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So argues Dr Chris Willmott, Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry at the University of Leicester.

In a recent article for Viewfinder, entitled Science on Screen, Dr Willmott discusses his use of clips from films and television programmes in his university bioscience teaching. Dr Willmott considers a number of ways in which clips from science programmes and popular films (even those which get the science woefully wrong) can be used as teaching aids, all of which are designed to promote engagement with the subject, and which can be incorporated into a flipped learning session.

He categorises his use of clips from films and television programmes in the following way, which you can read more about in his article:

  • Clips for illustrating factual points
  • Clips for scene setting
  • Clips for discussion starting

Obviously not all science programmes get things right, but rather than being off-putting, this can be a great starter for a teaching and learning session. In the following example, Dr Willmott explains how he makes use of a clip in which Richard Hammond ‘proves’ that humans can smell fear:

Students are asked to watch the clip and keep an eye out for aspects of the experiment that are good, and those features that are less good. These observations are then collated, before the students are set the task of working with their neighbours to design a better study posing the same question.

If you’re interested in using visual content to aid the teaching of science then there are an increasing number of visual resources available. Dr Willmott mentions the Journal of Visualised Experiments in his article, a journal which is now in it’s tenth year, and which has over 4,000 peer-reviewed video entries. It’s a subscription only journal, and we don’t have a subscription, but if it looks good and you speak nicely to your faculty librarian then who knows what might be possible!

A resource that we do subscribe to is Box of Broadcasts, a repository of over a million films and television programmes. Accessible to academics and students (as long as they are in the UK), BoB programmes are easily searched, clipped, organised in playlists, and linked to from NILE. Plenty of material from all your science favourites such as Brian Cox, Iain Stewart and Jim Al-Khalili and even the odd episode from classic science documentaries like Cosmos and The Ascent of Man.

A free, and very high quality visual resource is the well known Periodic Table of Videos, created by Brady Haran and the chemistry staff at the University of Nottingham. Also of interest to chemists (but not free) are The Elements, The Elements in Action, and the Molecules apps developed by Theodore Grey and Touch Press. Known collectively as the Theodore Grey Collection, these iOS only apps may end up being the best apps on your iPad.

Not visual at all, but still very good, is the In Our Time Science Archive – hundreds of free to download audio podcasts from Melvyn Bragg and a wide range of guests on many, many different scientific subjects from Ada Lovelace to Absolute Zero.

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Recent article from TeachOnline.CA entitled “A New Pedagogy is Emerging… and Online Learning is a Key Contributing Factor” does a really fantastic job of outlining current trends in pedagogy and the role that online learning is playing within this new pedagogy. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend having a look!

In summary, the article outlines 7 key elements of current pedagogical thinking as follows:

“1. Blended learning

2. Collaborative approaches to the construction of knowledge/ building communities of practice. 

3. Use of multimedia and open educational resources

4. Increased learner control, choice and independence

5. Anywhere, anytime, any size learning

6. New forms of assessment 

7. Self-directed, non-formal online learning. “

All these aspects can be seen to underpin the Teaching & Learning plan we are moving towards at the University of Northampton. Blended or Hybrid learning is seen as the new normal where online and technology enhanced learning blend seamlessly with face-to-face workshop time. Significant emphasis is placed on group based learning and social interaction as well as the learner being at the centre of designing, implementing and reflecting on learning experiences.

 

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We recently posted a fairly lengthy blog entry about the myth of learning styles in education. The blog post was entitled ‘Question: What’s Your Preferred Learning Style?’ and it looked in some detail at the evidence against the widespread belief that students learn better when presented with information that is in their preferred learning style.

The TEDx video below is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in learning styles. In the video, Tesia Marshik, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, outlines some of the major arguments against learning styles and explains why, even though such beliefs are mistaken, they are so widely held.

And a belief in preferred learning styles is not the only mistaken belief about learning that is widely held by educators … for more on this see our earlier post ‘Neuromyths in Education’.

Click on the image below to watch the video …

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by Robert Farmer and Paul Rice

It’s no easy thing to create an interesting, engaging and effective educational video. However, when developing educational presentations and videos there are some straightforward principles that you can apply which are likely to make them more effective.

The following videos were created for our course, Creating Effective Educational Videos, and will take you through the dos and dont’s of educational video-making.

1. How not to do it!

This short video offers a humorous take on how not to make great educational videos.

