At the end of March I was lucky enough to attend the IL sponsored one day workshop ‘Developing a Blended Learning Skills Programme’ at CILIP HQ in central London. The event was run by Jennie Blake and Jade Kelsall from the University of Manchester Library and focussed on their experience in creating and maintaining the award winning My Learning Essentials.
My Learning Essentials is a multidisciplinary blended skills support package. It has a large and varied face-to-face element which covers workshops on reference management tools, to wellbeing and careers which is supported by a slightly smaller online element covering mainly study skills in 20minute chunks. A key element of My Learning Essentials is that it isn’t levelled but is offered to every one of the 40,000 students at Manchester.
At the beginning of the Jennie and Jade discussed background of the programme and talked about the process they go through when developing a My Learning Essentials module. Firstly that any undertaking big or small should come from demonstrated student need rather than our assumptions and that clear learning objectives based around what you wanted students to do, know and feel at the end of the module are required to underpin the success of a module. They also asserted that these objectives should be regularly returned to, to ensure the module remains targeted. I was also interested to hear how they decided that whether or not content is delivered face to face or online. Mainly discussing whether the learning need required interactivity and group work or simply knowledge transfer, emphasising that online content can free up time in workshops and reduce the need for 1-2-1s.
Throughout the day we worked in small groups at our tables, at first discussing learning objectives for the modules we were hoping to develop and later lesson planning. The My Learning Essentials team use very detailed lesson plans for the face to face workshops to ensure that anybody can run the sessions if needed. Jennie suggested that you should tag a lesson plan – that if plan had too many tags then you were trying to cram too much in. She also suggested that as your face to face workshop was going to include activities (if it didn’t it should be online!) that you should always narrow down the amount of time you have as a trainer to speak, for instance in an hour session you should only be speaking for around 20-25mins max.
In the afternoon we focussed more on the development of e-learning resources from the generic starting point of identification of need to and developing learning objectives to deciding the specific information you want to include, how the information will be organised and what activities will support your objectives. Different types of e-learning activities can include videos, quizzes, case studies, stories and demonstrations. Once this has all been defined Jade suggested creating a storyboard using powerpoint to map out in detail what the module would look like. Another tip was to give a PDF cheatsheet of the online module that students could print off and refer back to if needed.
Jade and Jennie also discussed evaluation, in the face to face workshops this was done firstly in the class, students answer 5 quick impact questions on an ipad then followed up with a longer online questionnaire. They found that a good response was around 15-20% to the follow up evaluation and that it very much depended on how much the trainer emphasised the importance of this in the workshop. They also highlighted the need for any such programme to have strong quality assurance procedures and emphasised that all lesson plans and online content were rigorously tested and reviewed before being run or published.
I found this a hugely interesting and useful workshop especially as we start to review our own workshop provision here at City. I’ve come away with heaps of useful tips and ideas especially valuable as we start to investigate more innovative ways of delivering our own content.