Friday, June 19, 2009

Flexible Delivery Plan for PST 1 on You Tube

I've posted my Flexible Delivery Plan for Psychological Skills Training One (PST 1) on You Tube

I'ts 9 minutes 42 seconds long.

I welcome you to have a look at it, to ask questions and provide feedback via this blog.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My flexible learning idea

I’m looking at making one of my first year courses, Psychological Skills Training 1 (PST 1), a first year sport spychology course more, ‘flexible’.

Please note that although I will be making greater use of electronic media in order to make PST 1 more flexible in design I will be prepared to provide hard copy resources to students should they not have sufficient electronic access (i.e., they don’t have internet access) or, alternatively, do whatever it takes to enable potential students to learn any time, any place, anywhere.

Initial contact/block course

Although it will not be possible for all students to come this might be a good icebreaker and help develop a sense of ‘group’ within the class. Information covered in the contact/block course will be available in other forms (e.g., written, discussed on Eluminate).

Students could firstly identify why they are studying

The course could begin with a brief overview of what sport psychology is, which is important as sport psychology is often misunderstood. This way everyone will start off on the same page.

In an effort to develop autonomy and ‘buy in’ throughout the class, the next step could be to have them contribute to the design of the course by identifying common topics that they would like to know more about. Perhaps I could offer a range of different topics which would best fit with the aims and learning outcomes of the course and the students could vote or discuss and agree upon which one’s they feel will be of most value to their learning or sporting performance, or most interesting.

When the content of the course is established the next step could be to identify the preferred methods of assessment for the course and dates by which assessment tasks should be submitted. Again, this strategy may assist in the development of a sense of autonomy and help to create ‘buy in’ to the assessment strategies.

Lessons on how to use Moodle and Eluminate will also be provided during the contact course.

Main teaching strategies

At this stage I see the main learning material being provided on Moodle in the form of presentations with voiceovers. The information will also be available in written form for those without internet access. It may also be possible to make class material available on podcasts and down loadable from Moodle.

Note: It is important that this course remains more than just being about information transfer. As such, students will be challenged on a regular basis to consider how the information applies to their sporting experience, and how they can utilize the information in a practical sense. .

I will be available to answer questions via e-mail and telephone on a daily basis.

Also using Moodle -

‘Discussion’ boards could be organized and could be used by students and myself to ‘discuss’ questions that arise throughout the course. These could also be used to discuss current events in sport that relate particularly well to sport psychology, and anything else that students want to discuss.

Weekly Eluminate sessions could be used for tutorial purposes and could cover similar material to that covered in discussion groups.

Face to face lectures would be available on a regular basis in order to meet the needs of students who enjoy contact time.

By using Moodle, Eluminate and face to face sessions I will be able to keep track of the students and get a feel for who is ‘engaging’ in the course.

Students will also be made aware of suitable resources both electronic and hard copy that may assist in their learning including textbooks, journals, CD ROM, blogs and websites.

You Tube - With there being so much information available on You Tube these days I could provide links to relevant interviews or situations that link back to course material.

In lectures I use quite a lot of video footage from recent sporting events as examples of where, when, how sport psychology knowledge or lack thereof can influence performance. Such footage could be viewed in a contact/block course.

Lesson – Massey University used to send out DVD’s with video footage on them, however they reportedly found this to be quite expensive and have since reverted to showing video footage in extramural contact courses.


Please keep in mind that the majoirity of students studying PST 1 are between 17 and 18 years of age and are involved in their first year of tertiary study. The value of being able to run flexible courses cannot be denied, the ability to reach more students is likely to be good for all involved. However, looking back through my previous blogs (May 6th) reminds me how challenging flexible study and self-directed learning can be.

In order to succeed students must develop the ability to monitor and control their study habits. Without this ability, no amount of flexibility in learning and teaching is going to enable the student to achieve.

I have some concerns…

I am concerned about the capability of younger students (i.e., 17 – 19) being able to self-manage their studies. Although I am not yet aware of research looking at this issue (perhaps someone could lead me in the right direction) my concerns stem from a variety of experiences including:

1. My own experiences as a student around that age (“motivationally distracted”!)

2. My teaching experiences with students in this age bracket – many, especially young men, appear to struggle with time management and commitment to study responsibility, as did I.

