Personally I love the CAIeRO (module redesign) process. It’s creative, innovative and definitely challenging at times, but most of all it’s fun. My favourite part of the day is storyboarding the module – aligning Learning Outcomes with (new) assessments and then looking at how learners are to engage with appropriate content in order to deepen their learning and apply their knowledge and understanding.
Having an ‘outsider’ to your module can be crucial to the level of creativity and innovation that results. As a former FE tutor, and AL for the Business School I have experienced first hand many of the difficulties of trying to deliver engaging content and being so focussed on ensuring that the core content is covered that I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. Being able to take a step back and view what you are doing from an outsiders perspective, often that of a fictional learner, can therefore bring a number of benefits.
As an example, I was involved in a recent CAIeRO with the School of Health, working on three modules to be delivered fully online. We reached the storyboard phase and the tutor and I were looking at what the module was covering and thinking about how to translate a face-to-face course into an online one. To begin with, the tutor was replicating his F2F module, whilst simultaneously regaling me with stories of student feedback and complaints. “Why am I studying statistics?” and “Why am I studying maths on a health course?!” were two common phrases. It wasn’t that there was anything fundamentally wrong with the module content. There were core concepts that needed to be covered. Creating an agreed glossary was one, and understanding the governmental policy in this particular area was another. And so on, until week 12 when the tutor explained that at this point the students have to apply all their knowledge acquired to date in order to respond to a disease outbreak.
As the ‘outsider’ my instant response to this was … “Now I’m interested. But it’s taken three months of doing this boring stuff to get there!” So my suggestion was to turn his module on its head and put the students into groups in week 1 and then give them the disease outbreak scenario. Their role during the remainder of the module would be the drafting of a suitable response to the outbreak. On the way they would have to get to grips with statistics, appropriate terminology and even governmental policy, but this time, they would have an interesting hook upon which to hang it.
But what are the benefits for students? Well, here are my top five (in no particular order):
- the course should still be constructively aligned;
- students have a guided pathway through core components of the module but are free to explore those components in an order of their choice;
- keeping the same case study for all groups means that each group has to make a specific choice in terms of the preventative strategy adopted – this will increase opportunities for challenge and justification from the remainder of the cohort;
- increased student engagement – the module introduces a real-life scenario and asks them to find a real solution; and
- it potentially enhances their employability skills – learning how to do this in an academic environment is good preparation for the sorts of careers these students typically pursue.
OK, so what’s the big deal you might ask? I mean, it’s great for those students, but there are thousands more on this campus. It’s an approach that I have used in other schools and in vastly different subject areas to good effect. Sharing good practice when it comes to module redesign is important and is something that we share as a team through regular team meetings or through this blog. I have also shared the story at a staff development session in NBS. In my new role as a Learning Designer, I am working more across Schools and, together with my colleagues am seeking to make these creative approaches more visible. As a student, I would want my modules to capture my interest and require me to actively engage with content, whilst preparing me for the real world. Hopefully, full and willing engaging with the CAIeRO process, putting aside your preconceptions and a mindset of ‘this is how I teach this module’ will see more creative ideas such as this become more widespread throughout our institution.
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