2. Understanding Mayer’s multimedia principles

This 20 minute video outlines Richard Mayer‘s principles of multimedia learning and provides practical examples of how these principles might be applied in practice to create more effective educational videos.

3. Applying Mayer’s mutimedia principles

Because much of Mayer’s work centres around STEM subjects (which typically make a lot of use of diagrams, charts, tables, equations, etc.) We spent some time thinking about how to apply his principles in subjects which are more text based. To this end, we recorded a 12 minute video lecture which is very on-screen text heavy in which we tried to make use of as many of Mayer’s principles as possible.

4. Understanding what students want, and don’t want, from an educational video

Given the current popularity of educational videos, and given the time, effort and expense academics and institutions are investing to provide educational videos to students, we thought that it was worthwhile to evaluate whether students actually want and use these resources. You can find the results of our investigation in our paper:

5. Further reading

Mayer, R. (2009) Multimedia Learning, 2nd Edition. Cambridge University Press.
https://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/psychology/educational-psychology/multimedia-learning-2nd-edition

Rice, P., Beeson, P. and Blackmore-Wright, J. (2019) Evaluating the Impact of a Quiz Question within an Educational Video. TechTrends, Volume 63, pp.522–532.
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-019-00374-6

Waterside ReadyThe Learning Design team recently met up with Terry Neville (Chief Operating Officer) and Jane Bunce (Director of Student and Academic Services) to discuss a number of Waterside related issues. Among the subjects discussed were the teaching of large cohorts, timetabling, the working day and the academic year. We video recorded our discussion, and it is now available to view in the ‘Waterside Ready’ section of the staff intranet.

Also available in the same location are three videos from Ale Armellini (Director of the Institute of Learning and Teaching) on the subject of getting ready for Waterside, and one video each from Simon Sneddon and Kyffin Jones, both senior academics, who discuss how they have been preparing for the move to Waterside.

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Answer: It doesn’t matter!

Want to know why? Then read on …


Learn how you learn

The One-Minute Overview

Students don’t really learn better when receiving information in their preferred learning style. Not only is it misleading to encourage them to believe that they do, but it may impair their ability to learn if they think that they have a learning style in which they learn best. However, this does not mean that educators should not use a variety of approaches in their teaching and learning, because students learn best when encouraged to learn in a variety of different ways.

In short, if you’ve been using a variety of approaches to teaching and learning because you wanted to be inclusive and to do something for the visual learners, something for the auditory learners and something for the kinaesthetic learners then that’s great – there’s no problem with that. What the research is suggesting is that you shouldn’t try to get students to figure out what their preferred learning style is and then to suggest that they limit their learning to that style, because that’s not helpful and may be damaging. What is good pedagogy is to vary your approach to teaching and learning because everyone learns better when they learn in lots of different ways.

If you’d like a short and tweetable anti-learning styles quote to back this up, then let me suggest this one from Philip Newton’s 2015 paper ‘The Learning Styles Myth is Thriving in Higher Education’.

The existence of ‘Learning Styles’ is a ‘neuromyth’, and their use in all forms of education has been thoroughly and repeatedly discredited


The Long Article

Introduction

Let me introduce my nightmare learner to you. A scruffy-looking mature student, bearded and bespectacled, he’s been preparing to start his degree by learning about how he learns best, and he introduces himself to you as follows:

“Hi, my name is Rob, and I’ll be studying with you for the next three years. I’ve spent a lot of time analysing the way I learn, so what I’ll need from you, my lecturer, is as follows. I’m an auditory learner, so I’ll need all my material from you in podcast form. I’m also left-brain dominant, so please don’t begin from the big picture and work down to the detail, as that will confuse me and I’ll never learn – I need it the other way around please. And please remember that left-brain learners need logic, rules, facts, sequence and structure in order to learn. Also, I’m an ISTJ according to Myers-Briggs, a Concrete-Sequential learner according to the Mind Styles Model, and a Theorist according to Honey and Mumford, so please bear that in mind when preparing my personalised learning materials. Lastly, and I don’t know how relevant this is, but my star sign is Taurus, so I am loyal and reliable, but can be stubborn and inflexible too. You know, I’m really looking forward to the next three years, and I know that if I’m presented with learning materials that are perfectly suited to my learning style I’ll be able to learn anything.”

This chap is clearly preposterous, and is profoundly confused about the nature of learning. I can say that because he’s me – or, at least a version of me, but one who has been taught that if learning is difficult and is taking too much effort then it’s probably because of a mismatch between the learning materials and one’s own learning style, not because it actually does take some degree of effort to learn new things.

