DUCKLING: The Great Exhibition

Last Tuesday, October 12 2010, Gilly, Ale and I attended JISC’s curriculum design and curriculum deliver joint programme meeting at Nottingham. The theme of the meeting was Delivering the benefits: from project to institutional enhancement.

In the afternoon, there was a one-hour demonstration session called The Great Exhibition: Enhancing Curriculum Delivery through Technology. In this session, the curriculum delivery projects had the opportunity to showcase how they have helped to transform and enhance some aspects of curriculum delivery through technology. The idea behind the exhibition was to ‘sell’ project benefits to a wider audience. As one of the curriculum delivery projects, DUCKLING presented a poster and a leaflet, both called DUCKLING in an eggshell, and highlighted key outputs and deliverables of the project. See the DUCKLING poster below:


DUCKLING also showcased other key outputs and findings in a variety of formats, including:

  1. Key findings of student experience of using DUCKLING technologies
  2. A video produced by Dr Ray Randall, showing staff experience
  3. A summary of benefits to key stakeholders
  4. The Teaching Fellow model
  5. A  guide for converting Word documents into ePub format

DUCKLING exhibition was well received by the audience. People were really interested in DUCKLING’s technology-enhanced solutions. Four projects won the exhibition award. SpringboardTV, an internet TV station, at the College of West Anglia, won first place. The Integrate project at the University of Exeter was second. Congratulations!

Ming Nie              18 October 2010

The Curriculum Lifecycle

A couple of days ago, my colleague Terese Bird was wondering if it was polite to tweet during lectures. Much could be said about how appropriate or desirable it is to tweet during lectures, the kind of pedagogical contracts that need to be in place for students and tutors to be comfortable with that practice, and the extent to which tweeting in class may be conducive to enhanced learning. And of course, whether or not tweeting in lectures is polite.

Conferences are a different kettle of fish. Participants normally tweet during sessions and are often encouraged to do so. For example, I am in Manchester at a two-day JISC event on Curriculum Design and Curriculum Delivery. At the start of the first session, we were told: “those of you who are twittering, please use the #jisccdd hashtag”. This has been the case at every conference I’ve attended in the last 18 months or so.

Much is being discussed in traditional face-to-face manner at this event, but interesting debates are taking place on Twitter as well. Very interesting hybrid conversations take place as a result of bringing the contents of tweets into one’s discourse during sessions (and at the bar) – and the other way round. One aspect that straddles all discussions is the proposed lifecycle diagram that attempts to capture the curriculum design-delivery processes in institutions. The draft diagram is part of the Design Studio web-based toolkit and has been included in a publication called Managing Curriculum Change that benefits from a quote by our very own Gabi Witthaus (see page 5).

As you study the lifecycle diagram in detail, you’ll realise that it has a number of strengths and weaknesses. JISC welcomes feedback on how to make the model better reflect what actually happens in curriculum design and delivery today. As the tweets suggest, much of the debate has revolved around this draft model, which may well evolve in the next few weeks and months. I invite my DUCKLING colleagues to please get involved.

Dr A Armellini
13 October 2009

How does employer engagement contribute to improvements in courses delivered for work-based learners?

In the Duckling project, we collaborate with three distance learning work-based Masters’ programmes in two disciplines within the University of Leicester: MSc in Occupational Psychology and Psychology of Work at the School of Psychology, and MA in Applied Linguistics and TESOL at the School of Education. In Psychology, students are practising psychologists studying towards chartered psychologist status. In Education, learners are practising language teachers seeking enhanced professional competence.

One of the research questions in Duckling is, ‘How does employer engagement contribute to improvements in the delivery of the three curricula and in student learning?’ To address this question, I interviewed some employers from Psychology and Language teaching fields.

The three employers in the Psychology field that I interviewed are all based in the UK. They are all chartered psychologists and have plenty of experience working in business, public sectors and academia. The three employers from Language teaching field are based in South America. They are all practising English teachers and work for an English teaching or exam centre.

