Based on the Ultraversity Project, this collection of patterns identifies the key innovations developed to teach an undergraduate programme of some 300 student researchers, supported entirely online and having collaboration between learners as a central component.
3. The Essence of the Problem
A model for learning and teaching practice in online communities that is based on sound pedagogical and organisational approaches.
4. The Problem in Detail
Historically HE teachers have worked independently without recourse to colleagues or diverse learning and teaching models employing approaches that situate them as an individual who is the powerful arbiter of knowledge over learners within their given academic discipline or domain. This limits the exposure of learners to a diversity of perspectives. Teaching is usually organised to meet the needs of timetabling, to deliver lectures or lessons and to offer limited personal support in individual tutorials. Preparation and marking is also undertaken individually and this can be difficult. Unplanned absence due to illness or other unforeseeable circumstances can disrupt students’ learning.
5. The Solution
This pattern proposes that staff should collaborate closely. This entails treating all teaching acts as joint objectives which require ongoing monitoring together in a team. This is achieved with staff working remotely and using skype, text chats, email, and assessment portfolio software.
Advantages comprise of:
1. admissions – rather than have an individual responsible for admissions a small team is available to discuss non straight-forward applicants;
2. induction – all staff (including academics, administrators and support) introduce themselves to all students with a short pen portrait, an encouraging statement and a ‘gentle’ challenge whether or not they will be working closely with each other;
3. planning module delivery – teaching staff collaboratively agree planned absence during term time, who is responsible for which student researchers, content of module and programme guides, who will be the lead ‘teacher’ for particular aspects of the programme and when
4. preparation of learning resources – share materials with colleagues for peer review and critical feedback before use;
5. team facilitation – by participating in community discussions with students beyond those for who you have direct responsibility for student researchers can benefit from exposure to a wider range of social and academic perspectives including formative assessment;
6. unplanned absence – cover is readily arranged that is less disruptive to the student experience;
7. marking – modules are marked by a team who begin with a collaborative standardisation discussion around a random selection of three submissions. Non-straightforward issues arising during further marking are shared and discussed.
6. Reflection on use
This can be a difficult pattern to establish with experienced teachers who have ingrained habits and practices gained over many years of teaching alone. It is exposing of practice and as such can be perceived as a risky and threatening way of working. However, there is much to be gained as observing other people working and reflecting and discussing what is going on is one the best ways of improving your own practice. University and departmental policies and practices may mitigate against team teaching. Although the exposure to different teaching staff brings great advantage in terms of the different knowledge and perspectives, there is the need for teachers and learners to be prepared to be critically reflective in dealing with contradictions and ambiguities.
7. Related patterns
1.1 Organise learning places
1.2 Team Teaching
1.3 Exhibition for Dissertation
1.4 Workplace advocate
1.5 Action Learning Set
1.6 Patchwork ‘Media’
1.7 Personalised Learning Contract
1.8 The ‘Hotseat’ expert guest
1.9 Nurture Online Community of Inquiry