Monday, 18 March 2013

Trends in Learning Tools.

Back to the Future.

The tools of my learning were the over head projector, the slide show, the white board and if we were lucky a video, complemented by hand written lecture notes, reams of paper and an intimate relationship with the photocopier.

Having declared my hand I would now like to introduce the pedagogical concepts of Personal Inquiry, Seamless and Rhizomatic learning (Gaved & Whitelock, 2012) blending them into a learning project for midwifery students utilising a mobile platform.

Learning Contracts.

Currently midwifery students have a portfolio that they complete throughout the entire programme, with inserts from many different courses (soon to be modified into an e-portfolio when Bridget is done). One of the components of this, introduced in the Midwifery Practice Skills paper, is a 'Learning Contract'.  Click link below to see an example and more about learning contracts.

Personal Inquiry. 

This is a paper exercise where the student identifies their learning need, then follows the prompts within the contract to create an action plan to achieve their personal learning goal. Hence 'personal inquiry'.

Best Practice and Reality Gaps.

Often, as the learning goals are skill based, the learner needs to then seek the guidance or assistance of a practicing midwife to demonstrate or assess the learners competency with the skill. Armstrong (2010) writing in the British Journal of Midwifery discusses the gaps between how skills may be taught in education institutions and how they are practiced in the workplace and the difficulty this causes learners who are seeking skill proficiency and workplace acceptance.

If we were able to close these gaps then the transmission of learning between educational institution the workplace and the learner would become 'seamless'.


In the context of Learning Contracts this could be achieved by the use of a mobile learning platform such as an ipad or smart phone.

The learner could identify their goals and create a plan that they then could load onto their mobile device. When there is a learning opportunity around this skill they could show the midwife in practice their learning contract and also any prior learning or research they have done around the skill. This would give the midwife the opportunity to view how the skill is taught by the institution, review any best practice suggestions the learner has researched and add in any adaptations of her own. The learner could use the video functionality of their mobile device to film themselves executing the skill, or document what the midwife's comments are (all with consent of course) to serve as evidence of their learning, which can be reviewed and discussed with their educators.

This could then be shared amongst the learners peers with the thought that by creating a network of learners, many of whom are trying to acquire the same skills, information and knowledge could be passed amongst them, they could learn from each others learning. This would spread learning in a 'rhiozomatic' fashion.


Flexibility of learning would be enhanced as the learner would not be limited to carrying around her paper contract and could in fact have many contracts on the go in her mobile device, which she could access when ever she wishes. This would create time efficiencies for the learner who currently has to spend time writing up their workplace experiences around the skill, whereas with a mobile device it would be instantly captured.Learning would be enhanced by creating a network of learning rather than isolated learning and in sharing between learners and educators a commonality of practice may be achieved.

And after all those words, here is a picture of our dog, who cannot use a mobile, does not have an ipad and thinks flexible learning is picking up your bone with your hind legs......oh for a simple life :)

Monday, 4 March 2013

Some thoughts on cultural diversity.

The Barrier of Dominant Professional Culture.

Pondering cultural diversity led me to consider the impact of culture and cultural diversity not only as it pertains to learners but also how it affects the educators.

Most staff who work in the School of Midwifery are midwives. Midwifery as a profession has a distinct culture which is in part created by the philosophical underpinnings of the profession; feminism and partnership being central tenants accompanied with the culture created by autonomy and self- reliance.

Thus as midwifery educators we look to embed these strong cultural influences into the midwifery programme. This is done on many levels from expectations of students to course content and delivery as well as the likes of assessment tasks and principles. The theory behind this is that as we try to ‘grow’ new midwives there is an acknowledgment that the making of a midwife is not just about the transfer of clinical knowledge, but a much broader concept of growing a learner to be confident, competent and willing to embrace the culture of the profession.

After considering the material in module 4 of the Flexible Learning course I have begun to wonder about how this, for want of a better word, assimilation of student midwives into the dominant midwifery culture may in fact create cultural barriers which impede diversity within the profession. For while one can see the history and thinking behind why midwifery has this culture, it is overtly dominant and may disadvantage a learner who was not prepared to adopt its mantle.

Therefore somewhat strangely I find myself thinking that professional midwifery culture may be a barrier to learner cultural diversity in midwifery students.
A study of some of the more practical and logistical barriers to diversity and some supports around these will be considered in my next blog........coming to a screen near you very soon.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Introduction to Midwifery; a flexiblity checklist.


At this point it is only fair that I bring my hidden agenda out into the open. I have a project this year to develop an exisiting midwifery course into an Open Education Resource. Much of the reasoning and conceptualising for this fits within Flexible Learning, so to use the old addage of 'killing two birds with one stone' I will focus much of my development on the Introduction to Midwifery course.


Currently the Introduction to Midwifery course is a 10 credit course run as an elective paper option for students enrolled in the Certificate in Health course. It is delivered in a blended style with a mixture of face to face, online, group and peer to peer learning. Assessments are by way of an assignment, contributions to an online discussion forum and a group presentation.

The aim of redesigning this course into an OER resource is to provide greater access to information as to the practicalities and realities of being a midwife in New Zealand, particulary for those considering it as a study option. Reduce the current staffing needs to deliver the course and provide a course that still meets the needs of those completing the Cert in Health but also provide the option of engaging with the content without having to enroll or complete the course assessments.

Flexibility Checklist.

Adapting the grid and tables from Collis and Moonen (2004) and Casey and Wilson (2005) I have created a checklist of degrees of flexibility within this course design and provided a contrast between the current course and the intended OER course.



Key: Black = current course. Red = what will change in new course. Green=things that will not change.

FIXED (not flexible)
MEDIUM (or able to change)
Starting and finishing the course.
Must be completed within Cert in Health timetable.
Can be completed at any time, but if enrolled as part of Cert in Health will be done according to their timetable.
Submitting assessments and interacting within the course.
Assignment deadlines are set and interaction is scheduled.
Assessment not required by all participants.
Tempo, pace of study.
Somewhat fixed to assessment and face to face timetable, but self-directed learning is at own pace.
Able to be completed at own pace unless enrolled in Cert in Health.
Moments of assessment.
Will remain fixed.
Topics of the course.
Fixed and defined by learning outcomes.
Scope to alter topics but would require new course outline.
Sequence of the course.
Fixed in timetable.
Potential to sequence individually by having resources open all the time. However some suggested sequencing in order to build on learning may be recommended.
Orientation of the course (theoretical or practical)
Conditions of participation.
Must meet Cert in Health entry requirements.
Open access.
Social organisation of learning (face to face, group, individual.
Mix of face to face, group work and some self-directed work.
Completely online, perhaps face to face for those enrolled in Cert in Health.
Language to be used
Could be translated into numerous languages.
Learning resources: modality, origin.
Online, face to face and peer to peer.
Instructional organisation of learning.
Meeting OP standards for course level and outline.
Need to meet OP standards for Cert in Health, but no fixed institutional needs for OER re assessment but must meet institutional policy for OER, such as the educational platform used.
Time and place where contact with instructor and other students can occur.
Methods, technology for obtaining support and making contact.
Email, web forum, phone.
Types of help, communication available, technology required.
Tutor, institutional support.
Facilitator, peer to peer discussion forum. Admin institutional support.
Location, technology for participating in the course.
Delivery channels for course information content, communication.
Online, and face to face.


Grid adapted from Casey, J. & Wilson, P. (2005) A practical guide to providing flexible learning in further and higher education.


11 areas of the new course design become more flexible.

1 remains with the same degree of flexibility.

2 become less flexible.