Their interviews mainly covered two themes:

  • Their perceptions of the professional development needs of the employees in their organisations.
  • Their ideas and insights on how a Masters course in Occupational Psychology or Applied Linguistics can help practising psychologists or language teachers meet their professional development needs.

In Psychology, employers identified a number of professional development needs faced by practising psychologists:

  • To become chartered psychologists
  • To enhance quantitative and qualitative research skills
  • To develop consultancy skills
  • To understand the key business strategy of the organisation that they work with.

The three employers offered ideas or insights on how the current MSc courses can be improved to meet the professional development needs of work-based learners:

  • To integrate the chartership model into the course delivery
  • To enhance practical aspects of the course delivery by:
    • providing students with opportunities to work with practising psychologists
    • establishing relationships with the employers
    • covering practical topics such as interventions in depth within the course
    • involving external practising psychologists as contributors to the course delivery, such as case studies or supplement material.

In Education, the three employers identified two professional development needs faced by the practising language teachers in their organisations:

  • How to incorporate technologies into the design and delivery of a language course
  • How to transfer theory into practice

They also offered ideas on how the MA in Applied Linguistics and TESOL course can be improved to meet the professional development needs of practising language teachers:

  • Offer an optional module focusing on technology-supported course design and delivery
  • Add more practical elements into the current course by incorporating project-based activities, reflective accounts and critical thinking
  • Add practical components from the beginning modules

In Duckling, the employers’ voices will be incorporated into the curricula delivery to improve the learning experience of work-based distance learners. The outcomes from employer interviews will be fed back to the two course teams for consideration.

Ming      09 July 2009

What do students say about technologies?

Every year the psychology course team at Leicester organizes a conference for their distance learning students studying MSc in Occupational Psychology or Psychology of Work. Usually the conference attracts 25-30 students; this year due to the credit crunch 15 students were able to attend.

This 3-day conference, held from 29 April to 1 May this year, offers a really good opportunity for distance learners to meet their tutors and other students on the same course. I met a student from Ireland who told me that last year she met another student from Ireland who’s studying on the same course. After they went back Ireland, they started having regular meetings to discuss the course and study.

This year gave us a chance to give out a survey about student access to and their insights on how to use three particular technologies: Podcasting, Second Life and e-book readers to enhance the delivery of the course. Ten students completed the survey; while the sample is small, however, the responses are quite indicative to Duckling research.

Basically, students commented on how the three technologies have or might have contributed to their learning as a distance learner in three key areas:

• Improving communication with tutors

Some students have already listened to the podcasts, although these podcasts were only made available on Blackboard in April. Their comments are really encouraging, particularly with respect to improving communication with their tutors. Some indicative comments are:

“It makes the course less impersonal – e.g. listening to lecturer’s voice on podcasts is a big improvement than reading notes.”

“Podcasting – since in many ways it resembles direct communication.”

“Podcasts allow you to hear the tones of the conversation, and it is more (feels more interactive). I think it helps bridge the gap in aspects of distance learning.”

• Increasing mobility and flexibility in learning

Both podcasts and e-book readers are identified by students as ways to increase mobility and flexibility in learning. For example:

“Podcasts are excellent to listen to on the bus, for example. And e-book readers make it easier to travel, (and) still have the resources I would need.”

“I would think the e-book reader to have so that you can take a lot of reading material with you when travelling or waiting for the dentist. I do not (from my knowledge) think that e-book reader should replace printed books, but think it would an excellent addition.”

• Increasing the relevance of the course to learners’ contexts

One of the students thinks that the three technologies all have potential to provide on-demand learning to suit a learner’s particular context.

There are suggestions or expectations on future use of these technologies. For example, one student recommended providing podcasts for all modules and also podcasts for e-library.

Although the results are collected from an initial small sample group, they are reassuring. The results confirm what has been identified by the course team as their main challenges in curriculum delivery: increasing flexibility and mobility; engaging time-poor students; enhancing student-student and teacher-student interaction; and improving the relevance of the content and activities to learners’ contexts. There are some points here, perhaps, of wider relevance and interest to all online teachers.


Ming Nie 09 May 2009

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