Baseline to Baseline+

Reflecting on my first experience of working on a UCEM Baseline+ module.

Image source: Pixabay

I have now been working as a Learning Designer for just over a year. I have very much enjoyed the opportunity to work on a wide variety of modules with academics and the rest of the Online Education team.

Baseline modules

For the most part as a Learning Designer, I have worked on the design of Baseline modules. A Baseline module at UCEM includes work to develop a good level of consistency, style and structure and implements a variety of resources which are relevant, accessible and up to date. Students have opportunities to engage with other learners and tutors through specially designed learning activities.

In my time so far as a Learning Designer I have been lucky enough to work on the development of 14 Baseline modules. These modules have covered a variety of content from valuation to building pathology.

Background

During my last performance review, I expressed an interest to push myself further and work on the development of a Baseline+ module. I was therefore allocated to be the Learning Designer on the CON4TE1 the Construction Technology 1 module. Within this blog post I will explain how and why the CON4TE1 module is an excellent example of a Baseline+ module. The module was developed in collaboration with two academics (Dean Bieganek and James Beckwith) and UCEM’s Quality Controller, Digital Education, Sue Lowe. I would like to take the opportunity to thank this group for their hard work on the module and all others that were involved including the media team.

The CON4TE1 module is the first of three Construction Technology modules. It is a core module for students on undergraduate programmes and there are around 500 students currently taking this module. CON4TE1 introduces simple construction which is developed on within the later construction modules.

Baseline+

A Baseline+ module at UCEM contains all the elements of a Baseline module (detailed above). However, Baseline+ modules are developed to a greater degree to push the module design so that it is advanced further. All modules at UCEM will become Baseline+ as part of the Transform project which spans over several years. The rest of this blog post will walk through each aspect of the Baseline+ standard and how the CON4TE1 module adheres to this.

Assessment

A Baseline+ module requires that the assessment has direct application to industry skills. The final assignment for the CON4TE1 module asks students to provide sketches alongside their written work. Sketching as a form of communication is an industry skill which is vital for students to develop practice of. The module has been designed to include opportunities for students to practice sketching on a weekly basis. Students are guided through processes of orthographic projection, drawing to scale, annotation, and dimensions. As these activities have been designed into the module, students are able to receive feedback through a variety of methods which will help when completing the sketches for their final assessment. This feedback has been presented in various ways including through automatic answer sheets to compare your own answers with and group feedback after posting to a Padlet board.

Orientation

A further requirement of a Baseline+ module is to provide a video orientation from the Module Leader. The video orientation for the CON4TE1 module has been provided by Dean Bieganek and includes a walk through of the entire orientation section of the module. This video is an excellent example of a multimedia orientation and therefore complies with Baseline+ standards.

Learning resources

Baseline+ modules require that resources respond to culture and geographical spread. There are several instances within this module which ask students to provide photographs of buildings or elements of buildings. The ice breaker activity suggests students post a photo of a residential building which is local to them and consider the exterior materials it displays. This activity responds to the requirement of culture and geographical spread as students post their photographs from across the world. Students can compare their own residential building with those on the other side of the globe and note the similarities and differences in materials.

Pedagogy

Baseline+ modules suggest that learning should revolve around authentic student-led activities. Students should be able to transfer their skills to the industry and develop professional opinions. The CON4TE1 module is inundated with opportunities for students to develop their professional skills and opinions. For example, the discussion forum steps ask students to contribute on issues of sustainability and to use eachothers posts to develop a professional opinion on the subject. The module also considers real life examples and asks students to contribute to discussions on how construction disasters may have been avoided.

A further requirement in the pedagogy aspect of a Baseline+ module is the opportunity for students to actively reflect on their learning. CON4TE1 provides students with the option to use a Technical Journal to record their thoughts and reflections on the activities in the module. Students can note their answers to questions such as: How does this concept or technology relate to my role in the industry? The Technical Journal provides a method of saving the reflections as a whole and can be used when referring to learning when students are working in the industry.

Module structure

The module structure of a Baseline+ module should include a balance of learning types. For example, active acquisition, production, exchange, reflection, practice, and assessment. The CON4TE1 module contains a wide variety of learning types:

  • Active acquisition is provided by watching videos and reading material across various sources and texts.
  • Production is used particularly within the drawing activities in the module. Students are asked to produce sketches as a form of communication.
  • There are many opportunities to exchange which include the use of discussion forums to converse with other students and the module team.
  • Reflection is included as detailed above within the Technical Journal element of the module.
  • Practicing skills also relates to the opportunities to sketch and annotate within the module.
  • Formative assessment opportunities are included in the module in the form of practice quizzes. The module’s assessment includes two Computer Marked Assessments (CMAs) and students are provided with the opportunity to prepare for these assessments by completing practice quizzes in the same format as the formal CMA.

A Baseline+ module should also include narrative which threads through the module and links the topics together. There are many points of reflection within the activities which detail to the students how what they are learning in the current week links back to what they have studied in previous weeks. It is brilliant to see that students are already feeding back in the weekly anonymous evaluations that they have noticed the learning builds week on week and is pushing them further on the topics as they work through the module.

Student engagement

Baseline+ modules require student engagement throughout the module as a priority. Students should be able to interact with eachother through various means and there should be opportunities for peer-to-peer feedback. CON4TE1 includes Padlet boards as part of several activities which enable students to contribute photographs and sketches. Students can interact by liking and commenting on the other posts.

The discussion forums on the module are also an important place for students to interact and feedback. Each week includes a Q&A thread within the forum, and it has been fantastic to see that students have been able to answer eachothers questions. Within the student feedback the students have commented that they enjoy being able to build on eachothers posts and then come to a consensus as a group. This is exactly the type of interaction and feedback a Baseline+ module is designed to encourage so it is brilliant to see that this is pulling through and being recognised by the students.

Quality control

Within a Baseline+ module the learning experience should be consistent throughout as per the quality control aspect. CON4TE1 adheres to this requirement and provides new features for example a ‘term search’ box consistently within each activity. The term search box enables students to recognise the key terms they should be looking out for as they work through the activity. Students can note the term and definition in their Technical Journal for revision and future use.

Reflection

Working on the CON4TE1 module alongside the above mentioned colleagues has been a brilliant experience. I have learnt a great deal by working on this module with Dean, James, and Sue. As a result of working as a team we have in collaboration produced a well designed and innovative Baseline+ module. I have enjoyed the opportunity to push elements of the module further for example with the first use of GIF images on any module within UCEM.

Upon reflection of the experience of moving from previously working on Baseline to Baseline+ modules I have very much enjoyed it. My key takeaway from the experience would be that Baseline+ modules require a greater amount of dedicated time to ensure that all elements of the standard are being met. It will be brilliant to see all modules eventually becoming Baseline+ standard as part of the Transform road map. I am also very much looking forward to seeing the end of module feedback on CON4TE1 to be able to see the student’s perspective of the module and how we can develop it further next time to respond to this.

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