Designing modules: our educational framework

This is the first in a series of posts about the approach we are adopting in the design of our modules. Here we introduce the overarching educational framework we have developed.

Our flexible approach to online learning gives students the freedom and support to balance their study, work and home commitments, while working towards their career goals. Students can take personalised routes through their study, choosing where and when they want to study, and what resources and activities they engage with. While weekly learning activities are provided to support students in planning their time, none are compulsory. Students are offered multiple options to engage with content and exchange with the learning community, which creates an inclusive and accessible environment.

Despite its flexibility, online learning is challenging. Evidence suggests that while online provision gives more access to education, once inside the digital space those learners can find that they are in fact more disadvantaged and that achievement gaps are widened (Moore and Greenland 2017; Kizilcec and Halawa 2015). This is largely due to employment commitments combined with a lack of flexibility in assessment policies. UCEM aims to overcome this through providing students with relevant learning experiences and assessments aligned with workplace challenges, along with support throughout their studies from academic tutors, facilitators and support tutors. We will be implementing a much more consistent curriculum design in the VLE to ensure students know where they are in their studies and what they need to do to be successful in their assessment. The move from studying multiple modules at the same time, to just one module at a time, and multiple re-sits offered on all modules, is also a significant step in supporting students with employment commitments.

Our educational framework

To give our students the greatest chance of success, learning design at UCEM starts with learning outcomes and assessment design, with appropriate pedagogical approaches employed to provide tasks and activities that clearly support students to develop the skills and knowledge they need to develop those outcomes and  undertake their assessment.

Our approach can be broken down into three core areas:

  1. Learning design: Student outcome-led design (SOLD). A learning design model to structure our modules and provide consistency and a clear student journey.
  2. Pedagogical approach: Participatory. This approach builds knowledge, skills and competencies valued in industry through active engagement with learning content, engagement among learners, engagement with industry networks, within the VLE and openly on the Web.
  3. Educator roles: Online presence. Tutoring and facilitating presence online from the beginning of the module, including teaching presence, social presence and cognitive presence, to create a holistic supported learning environment.

UCEM Educational Framework

Our next post will look more closely at our Learning Design model: SOLD.

I work in learning design in the Online Education Department at the University College of Estate Management. I have particular interests in critical digital pedagogy, inclusive practice, and open ways of teaching and learning.

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