Learning and Teaching Investment Fund 2008

Summary of Projects

Project Title

Inside Out: Enhancement of E-learning for design using an embedded practice model

Project Leaders

A/Prof Barbara de la Harpe
Prof Richard Blythe

Funds Approved

$70,000

Summary of the project, outcomes, impacts and dissemination

‘Inside Out: Enhancement of eLearning for Design using an Embedded Practice Model’, has heralded in a new way of working to integrate technology into teaching by engaging with academics in the School of Architecture and Design from the ‘inside out’.

The project aimed to support and embed real change in the way designers see, engage with and use technology to provide student feedback on design work. It responded to a much needed effort to support e-learning practices to provide feedback to students in studios and ‘crits’. It also responded to the University’s initiative to embed and extend the use of the minimum online presence project.

This project was implemented in two parts:

Part 1: In this part, the integration of digital technologies, specifically the use of portable audio recording equipment and digital mark up tools (a PC tablet), into student assessment and feedback practices were trialled. Academic staff from each program joined the action research project and a facilitator was brought in to coordinate the project. How innovative digital technologies could be used to enhance the quality and detail of feedback to students in design learning was explored.

Participants reflected on and researched their assessment practices, which encouraged them to extend their knowledge about digital technologies and teaching and learning, as well as increasing their pedagogical grasp and ownership of the technologies within studios and ‘crits’.

Academics used audio recording equipment to record feedback in their studio crits for students to listen to at a later time.

Most students found the digital feedback useful and mentioned that it promoted self-reflection which enhanced their learning experience in studio, that it was good to return to the feedback conversation at a later time after the crit when they were less anxious, and that it was a good record of their progress in the program.

Participating in this project allowed academics to extend their knowledge about digital technologies in teaching and learning, and increased their pedagogical grasp and ownership of those technologies within studios and ‘crits’.

Part 2: In this part, the use of Blackboard was explored. This involved surveying both academics and students about their experiences and perceptions of Blackboard and its role in supporting learning and teaching in Architecture and Design.

Through staff and student surveys as well as focus groups, telephone interviews and studio observation, data was gathered on staff and students’ perceptions and experiences of Blackboard as a tool to support learning in design courses. A total of 77 staff (97%) and 230 students (12%) participated in the study. The qualitative data was analysed and coded using a bottom-up approach.

This research surfaced the barriers that many academics experience when adopting the use of the minimum online initiative (MOP). It also uncovered a number of complex and contradictory tensions around the use of Blackboard in the School of Architecture and Design, showing that:

the majority academics do not use Blackboard yet are trialling other technologies in their teaching.

academics criticise Blackboard despite the majority having little engagement with the software.

academics are negative about Blackboard whilst students are positive.

academic staff see Blackboard as merely an administrative tool which they see no need for, whereas students see it as a tool to help organise and structure their overall learning experience.

mandating of Blackboard by the University has not influenced staff to adopt the technology.

It has provided detailed data on the tensions and complexities between academic perceptions and those of students. The most significant of these being the mismatch between students’ desire to use Blackboard in their courses and academic staff reluctance to do so.

In terms of overall outcomes, the project has achieved significant change, including a recommendation that Blackboard be used across the School as the communications portal for all courses. This recommendation is being implemented as part of work planning for all salaried staff in 2009.

This outcome can be directly attributed to the Inside Out embedded approach used in this project. We believe that this project has shifted the culture from one that would once only accept ‘Inside Out’ to one that is engaging with both ‘Inside Out’ and ‘Outside In’ approaches to learning and teaching.

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