Nevertheless, some things do genuinely impede learning. If someone is worried or anxious about something, if they are very hungry or very tired, if they’re in physical discomfort, if the content is too advanced, if they can’t hear what’s being said or see what’s being shown, or if they’re demotivated for whatever reason then they are not going to be able to learn well, if at all. But do we really want to say that someone will struggle to learn if they’re a kinaesthetic learner and have been given a podcast to listen to? Do we really want to handicap our students by telling them that learning is so specific and individual that they can only learn effectively in one way? Why not free our students by telling them that they all have these amazing brains which can and do learn in many, many different ways? Not only that, but that by embracing a wide range of different approaches to learning they will actually learn better.

Let’s look at the issue from another angle. Why don’t students learning to be doctors learn about phrenology or about the four humors? Why don’t biology students learn about the theory of maternal impression? Why don’t chemistry students learn about phlogiston or about the transmutation of base metals into gold? Why don’t physics students learn about caloric or the emitter theory of light? The simple answer to this question is because none of these ideas has any basis in fact. While they might be taught on course covering the history of science, they would no more be taught as scientific fact than would the geocentric model of the solar system. These are all theories which have been consigned to the scientific dustbin, and rightly so.

As far as education is concerned, we are not without our theories and ideas which we have consigned to the educational dustbin. Brain Gym is already in the dustbin, and has been for some time1, but another idea that should have been consigned to the dustbin of educational ideas is the notion of preferred learning styles. However, over 90% of UK teachers still believe the following statement to be true: ‘Individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning style (for example, visual, auditory or kinaesthetic).’2

Should we be using learning styles?

Broadly speaking, the idea behind learning styles is that students have a ‘preferred learning style’ and that students learn best if they are allowed to learn in their the preferred learning style. Some of the more popular learning style theories include VAK, which classifies students as visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners, and Honey and Mumford, which classifies learners as activists, theorists, pragmatists and reflectors.

In his 2004 book, ‘Teaching Today’, Geoff Petty makes the following very reasonable claim:

“There is strong research evidence that ‘multiple representations’ help learners, whatever the subject they are learning. There is much less evidence for the commonly held view that students learn better if they are taught mainly or exclusively in their preferred learning style.”3

A couple of years later, in 2006, in his book ‘Evidence Based Teaching’, Petty went further, and stated that:

“It is tempting to believe that people have different styles of learning and thinking, and many learning style and cognitive style theories have been proposed to try and capture these. Professor Frank Coffield and others conducted a very extensive and rigorous review of over 70 such theories … [and] they found remarkably little evidence for, and a great deal of evidence against, all but a handful of the theories they tested. Popular systems that fell down … were Honey and Mumford, Dunn and Dunn, and VAK.”4 5

Professor Coffield and his colleagues at Newcastle University produced two reports for the Learning & Skills Research Centre in 2004. One was entitled  ‘Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning: A systematic and critical review’ and was a hefty 182 page report in which the literature on learning styles was reviewed and 13 of the most influential learning styles models were examined. The second report was entitled ‘Should we be using learning styles? What research has to say to practice’ and was a shorter 84 page report which focused on the implications of learning styles for educators.

Peter Kingston, writing in the Guardian, summarised the findings as follows:

“The report, Should we be using learning styles?, by a team at Newcastle University, concludes that only a couple of the most popular test-your-learning-style kits on the market stand up to rigorous scrutiny. Many of them could be potentially damaging if they led to students being labelled as one sort of learner or other, says Frank Coffield, professor of education at Newcastle University, who headed the research on behalf of the Learning and Skills Development Agency.” 6

The 2004 reports by Coffield et al., appear to have generated a great deal of interest into the now widely discredited (but still widespread and financially lucrative) area of learning styles, and the evidence against learning styles has been steadily building ever since. For example, a 2008 paper by Pashler et al., published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest concluded that:

“The contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning-styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing. If classification of students’ learning styles has practical utility, it remains to be demonstrated”7

More recently, Sophie Guterl, writing in 2013 for Scientific American noted that:

“Some studies claimed to have demonstrated the effectiveness of teaching to learning styles, although they had small sample sizes, selectively reported data or were methodologically flawed. Those that were methodologically sound found no relationship between learning styles and performance on assessments.”8

