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Kok-Leong Ong - School of Information Technology
SIT105 is a first-year unit within the School of IT. Unlike its sibling units, this unit has more elements of creativity and logic rather than pure technical content. Developing this unit was therefore more challenging than usual. With many variables involved, the teaching team decided to develop materials on the go, to incorporate the student responses as the trimester unfolded. The teaching team focused on two aspects of this unit.
The first is how the content is organised. There are two common ways of organising content on DSO - by what is covered each week or by the topic. With the number of variables involved, the teaching team decided that it was important to organise the materials by the week to make it easy for students to synchronise their learning. Additionally, the teaching team decided to teach only a topic each week to make cross-referencing to the textbook straightforward. Going with this approach allowed the teaching team to decide the topic to be covered next and how it should be covered.
With about 300 students across Burwood, Geelong and off-campus, another important aspect in this unit is communication. In terms of communication from staff members to students, the teaching team provided the standard items including iLectures and a discussion forum on DSO. This in particular compensates for the lack of face-to-face interaction for off-campus students while providing alternative modes of learning for students studying in off-campus mode.
To achieve communication from students to staff members (in terms of how they are progressing with their learning), we added a quiz component. The quizzes are done fortnightly over the trimester and follow the lectures and tutorials closely. From the performance of the quizzes, we are able to gauge how students are coping with the materials. This in turn allows us to fine-tune our content on a weekly basis. And since the quiz runs on a fortnightly basis, the cohort is kept active on DSO. The hypothesis here is that if they log on to DSO to do their quiz, they will no doubt check out what's in the discussion forum and whether there are any new materials. While no direct form of communication happens, this action helps keeps students feeling 'communicated with'. Again, this is particularly useful to off-campus students, who lack the required face-to-face contact.
Another feature to encourage communication is that each week the lecture starts and ends with a brain teaser aimed to stimulate discussion on DSO after lectures and of course, critical thinking. This was executed in the form of a game which we called 'Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?'. It proved to be quite popular with students.
Can you suggest another exemplar of online teaching at Deakin? Comments will be forwarded to the Institute of Teaching and Learning.