3. Reports from colleagues in other institutions that student self-management appears to have become worse in recent years. It has been anecdotally suggested that this is at least in part due to recent changes in high school teaching and assessment structures.

In an effort to help my students overcome such concerns I will need to come up with strategies to help them get and remain on track.

Getting and keeping on track

In a previous blog (May 6th) I discussed the personal value of an exercise that involved me analysing my reasons for wanting to get and remain involved in my studies. This is why I will utilise a similar exercise in the initial contact/block course so that students are clearer as to what they want to achieve from their studies. If the students can identify such reasons they may be better placed to push through the ‘challenging’ times.

In addition to the exercise above, which relates back to both the students study and sporting performance I will make use of other strategies (see initial contact/block course, main teaching strategies) to, hopefully, both aid their studying and help keep them ‘on track’.

Well, that's a start, constructive comments and feedback on these ideas would be greatly appreciated.

What examples of flexible learning does my idea draw on?

The ideas that I’ve used for the development of this course come from a variety of sources and experiences.

I’ve drawn on my experiences as a student and a lecturer. I have an understanding of how the University of Otago and Massey University have used distance education. I also feel that I have an understanding of my students given that I have taught for several years now but also having been there and made the mistakes that I made.

I‘ve drawn on ideas from the Midwifery Department at Otago Polytechnic and their use of Moodle, block courses and Eluminate. Feedback regarding the strategies used by the Midwifery department at this stage appears promising, however, as a teacher of younger students I proceed with caution.

Terry Marler did a discussion with the OISA staff last week regarding Moodle and, in so doing, helped me appreciate the flexibility of this on-line learning tool.

Taking part in the flexible learning course itself has provided valuable insights into what is possible with flexible learning. Feedback from staff and fellow students has been very much valuable and appreciated.

Previous courses that I’ve taken part in on my way to completing the GCTLT have provided valuable ideas. For example, the Assessing and Evaluating for Learning course run by Heather Day has given me some great ideas about assessment within my flexible course.

How does my flexible learning plan fit with the Otago Polytechnics strategic directions?

In a previous blog I outlined the OISA’s strategic direction (May 14th). I believe that the ideas presented fit well with the direction in which we are heading.

Q. How does it achieve this?

A. Flexible approaches are identified in the document and include but are not limited to: blended delivery, e mail, online resources, animations, simulations, video clips, audio material, (pod casting) case scenarios, discussions as well maintaining face to face contact. The direction that I suggested for the flexible development of PST 1 makes use of many of these learning tools.

I will need to further up skill in order to be able to run the flexible delivery of PST 1 in a smooth and efficient manner. I see this as being an ongoing process as more user friendly, flexible delivery options (especially in terms of electronic resources) become available.

Student support will be readily available throughout the course via the various contact methods previously discussed. In addition, as and when required students can be easily referred to the appropriate student support services offered by the Polytechnic.

Considerations, risks & concerns in implementing my plan for flexible learning

It will be challenging to successfully run a course of this nature within a programme that is still largely based around face to face delivery (lectures, tutorials, practical sessions) however I am confident that it is ‘doable’.

I am going to need to up skill in the use of technologies for example Eluminate and Moodle in order to be able to use them well.

Despite my/our best efforts it will not be possible to meet everyone’s needs all of the time.

Although this type of design is likely to enable me to ‘reach’ more students, I believe that it will require more time, especially in the early stages, to prepare material, to get administration issues sorted out, and to ensure that students have access to the materials, wherever they may be.

I will need to make time to re-organize the existing course.

As previously mentioned, given that the majority of students are quite young, it may be useful to make use of podcasts along similar lines to those used by the cookery department at the Polytechnic (hyperlink). It seems that many students have an IPod these days for listening to music and watching movies so these may be a valuable resource for helping students gain access to the course information.

I am going to need to be quite flexible in terms of the resources that I have available for students. This will require me to have a broad range of resources in order to meet student needs from the outset (texts, websites etc).

Do the students have a clear enough understanding of sport psychology and what it aims to achieve in order to help construct a suitable schedule of topics?