And to bring things even more up-to-date, Philip Newton’s 2015 paper for the journal Frontiers in Psychology paper stated very clearly that:

“The existence of ‘Learning Styles’ is a common ‘neuromyth’, and their use in all forms of education has been thoroughly and repeatedly discredited in the research literature. … Learning Styles do not work, yet the current research literature is full of papers which advocate their use. This undermines education as a research field and likely has a negative impact on students.”9

Conclusion

Learning styles, it appears, are very much in the educational dustbin … it’s just a matter of time before it becomes widely known that that’s where they are. However, even though 93% of UK teachers believe in learning styles, that was still the lowest percentage of all the countries looked at in Howard-Jones’s 2014 paper ‘Neuromyths and Education’. So perhaps the message is slowly getting across in the UK after all.

The seminal reports about learning styles by Coffield et al., are, like all good pieces of academic work, subtle, nuanced, complex, detailed and resistant to clumsy, reductionist, bite-sized soundbites and simplistic conclusions. The reports themselves are no longer available from the LSRC’s website, but can be easily found in PDF format online (just enter the report title into any search engine). For those wanting more of an introduction and overview then Peter Kingston’s summary of the work, published is the Guardian under the title ‘Fashion Victims’, is an excellent place to start. And if you have a copy to hand, pages 30 to 40 of Geoff Petty’s ‘Evidence-Based Teaching’ are well worth a read. If you want to go directly to the originals, the shorter report ‘Should we be using learning styles?’ is the best one to start with, and the set of tables on pages 22 to 35 of the report summarise the pros and cons of the various systems reviewed, giving an overall assessment of each.

For educators, the most useful guidance on learning styles is probably that provided by Petty on page 30 of ‘Evidence-Based Teaching’, where he summarises the advice from Coffield et al., as follows:

1. Don’t type students and then match learning strategies to their styles; instead, use methods from all styles for everyone. This is called ‘whole brain’ learning.

2. Encourage learners to use unfamiliar styles, even if they don’t like them at first, and teach them how to use these.

 

Notes and References

1. Fortunately, Brain Gym never really made it into universities, but it was popular in schools for some time. Ben Goldacre did much to expose it as pseudoscience, and wrote about it in detail in the second chapter of his book, ‘Bad Science’, and in various Guardian articles dating back to his June 2003 article, ‘Work our your mind’. Goldacre’s 2008 article ‘Nonsense dressed up as neuroscience’ is a good primer on Brain Gym. James Randerson’s 2008 article ‘Experts dismiss educational claims of Brain Gym programme’ summarises the views on Brain Gym of several prominent scientific associations.

2. For more on this, see Paul Howard-Jones’s 2014 paper ‘Neuroscience and education: myths and messages’ or see Pete Etchells’s summary of Howard-Jones’s research: ‘Brain balony has no place in the classroom’.

3. Petty, G. (2004) Teaching Today, 3rd Edition. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes, pp.149-150.

4. Petty, G. (2006) Evidence Based Teaching. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes, p.30.

5. Coffield et al., (2004) provide a set of tables listing the pros and cons and a summary of each of the learning styles on pages 22 to 35 of their report, ‘Should we be using learning styles?’ The overall assessment on each of them makes for interesting reading. The best of systems is Allinson and Hayes’ Cognitive Styles Index (CSI), although Hermann’s Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) is also well reviewed.

6. Kingston, P. (2004) Fashion victims: Could tests to diagnose ‘learning styles’ do more harm than good. The Guardian, 4th May.

7. Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D. and Bjork, R. (2008) Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9(3), pp.105-119.

8. Guterl, S. (2013) Is Teaching to a Student’s “Learning Style” a Bogus Idea? Scientific American, 20th September.

9. Newton (2015) The Learning Styles Myth is Thriving in Higher Education. Frontiers in Psychology, Volume 6 (December 2015).

Further Viewing

Learning styles & the importance of critical self-reflection

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Question: What two things do these three statements have in common?

A. Individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning style (for example, visual, auditory or kinaesthetic).

B. Short bouts of co‐ordination exercises can improve integration of left and right hemispheric brain function.

C. Differences in hemispheric dominance (left brain or right brain) can help to explain individual differences amongst learners.

Answer:

1. They are all false.
2. They are all believed to be true by around 90% of UK teachers.

Interested? You can read more in Paul Howard-Jones’s 2014 paper ‘Neuroscience and education: myths and messages‘ or in Pete Etchells’s summary of Howard-Jones’s research, ‘Brain balony has no place in the classroom’.

