Friday, November 13, 2009

Learning through listening

The School of Nursing at UCOL has been in the process of implementing a new curriculum. Underpinning everything in the curriculum is the precept that the learning must be student-centred. This has led to some interesting discussions about what exactly student-centred learning is. Is it the same as student-directed? Does student-centred mean that they can choose what they need to learn, and if so, what does this mean in a School of Nursing?

In the past, when I was working as an English teacher, I used to allow (carefully selected!) junior secondary classes to create their own curriculum for the term. This was usually an interesting process that involved students debating and discussing what they thought was important to learn, and how they wanted to learn it. I found that classes who took part in this were (usually) more committed and involved in their learning. But that was English. How student-centred can one feasibly be with a course that not only has life-or-death consequences (unlike Shakespeare?) but also needs to meet the standards set by the Nursing Council and the National Qualifications Authority.

The creation of online learning modules goes some way towards shifting the School of Nursing at UCOL towards student-centeredness by allowing students to do 'wherever, whenever' learning. Online discussion forums and chats allow students to take part in discussions around their learning, even though they are not on campus, and lecturers upload their notes, usually as PowerPoints. The feedback from students is generally positive about all of this.

The online modules do have drawbacks. They are time-consuming to create, and require some level of computer expertise. A solution to this that has been widely adopted around the world is podcasting, which allows students to listen to audio of lectures wherever they are. It certainly can't be faulted for convenience... more students have some sort of iPod/Mp3 player than have computers, and they're a lot easier to carry around than laptops.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the School of Nursing is going to be developing a library of podcasts in the coming year to support the new curriculum. We're still in the early planning stages, so there is a lot of work to be done, but my plan is to create podcasts or vodcasts to support all the papers running in the second year of the programme. Some of our lecturers have already been doing this for some time, so I will be relying on their experience and expertise to help get things moving. I'm looking forward to getting things up and running.... If any of you out there have had experience in developing podcasts, I'd be really interested in hearing from you.

While thinking about all of this I came across this presentation on Slideshare. Steve Wheeler, a UK-based lecturer with research interests in e-learning, describes himself as an International Man of Misery - I like him already. It's interesting how people all over the world are considering the same issues... what's amazing though is how easily and freely the ideas are shared.

In the meantime, watch this space for updates on how the School of Nursing podcasting project develops.

Image: cc Beverly Kahuna (

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