I would be proceeding with caution given that I’m not sure how young students will respond to a largely self-directed learning course.

There will likely be students who have special learning needs that I will need to meet so as to help them learn. As such, I will need to be flexible in my approach and prepared to use my imagination come up with ways to meet these needs as we go.

Perhaps I also need to ask how the the students want to learn. Do the students want Moodle, discussion boards, Eluminate, voice over powerpoint presentations, face to face classes etc.

Access, equity, cultural sensitivity and sustainability

I believe that the strategies that I’ve mentioned previously should go a long way to making the PST 1 course available to any student anytime, anyplace, anywhere. However, it is up to me to make the necessary adjustments to my course in order to cater to the needs of the student.

In a previous blog (June 2nd) I discussed the use of self-determination theory, particularly the concept of autonomy and how I thought that it might be useful in terms of helping to develop equity, cultural sensitivity and sustainability. In the development of a more flexible PST 1 course I have attempted to make use of autonomy in regard to decisions as to the content and assessment of the PST 1 course, and perhaps need to also look at group decisions in terms of the course delivery itself. In doing so, I hope to help students develop a sense of ownership over their course, a sense of safety, a sense of opportunity, and all the while help them remain involved in the learning process.

The potential is there, but time will tell as to whether it works.

Constructive comments and feedback on these ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ideas from Meeting

Summary of issues from the meeting

One of the big things that came out of this meeting for me and which seems to me to be interrelated with the three issues discussed (i.e., culture, access and equity and sustainability) is the concept of autonomy.

How do you think you might treat these wider issues when you start developing your flexible learning idea?

The power of autonomy has been shown in research looking at Self-Determination Theory

I think that the issue of autonomy could be of great influence in my courses.

Firstly, cultural factors may link with autonomy. Students who feel like they “have a say” and can provide input into their course may not feel that they are faced with the same cultural prejudices as those who do not “have a say”; they may have a sense of control over their study situation.

Secondly, by having more choice about what they do, when they do it, and how they do it, students may be able to overcome personal barriers that may have otherwise limited their participation in a particular course.

Thirdly, in terms of sustainability, students who have a sense of autonomy over their learning may be more likely to remain involved over the long term. Students who have a feeling of ownership in regards to their studies may be more motivated to get as much out of the learning experience as they can.

So, the potentially far reaching influence of having a sense of autonomy in an educational context cannot be overlooked. It would be up to me to come up with ways to help students feel like they have a significant role in the development, teaching, and evaluation of courses. This would need to be negotiated at the beginning of each course.

Estimating Student Workload

I find it challenging to identify a suitable student workload for some of my courses in particular because some students are very keen to learn a lot about a particular topic/s while others are just trying to do whatever it takes to get through, what seems to be a ‘c’s get degree’s’ type attitude. So, in some instances I may be guilty of giving particular students too much information.

Perhaps I need to make it absolutely clear to students what is expected of them so as to cater for those motivated to ‘get by’ while also providing suitable information, links, resources etc for those who ‘want to know everything’.

I need to take heed of
Lockwood’s suggestion that “more is not better”
and take more of a quality approach in regards to the sources of information I would like students to review.


Readability of resources is another important factor which can enhance or hinder the learning of my students. At the OISA we have an often challenging intake of students in terms of their level of academic experience. For example, in one of my courses I’ve had former Masters level students studying alongside students who have not completed high school. How can I challenge each of these sets of students while at the same time keep them interested in the material?

One way to cater to the needs of such a diverse array of students is to make students aware of a variety of learning resources enabling them to use those that are best suited to their level of understanding. Such resources will…hopefully, enable students to push their own boundaries, while feeling competent and confident in the learning environment.

Cultural Identity

My cultural identification is New Zealand European. I’m second generation NZ born on one side of my family and third generation NZ born on the other side. My family ancestry is Scottish on both my Mothers and Fathers sides. So…I’ll always back the Scots if they’re up against the English.

Hofstede’s Theory of culture
talks about their being five different, but interconnected dimensions of culture. These dimensions are:

Individualism/Collectivism – the degree that individuals are expected to look after themselves versus remaining integrated in groups.

