Thursday, June 07, 2012

Integrating Physical and Online Teaching Spaces

One of the final discussion questions for the course Online Pedagogy in Practice, asked "how you would like to teach within a blended learning environment". It happened that the staff who plan space use at ANU had been asking about what physical space the university would need for new teaching techniques. I asked for enough learning commons to accommodate 25% of the students at one time, with designs like the ANU Hancock Building and the "University of Adelaide Hub Central".
Ideally an entire educational institution would be in one building, perhaps an eight story cube to provide a campus for 25,000 students. This would be located adjacent to public transport and commercial facilities (perhaps on top of a shopping center). The building would also provide community facilities, such as a library, cinema, sports and performance spaces. The New Gungahlin Library in Canberra does some of this, being a building with a public library, a vocational training center and a upper secondary school. A university building might look like ABS House in Canberra, with a large atrium which would double as a large performance space, as incorporated in the Australian Technical College (ATC), but on a larger scale as I proposed for NICTA Canberra.
The physical spaces would be equipped with computers and telecommunications, but these would not be obvious. The signs on the wall would be electronic and double as presentation displays. Cameras, microphones and projectors for multimedia would be concealed in the walls. The Teaching and Learning Commons at University of Canberra does this well.

By default, all courses would be offered in pure online mode, with blended mode as an option. Staff would be available to support students and tutors in how to do this. The institution would have at least three campuses, equally spaced around the world to provide 24 hour online service, as well as face to face service during local business hours (as USQ did as part of Follow the Sun). The campuses would also provide backup in case of a disaster at one site.
All students and tutors would be required to complete the same foundation course, which would be used to assess their current capabilities and plan out a custom program of education for them. All students and tutors would be required to learn basic face-to-face, written and online communication skills, along with how to provide feedback, be part of and lead a team.
Each student would have an e-portfolio, which would form part of their assessment and certificate. Students would be guided through a process to identify what they and and need. Targets would then be set, with milestones allocated and the student set of to learn. The Australian Computer Society is doing some of this with its Pre-Enrolment Assessment for the CPE Program.

Each student would be able to include Workspace Learning into their course, planning work tasks which are also learning tasks and work deliverables which are also assessment items (I designed some of this into the course ICT Sustainability).
As the student developed their individual learning plan would need to be changed. They would have set times when they might be on campus full time, part time, or completely distant. But the student would be able to change modes, as required, day by day, or minute by minute.

The institution would offer the student vocational and higher education qualifications. The student could start out with a short vocational course and, without any complex paperwork, continue on through undergraduate and graduate studies, by a blend of coursework and research.

There would be limitations as to what the student could do, based on the resources available. But the courses would be in part demand driven. f the system noticed students needed a course in some area, that would be planned for so it was available when the student was ready for it. This would include the time and resources needed to research the topic and train staff to design and deliver the course.

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