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Most university lecturers will have their favourite anti-lecturing quote. Mine has always been Camus’ oft-quoted “Some people talk in their sleep. Lecturers talk while other people sleep”. Another favourite is the variously attributed definition “Lecture: a process by which the notes of the professor become the notes of the student, without passing through the minds of either.”

In fairness to university lecturers, none of the lecturers I know deliver these kind of dreary monologues. Also, if a lecturer is timetabled into a room with a lectern, projector and screen, and tiered seating containing 250 students then surely we cannot chastise them for using that room for the purpose it was designed and intended for. Obviously such space can be subverted and used differently (as professors such as Eric Mazur and Simon Lancaster have done), but surely the best solution is simply not to build these kinds of spaces in the first place. If active, participatory learning in small groups is what is best (and the evidence suggests that it is) then why not build spaces that accommodate this kind of learning and teaching.

At the University of Northampton that’s exactly what is happening. As was recently reported in the Sunday Times, the University of Northampton’s Waterside campus “is to be built with no traditional lecture theatres, providing further evidence that the days of professors imparting knowledge to hundreds of students at once may be numbered.” The new campus “is the first in the UK to be designed without large auditoriums.”

While it is true that the majority of teaching that takes place at the Waterside campus is planned to be active, interactive and participatory, and to take place in small classes, there will obviously need to be some element of professors imparting knowledge to their students. This is, after all, for most people a key part of the process of teaching and learning. However, the plan for Waterside is for such ‘professorial knowledge imparting’ to take place online, prior to attending class; a process often known as flipped or blended learning. This means that time is not taken up in the small class sessions with getting knowledge across to the students, or with ‘covering content’, but on helping students to understand, assimilate and make sense of the knowledge they have grappled with prior to attending class.

Professor Nick Petford, Vice Chancellor of the University of Northampton, is not only building a campus in which active, participatory, small class teaching will be the norm, but as a member of the teaching staff he is already teaching in this way himself. Professor Petford adopted this blended learning approach in his physical volcanology classes during the 2015/16 academic year, and you can see him talking about how it went in this video.

Blended Learning and Physical Volcanology

At the end of the second day of CAIeRO, we hope you will feel like you’ve achieved a lot! But we know from experience that you will probably also feel like you have a lot still to do. This is why the last two stages of the CAIeRO process are important.

Action planning
While all your ideas are fresh in your minds (and ideally while all your team are still together in the room), it’s a good idea to agree on an action plan for the work you didn’t manage to do during the CAIeRO. This might include completing the learning activities for the modules you’ve been working on, reviewing and aligning other modules on the programme, completing quality assurance processes such as change of approval, and further training or development for you and your team. If you have a deadline to complete the work, like a planned start date for a new course or module, start from there and work backwards to determine when you need to complete each step. It’s important to lay out all the steps you need to take, and to put dates and names against them so that you don’t lose momentum. Identify ‘owners’ for each task but also anyone who can help – there will always be other work to do, but shared deadlines can help to make sure you fit in what you’ve agreed to do.

At this point, while you have diaries to hand, you should schedule a follow up meeting to review progress. This will allow you to keep each other on track and keep the modules closely aligned, and it will also allow you to adjust if any changes come up in the meantime. Remember your Learning Designer and Learning Technologist are there to help you throughout the whole journey of design into delivery, and they will be keen to get feedback on what has (and has not) worked well for you and your team, as well as what works well with the students when you start to deliver the module(s). This helps us to get a clear idea of how much work is still to be done, and to schedule support accordingly, but also to shape our support and guidance for future CAIeROs.

Reflecting on CAIeRO
We hope that the CAIeRO process will help you build your course design skills, as well as building a better module. At each stage of the CAIeRO, your learning designer will try to make explicit the principles informing each task, and help you think about how to transfer the work you’re doing to other areas. If you have time at the end of the CAIeRO workshop, you might allow 15 minutes or so for reflection, and try to capture the discussions you’ve had and the reasons behind the changes and choices you’ve made. This will not only be useful when you come to deliver the module, but also when you are thinking about your own professional development as an educator.