Power Distance – The degree that less powerful members of an organisation accept or expect an unequal distribution of power

Uncertainty Avoidance – The extent that individuals from a culture feel comfy in unpredictable situations.

Masculinity/Femininity – The distribution of emotional roles between genders with the masculine role being seen as “tough” and the feminine role as “tender”.

Long-term versus short term orientation – The extent to which members of a culture expect immediate rather than delayed gratification of their material, social and emotional needs.

Cited in Landy, F. J. & Conte, J. M. (2004). Work in the 21st century. An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill.

At the OISA we work with students from a wide variety of cultures. The dimension that I think influences my teaching the most is that of “power distance”. This consideration is important to take into account when I expect students to contribute to discussions in class or to think/discuss issues critically. If students are not used to ‘speaking up’ or thinking critically then I need to appreciate and allow for that in my teaching.

From my understanding, when Hofstede referred to culture he was referring to ethnicity type factors. However, in the teaching environment I think it’s also important to appreciate that the degree to which several of these “dimensions” are apparent within individual students would also be influenced by their families as well, irrespective of what “ethnic culture” they are from. I guess I’m referring here to a persons “family culture”. These familial experiences are likely to have a big impact on what it takes for a student to feel comfortable in a learning environment, which will obviously influence their ability to learn and contribute. For example, if a student is from a family where there is/was a “children should be seen and not heard” (Power Distance) environment then it may be very difficult for them to feel comfortable contributing in discussions or critically analysing the work, theories, etc of ‘superiors’. It seems we are not in a position to assume much at all about those we teach.

What is Universal Design (UD)?

Universal Design Education Online define Universal Design as “…an approach to the design of all products and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation”.

I believe that to create a course that’s true to the principles of universal design one would need to be prepared to continually evolve their course. For example, until a teacher is in the position of teaching someone with the unique difficulties faced by someone like Helen Keller
they may not have thought of how to cater to the needs of a particular student. It would take great time (if you’re redesigning a course), imagination and resources to be able to design a course that is truly universal. Further, there will always be a student with a new, particularly interesting learning challenge waiting to enrol in your course (e.g., student with synesthesia).

How could the principles of UD be applied in my course?

The principles of UD include:
Equitable Use
Flexibility in Use
Simple and Intuitive Use
Perceptible Information
Tolerance for Error
Low Physical Effort
Size and Space for Approach and Use

UD for Learning (UDL)

UDL looks at the use of technology as a means to maximise learning opportunities for every student. “When UDL is applied, curriculum designers create products to meet the needs of students with a wide range of abilities, learning styles, and preferences.” Below are some guidelines for UDL from the University of Washington:

Class Climate. Adopt practices that reflect high values with respect to both diversity and inclusiveness.

Interaction. Encourage regular and effective interactions between students and the instructor and ensure that communication methods are accessible to all participants.

Physical Environments and Products. Ensure that facilities, activities, materials, and equipment are physically accessible to and usable by all students and that all potential student characteristics are addressed in safety considerations.

Delivery Methods. Use multiple, accessible instructional methods that are accessible to all learners.

Information Resources and Technology. Ensure that course materials, notes, and other information resources are engaging, flexible, and accessible for all students.

Feedback. Provide specific feedback on a regular basis.

Assessment. Regularly assess student progress using multiple, accessible methods and tools and adjust instruction accordingly.

Accommodation. Plan for accommodations for students whose needs are not met by the instructional design. (Burgstahler, 2007a)

UDL appears to me to be about meeting individual differences while enabling quality learning. Following such guidelines as those above in order to create a UDL for my courses will require time and effort, but if it enables me to meet the varying needs of my students then this is something I must take very seriously.

However, it must be remembered that not everyone is “wired up” (to technology), nor does everyone want to be wired up. Therefore, I don’t believe that technology will allow my courses to meet everyone’s needs. For some students, a back to basics approach may be more appropriate (e.g., hard copy mail outs) Nor do I believe that I will be able to meet every students needs all of the time. To create a truly UDL course would be very challenging!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

OISA Flexible Learning & Teaching

Our flexible learning and teaching policy appears to be quite ‘open’ and broad. However, it does appear to provide serious attention to flexibility in teaching and learning and states that “It is our intention to have 25% of all courses being delivered” in such ways; although, I am yet to identify when this target is to be achieved. Further, the document in several areas appears to have an on-line focus in terms of flexibility.

