MSc BOE: equipping educators for the digital age
Type of snapshot
- Central services provision e.g. library, learning development, e-learning, ICT
- Provision in the curriculum: skills/literacies addressed in topic module
- ‘learner-led’ provision, e.g. formal and informal mentoring, buddying, skills sharing
- Professional development for educators
What was the context for this snapshot?
The MSc Blended and Online Education (MSc BOE), housed within Edinburgh Napier University’s Academic Development department, is a part-time fully online programme for lecturers and other education professionals who may be completely new to technology-enhanced education, or who want to take what they are already doing even further. The programme is applied and practice-based in nature, and participants undertake individual projects that relate to designing and evaluating blended and online interventions within their own teaching or education-related practice, and work on collaborative case studies and joint projects that reflect shared interests. An important part of the MSc BOE’s ethos is that the programme itself should provide a safe, collegiate and constructive environment in which to develop the key skills required to teach in blended and online course contexts, and to help participants ensure their own students and colleagues are well prepared for learning and teaching in the digital age.
SEDA-accredited without condition in June 2007, during the first year of delivery, all three exit awards (PgCert, PgDip and MSc) carry individual professional accreditation from SEDA in Embedding Learning Technologies. The Pg Cert BOE comprises the three core modules for the programme: Introduction to Blended and Online Education; Supporting the Blended and Online Student Experience; and Curriculum Design and Development for Blended and Online Learning. Between them the three core modules offer a critical exploration of where current and emerging technologies can help tackle the major challenges in the sector, and also cover internationalisation, equivalence of experience in student support provision, individual and cultural learner differences and needs, digital literacies, collaboration within and across learning communities, and curriculum design models and approaches.
A key feature of the programme involves harnessing and modelling through hands-on experience the potential of current and emerging technologies to work within and beyond the VLE, and to facilitate learning across geographic and other boundaries. To this end students engage online with guest experts of local, national and global reputation, and with relevant online professional communities that will support their professional development in blended and online education during and beyond their time on the programme.
During their time on the programme participants use current and emerging technologies to their particular strengths, discovering their pedagogic properties and possibilities as they tackle appropriate tasks.
For example, wikis support collaborative authoring of group reports, social networking tools provide a means for those on the programme to empower their own students beyond the confines of institutional VLEs, while social bookmarking collections are just one example of learning ‘artefacts’ that one cohort creates and subsequent cohorts inherit.
What kind of learners were involved in accessing this provision or support?
Education and education-related staff internal and external to Edinburgh Napier. This includes FE lecturers, HE lecturers (including Senior Lecturers, Principal Lecturers and Teaching Fellows), staff developers, corporate training specialists, e-learning and technology developers, heads of department (including a Head of eLearning, and head of a high school computing department).
Participants are from across the UK and beyond (currently from 20 different institutions).
What skills or literacies were particularly being addressed?
Within the MSc BOE there is a focus on understanding digital and other literacies in order to support today’s and tomorrow’s learners more effectively, twinned with a focus on the development of the programme participant’s own digital literacies, online learning literacy, and blended and online tutoring skills.
This is facilitated in a rich range of ways, including through case study exploration of good practice, online discussion, through participants designing and implementing blended and online interventions within their own practice, and evaluating student needs and experiences.
Module two, Supporting the Blended and Online Student Experience, has a particular (but not exclusive) focus on digital literacies and their development. In keeping with the ethos that the programme itself must provide a safe and collegiate platform for the development of online tutoring skills, module 2 also involves participants working in two’s or three’s to design, develop and facilitate an online seminar for the rest of the group. At the time of writing, one group has just come to the end of facilitating a seminar on digital literacies, which took the form of a WebQuest and discussion, while the latest weekly podcast for the module features one of the programme team in conversation with an internationally renowned expert in technology-enhanced education on the topic of digital literacies (please see the screenshots below).
Who provided the support? How was support provided?
The programme tutors facilitate the overall experience, but are often in co-learner roles while participants on the programme often assume co-tutoring responsibilities (for example in the student-led seminars discussed above). Peer support is thoroughly embedded within the nature and approach of the programme, with collaborative work central to the coursework activities of the three core modules for the programme. Individual projects are assessed by the tutors, as are some collaborative projects, but peer and self-assessment feature wherever possible. There is a strong emphasis in all forms of assessment on the provision of qualitatively rich, developmental feedback that will enable participants to hone their knowledge and skills in order to teach and support their learners effectively in blended and online contexts.
Benefits, outcomes, and lessons learned
The applied, practice-based and developmental nature of the programme results in a rich and immersive learning experience for participants and tutors alike. Participants are applying the knowledge and skills they are developing directly to their own practice, and in turn enhancing the skills, experience, and understanding of the learners they support in their own subject-related teaching and professional activities.
Illustrative testimonials from just a few of the practitioners on the programme include the following:
“I think the experience of being a student and seeing online education and collaboration from a student perspective has been invaluable. The different approaches to learning and using different methods such as podcasting and screen recording has helped and inspired me to try new ways of working with students. The tutors are really helpful, supportive and knowledgeable too.” Martin Gaughan Lecturer Children and Young People’s Mental Health Edinburgh Napier University
“Having come to education from industry, I’ve found the MSc BOE to be invaluable in bringing my knowledge of pedagogy and academic processes up to the standard needed. The course takes you from first principles of teaching and learning and lets you better understand your own online learners.” Colin Gray, PgCert BOE Graduate
“I have found this course extremely useful in that practice illuminates the theory. For example we have had online discussions with other students from around the UK, and podcasts with experts in the field.” Dr Steven Wilkinson Principal Lecturer Leeds Metropolitan University
“I wanted to become a ‘Tutor 2.0’ – someone who can exploit the capabilities of Web 2.0 technologies and critically utilise state of the art blended and online learning pedagogies to create and maintain a learning environment befitting 21st century learners’. The programme more than fulfils this for me.” John Sinclair Senior Lecturer Edinburgh Napier University