UKPSF - click to enlarge

The University’s C@N-DO CPD framework for academic staff is based around the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF), which identifies five main areas of academic activity. The CAIeRO workshop can touch on nearly all of these. It’s more than likely that you will have considered the design of learning activities, and the best way to assess your learners. You’ve probably also considered support and guidance, maybe by scheduling in tutorial sessions, or by providing clear direction in NILE. You’ve probably talked about what teaching methods, technologies and materials are appropriate to your subject and cohort, and thought about how to promote participation and design for diversity. Have a look at the areas covered by the UKPSF, and pause to reflect: how many of these came up in your CAIeRO workshop? Did you learn anything new in the conversations with your team and support staff? Have you changed what you were doing as a result?

We’d love to hear your reflections on the CAIeRO process, and any feedback that might help us improve. If you’d like to tell us about it, drop us an email at LD@northampton.ac.uk.

This is one in a series of posts about the CAIeRO process. To see the full list, go the original post: De-mystifying the CAIeRO.
Need a CAIeRO? Email the Learning Design team at LD@northampton.ac.uk.

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Stage 3 of the CAIeRO process usually begins at the start of the second day. By this stage you should have your blueprint and storyboard finalised, and a clear vision of your new module design(s). The next step is to start making your ideas more concrete, by creating the learning and teaching activities that will support students to reach the learning outcomes.
Group Study, Learning Grid, University of WarwickOn your storyboard, you will have a number of placeholders along the learning journey where students need to learn particular things. Pick one of these to start with, and think about what kind of learning activities might help the students to get to grips with it. Is it a new concept or skill, where they will need some initial information or a demonstration from you (or someone else) to get started? Is it a complex idea or skill they will need some time to explore? Is there an opportunity to let them apply it, through experimentation or practice? Is it an area where they might benefit from sharing knowledge or experience, or being exposed to different perspectives through debate? You might find the Hybrid Learning Model cards helpful here, as they list verbs describing what the tutor and the student can do to support different types of learning.

Creating learning activities
This section of the workshop is sometimes thought of as the ‘e-tivity bit’, but it’s important not to think too much about the technology to start with. Think about the type of activity you think would work best. If you or your colleagues have taught that subject before, what worked well? Once you know what you’d like the students to be doing, then think about the context – is this something that needs to happen in the classroom or outside? Technology can add possibilities and allow us to design learning experiences that weren’t possible in the past – think about linking up live with an expert in the field, or providing your students with world-class open educational resources. It’s also important to make sure that your students are exposed to digital learning practices, and develop the skills they will need to keep learning beyond their degree. But online is not always the best mode for every activity, so if you have face to face time with your students, make sure you use it wisely!

To help you figure out the best context for each activity, it’s important to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the tools available to you. Your Learning Technologist can help you with this, and you may also be able to get advice from your colleagues on their experiences. Don’t be afraid to talk about things that haven’t worked well – it may be that there are new tools or skills that could help you tweak that activity so that it works better next time, and part of the aim of the CAIeRO is to develop your skills as well as your module!

E-tivity template - click to enlarge

This is why we will ask you to create at least one online learning activity in the learning environment (NILE) as part of the workshop. You can take advantage of all the skills in the room, and you’ll leave with something real that you can use in your teaching! If you wish, you can use the e-tivity template, which embeds some key principles for online learning activities, including having a clear purpose, active learning tasks and opportunities for reflection and feedback. Or if you prefer, you can design your own.

The reality check
Official Clipboard CarriersOnce you have some learning activities created in NILE, it’s time to take a break while your reality checkers look them over. Reality checkers will ideally be students, but can also be colleagues, externals, anyone who has not been involved in the design of the module so far. Remember too that they don’t have to be in the room, they just need to be able to access the learning environment! The purpose of this stage of the workshop is to get an objective view of what you have created, and to provide constructive feedback to help you improve it. It’s important that you resist the urge to ‘help’ or ‘explain’ things to your reality checkers – remember when your real students come to this activity, they may not be able to call you and ask for clarification! Ideally your activity should stand by itself, with clear instructions allowing anyone who hasn’t seen it before to understand the purpose and how to complete it.

Your reality checkers will complete a feedback form that you can refer back to afterwards. You may also want to ask them to run through their thoughts on the activities, to get some more detail (if they are not in the room you could do this using Collaborate or Skype).

Review and adjust
Once your reality checkers have left, it’s a good idea to take a short amount of time to do some adjustments based on their feedback, while it’s fresh in your mind. Then you’re almost done!

This is one in a series of posts about the CAIeRO process. To see the full list, go the original post: De-mystifying the CAIeRO.
Need a CAIeRO? Email the Learning Design team at LD@northampton.ac.uk.