Our policy identifies a wide variety of flexible approaches that are and can be utilised by staff and students including: blended delivery, e mail, online resources, animations, simulations, video clips, audio material, (pod casting) case scenarios, discussions as well maintaining face to face contact. Pretty impressive!

Several staff members both internal to the OISA and external have been identified to lead the continued development of our flexible delivery approach. Significant training has been undertaken by staff already to ‘upskill’ in the use of on-line tools including BlackBoard, and will continue to take place as and when required. Otago Polytechnic Information Technology support is also available for the upskilling of our staff.

Returning to my previous comment about the flexible delivery appearing to have a slant towards on-line content in our document, in relation to student support the document suggests that “the majority of OISA students are under the age of 25 and are generally computer literate with the mature students often requiring additional support”.

The document indicates that in addition to face to face support, students will “be supported by an orientation to Otago Polytechnic Learning Management System at the beginning of each programme. Texting, emailing and announcements on Blackboard are the main support tools used. Team work and peer support is an integral part of OISA programme delivery and pastoral care is provided in the first instance by lecturing staff and if need be referral is made to appropriate support services. Students at a distance are supported by telephone and e mail with referral options (e.g. to another Tertiary Institution) being made available".

Despite having a slant towards the on-line aspect of flexible delivery, and there being no mention of flexible assessment the OISA appears to be making significant efforts to provide students with flexible delivery options.

Bioscience at Otago Polytechnic

I had a chat with Megan Gibbons who teaches Bioscience on the Midwifery programme at the Otago Polytechnic. The Midwifery programme caters to students throughout the South Island of New Zealand.

Flexible delivery on the Bioscience course involves use of both Elluminate and Moodle.

According to Megan, Elluminate is used because it allows high quality distance interaction between the tutor and the student during tutorial sessions. Students have the opportunity to discuss various issues during such sessions. Elluminate sessions take place at 9.30am on the days that these are run so as to allow parents sufficient time to drop off their children at school, should they need.

Megan felt that a downside to using Elluminate is that it does not allow the tutor to pick up face to face signals such as student body language which would help the tutor to pick up on whether students “get it”. However, she felt that tone of voice may assist in this judgement.

Moodle is used on the Bioscience course for a number of reasons.

1. The Midwifery programme is run in conjunction with CPIT (hyperlink) who were existing users of Moodle
2. It is cheaper to use than the existing on-line tool at the Otago Polytechnic.
3. Moodle is a great way to get information to students. The Bioscience course has the following types of information and resources.
a. Course outline
b. Objectives for each session
c. Reading materials
d. Lecture notes and slides – with the capacity to do voice overs to go with these.
e. Quizzes
f. And crossword exercises
g. Extensive use is also made of the forum facility on Moodle which allows students and tutor to “discuss” any issues or topics of interest and relevance. There is also the capability to make forums open to the public or closed. Megan felt that a closed forum provided students a sense of safety in the on-line environment.
h. Also, the tutor is able to take a roll to identify who is taking part.

Megan and the team at Midwifery have taken this flexible approach because it allows mature students to fit in study commitments around their busy schedules. Students are able to access the information when they want it.

Megan did point out that it takes a lot of time to develop the resources for Moodle, however it is well worth the effort. From her experience it also means that there is quite a bit of pastoral care in order to help the students when they have issues and such on-line learning options were favoured by some students and not by others, as will, no-doubt, be the case with most learning tools.

The on-line nature of the Midwifery programme also allows students to complete a four year degree in three years because students can access the information over holiday breaks.

By all accounts the Midwifery programme is doing very well this year, with part of this success being due to the flexible nature of its courses and staff.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Flexible Learning is no Cake Walk

One of the main things that’s struck me from the following resources (Panel Discussion; Reading; Video) in reference to flexible learning is the need for students to develop the ability to monitor and control their study habits. Without this ability, no amount of flexibility in learning and teaching is going to enable the student to achieve.
One of the most valuable things I’ve done while being an extramural student through both Otago and Massey Universities’ is the need to become absolutely clear as to what it is that I want to achieve from my studies.

