Welcome to Wednesday

What do you do on Tuesday evenings? When I can, there’s a roundtable discussion on (and in) Second Life. This week I was talking with a teacher in New Zealand about her subject – language teaching in SL (my Tuesday evening was her Wednesday lunchtime so the conversation included one of those SL-surreal phrases: “Welcome to Wednesday”).

We were speculating on why people would run a language class in Second Life in a sterile classroom, rather than a relevant environment – a Parisienne café, German railway station, Mexican “Day of the Dead” festival for example. One possibility is that they are so enthused about the opportunities for distance learning in Second Life that they don’t consider all the possibilities.

In fact, I’m coming to a tentative conclusion that there may be an institutional learning process that everyone goes through with Second Life (and probably virtual worlds in general). It would run something like this:

1)      Get excited about being able to fly, be with people from anywhere in the real world, create anything you can imagine and interact with it as though it was real

2)       Recreate the real-world institution one belongs to using Second Life, only better (minus rust, potholes and mess, plus trees, classrooms in the sky and quacking ducks)

3)      Recreate real-world teaching – lectures, tutorials, group work

4)      Suddenly realise that teaching could be lots better if the unique environment were fully utilised

5)      Start building environments to support field trips, context for learning and experiences

The switched-on institutions go through this process as a thought exercise and begin their Second Life work further down the list.

It’s good to be switched on!

Dr Paul Rudman
19th November 2009

(See the Second Life group Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable)

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

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