EEL416 – Learning and Teaching at CSU, is a probationary subject for all new fulltime staff members at CSU, and completion is a requirement.  The subject itself is the first subject in the Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, and aims to situate learning and teaching theory and practice within the context of teaching at CSU.  Participants are required to critically reflect on their own practice, and demonstrate a deep understanding of the unique needs of the CSU student, and how best to support them through integration of CSU technologies, systems, and processes into the design of their subject.  This subject is only offered online.

What’s important about this learning and teaching story?

For many of the participants, this can be their first experience with studies in the field of education.  Couple that with the pressure of finding your feet in a new workplace, and often this subject can feel like a burden rather than an opportunity.  And like many CSU students, they have competing priorities of family and work.  In order to try and lessen the burden, but still provide a level of teacher presence and peer interaction, I offer several online classroom (Adobe Connect) sessions per session at key times: usually the first week for Introductions, then 1 for each module to align with assessment.  These sessions were always recorded for those who couldn’t attend the synchronous option, giving them the chance to participate asynchronously.

Over the session, as the stress and burden of their own teaching and marking load became greater, numbers at the session dropped off.  Staff were finding it hard to find the time in their day.  They were still watching the recordings of the session, so the lectures were still valuable, but they struggled to prioritise time out of their busy schedules in the day to attend.  Instead they watched the recording when they could, then just emailed me for clarity, whilst lamenting the lack of time they had to turn up to the live session, as they found the interaction with peers valuable.

What were you trying to achieve?

How can I make participation in collaborative discussions a possibility for all without a huge added burden??  So rethinking my strategy, I decided to flip my classroom.  The Flipped classroom is a pedagogical approach where traditional classroom (on campus or online) based learning is introduced prior to the classroom session as ‘homework’, and classroom time is then used to help students master those concepts and deepen understanding through discussion with peers and problem solving activities.  So I pre-record the lecture, and tried to keep it to 20 – 30 mins max.  Key concepts, important ideas, linking content to the assessment.  That was loaded up in the subject site at the start of the module with the power point.  I then offered several short Q and A sessions in times that I knew would work for particular cohorts.  For instance, the Policing cohort run their subjects at very different times.  They start work at 7am, are having lunch at 11.30, and finish up by 3.  So I offered a fortnightly Q and A for them at 11.30.  Other faculties have timetable breaks at 12pm, others at 1pm, so I would offer Q and A sessions at times that suited.  These sessions were short, half an hour sessions that were held more frequently.

What did it look like?

Implementing this strategy definitely generated more discussion amongst the participants.  They came pre-prepared, and often armed with questions.  And it became very student led.  Often more experienced participants could give an examples from their practice which created positive peer learning experiences.

How can I make this happen?

This can be implemented in on campus or online classrooms.  Use Interact2 to deliver materials to students before class (whether this be via media such as videos, quizzes, power points, or just text based readings) so that you can spend the valuable time you have with your students in more productive and meaningful ways.