Deep and Meaningful

Following Massey’s suggestion I sat down with paper and pen and wrote out my deep and meaningful (to me) reasons for wanting to carry on with my studies. Since that time, three years ago, I’ve come back to that piece of paper on several occasions when my motivation has been...challenged.
Studying as an adult is tough going at times. We all have our ups and downs, when it comes to study and fitting it in around life but if you’re clear in your mind why you’re doing your studies you are better placed to get through those most challenging situations. Write out your whys and come back to them when you need.

Lean on them/me…

Throughout my time studying through Massey I’ve been faced with some pretty hefty life changing situations. Aside from the unwavering support of my wife, extended family and friends, something that has enabled me to stay on track is the “flexibility” and understanding of the teaching staff that I’ve been involved with. When I contacted them about this and that going on in my life they were totally understanding and gave me the extension/s or support that I required in order to stay on track. If I’m to be a successfully flexible teacher, then I need to display an empathy and understanding towards my students in order for them to succeed, whoever, and wherever they may be.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Helping Gerald through Flexible Delivery

Gerald is a mild mannered man from a mild mannered town who just wants to improve his lot in life. But life is making it difficult for Gerald to do so.

Gerald would dearly love to study towards being a Personal Trainer. He’s enjoyed sport and exercise since he was a young lad, however, nowadays he does very little exercise and he just can’t seem to find the time to study.

You see, Gerald works hard during the day as a refuse relocation specialist. He starts work at 6am (having woken at 5am) and finishes close to 6pm most nights of the week. Gerald works long hours to feed and support his pregnant wife, Geraldine and their three under five year old children, Godfrey, Georgina and little Gerald Junior. At the end of his working day Gerald (Senior) helps Geraldine prepare dinner and feed the children. Once he’s helped put the children to bed Gerald helps Geraldine clean up the house and do the dishes (no dishwasher in his house!).

Finally, by the time 8.30pm rolls around Gerald has some time to himself.

What are the current barriers between Gerald and my Exercise Psychology course?

Given Gerald’s very busy lifestyle, as well as the fact that he’s “computer challenged” and internet connection lacking (at home), the opportunities for him to successfully complete my Exercise Psychology course are quite limited.

At this stage, to successfully complete my course Gerald would, at the very least, need to learn how to use a computer and have an internet connection so he could access the online computer resources for this course on BlackBoard. Gerald would also need to make time to do the course readings and get access to course texts either through a library or purchase them himself.

What can Gerald and I do to help him study my course?

Unfortunately, there is no way around the fact that Gerald will have to:

  • make time to fit in his studies.
He has some time available during the evenings as well as during the weekends when he can study. I would suggest that Gerald will have to come to an:

  • agreement with Geraldine and the children as to when his study time will be, and ensure that everyone commits to this agreement.

    As the old saying goes, if he “always does what he’s always done, he’ll always have what he’s always got” (source unknown).

In order for Gerald (and others in a similar situation) to succeed in my course I will need to make some changes, thereby making my teaching more flexible.

  1. I could put together a hard copy package of study materials, that I could send out to Gerald. These materials might include a course outline, study guide, lecture material and suggested readings that Gerald could access via the Bill Robertson Library. Gerald could then work through these materials at a pace that is comfortable and timely for him.

  2. I could also arrange with Gerald a time during which he could call me should he have any study questions. As I work from 8am-4pm most days, it may be most convenient for Gerald to call me during his lunch or “tea” breaks.

Through flexible teaching I will be better able to meet the needs of Gerald and others in a similar position.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

So far so good...


It's Gary here. I teach mainly in the areas of sport and exercise psychology at the Otago Polytechnic. I feel I have a fair degree of experience both in flexible learning and teaching, however, I have very limited experience using electronic resources such as blog’s etc that are explored during the flexible learning course.

Why am I doing this course?

I’m starting to feel like an old fella who’s getting left behind a bit in terms of the new technologies that are becoming available and I see this course as an opportunity to help get me back up to speed.

Also, I’m really keen to learn new methods that might enable me to teach my students. If I can learn new strategies to ‘reach’ my students through this course then, brilliant!