion of full-time that suited them.
Leigh was also talking about how some programmes offer taster courses to the public enabling the public to try out a subject before committing to a full-length course. These taster courses can either be offered via F2F short-courses or via our community learning centres. The community learning centres have historically offered computer training via the C4Free & Q4U projects. Some programmes at Otago Polytechnic are now looking at creating short courses introducing training in other areas to the community learning centres. The modularisation I've been talking about previously could potentially work well with this idea.
Interesting food for thought...