Traditionally most courses in Higher Education institutions are devised predominantly by academic staff who are the experts on the subject that is going to be taught. It has long been recognised, however, that academics are not necessarily professionally trained in how students best learn. Much is left to the academic’s intuition and ‘what feels right’ when doing the teaching.
A better way forward is to include teaching teams in the process of course design, so that different perspectives and expertise are brought into the designing of learning experiences. The academic is still front and centre, of course, but the inclusion of other voices ensure that the learning for students takes full advantage of the resources available and the best approaches for learning to take place.
In #LTHEchat 245: Teaching Teams, we take a look at the complexities of the relationships between the academic teachers, developers (such as learning designers and technologists), librarians, careers, health and wellbeing, and other services that can (or perhaps should) be part of a course design process.
This is a subject that I considered alongside David Baume for a forthcoming chapter on course design. Here, we thought about the tensions between the separate roles that might occur in a teaching team situation. We considered how learning designers and technologists (myself included) can sometimes struggle to collaborate well with the academic teachers, because we have different priorities for how the teaching might occur. A good working relationship can take time to form but often there just isn’t time to do that. In the chapter we wrote:
The academic may retreat in apprehension back to the, perhaps relatively modest, range of learning and teaching methods with which they are familiar in in-person education. This may feel safe. However, not all methods used in in-person education have a natural, appropriate counterpart in the VLE. The long lecture is a good example, even when transcript and recording are provided. A long lecture can still be a somewhat pre-Gutenberg, let alone pre-worldwide web, experience, despite the use of PowerPoint.
Also, not all of the methods used in in-person education may be particularly effective, or have a particularly sound educational rationale, even in person. These teaching methods may be familiar, even sometimes comfortable, to teacher and students, rather than being of proven effectiveness, so new and potentially valuable and appropriate teaching and learning methods may not be adopted online. The course, and the students, may be much poorer as a result.
Alternatively, the academic may rush to embrace new methods, perhaps with mixed results in the absence of a sound rationale for choosing particular methods. A productive relationship between learning technologist or learning designer and lecturer may take some time and effort to develop and maintain. They cannot fully become members of each other’s world, but some mutual respect, preferably evidence-based respect, is essential for the development of good online education.
Mutual respect is important, but what else is needed? There are many questions here, and plenty of challenges. How do you already work with other roles in your institution? How might these collaborations become more effective and enjoyable? What would be the ideal?
Matthew Phillpott is a writer, educator, and historian with expertise in online, face-to-face, and hybrid training solutions and digital teaching practices. Matthew is currently working freelance, including at the University of the Arts London, and previously worked for the University of London. Matt is a Fellow of the University of London Centre for Online and Distance Education (CODE). You can find out more about Matt on his website or connect via Twitter @mphillpott.