Jutta Törnqvist, Lecturer in Online Media, Department of Culture and Media, Arcada UAS
This text reflects on the feedback of the ‘content packaging’ experience in the course UX & UI that I blogged about earlier while in the planning stage. Students were required to give their feedback based on the path they had selected at the start of the course. Interestingly, the results show no big surprises in terms of expectations and were very positive in general. That said, there is always room for improvement (or ‘pruning’ if I return to my earlier theme) and I discuss some of the more pertinent comments below.
Just to remind the reader, the idea was to package course content into study paths (Small, medium and large) to cater to a diverse student body (learners with a specialisation in Online Media and other learners with an interest in the subject coming from a variety of degree programmes) with different needs, as well as levels of ambition.
The feedback on how students found this course setup was gathered via discussion during the course, and using a general questionnaire at the end of the course. Since this was an experiment, it was primarily important to find out if there is a real need for a choice of study paths. I used the general course feedback questionnaire that is recommended by Arcada as a part of our quality assessment process, and included a few adjustments to allow me to separate opinions from the three different study paths. The questionnaire was otherwise anonymous, and divided the data into statistics and qualitative answers.
An analysis of the answers pinpoint the good things in the course, as well as students’ suggestions to make the course more suitable for them, depending on which amount of engagement they had chosen. The course also had two additional means of grouping the learners; 1) the Online Media students who were attending the lectures in class; and 2) IT students who were distance-learners. The course material thus also tested how well it works as an online course.
There was no negative feedback on the choice of paths at all, on the contrary the ability to choose a package was most appreciated. The freedom of choice was expressed as “being able to take responsibility for one’s own workload, which then reflects the course grade very concretely”. It was a clear choice and setup for the students, it seems. The things to adjust for next year’s course are more of technical nature when it comes to Itslearning, our e-learning platform. Also, some assignments need downscaling, which I already noticed and decided during the course and therefore that particular feedback was of no surprise to me.
Beside the expected feedback on the concept of packaging two things stood out that especially woke my interest.
Correlation between path & ambition (mindset)
The answers from the questionnaire showed a correlation between ambition and type of feedback. All paths had a common theory task in between the weeks. Beyond that path S had one weekly task where M had two and L had three. A few comments on “too big a workload” appeared in every package’s feedback, but with clear differences.
The L path with most work generated some feedback on too much to do, but only when talking about the final task: the case study. However, at the same time, there were also comments on wanting more to do and requests for a longer course appeared within that group. This shows clear signs of high ambition and motivation for the subject at hand.
Some students in the M path also commented on a large workload in comparison to other similar sized courses but considered the amount of work as manageable.
The feedback from the S path with the least workload really strengthens the view on this correlation, as the path also generated feedback on too much to do. It would be very interesting to be able to follow up this mindset more closely, to be able to understand how this little amount of work can feel like too much. Or to know if the knowledge of getting graded with 1 or 2 does affect the view on the workload. Unfortunately, all feedback was anonymous, so no follow-up is possible and instead this can be a subject for research next year.
Preferred knowledge creation
I aim to plan courses where theoretical material supports the practical tasks both on a wider and deeper perspective. I want the story in the course to make sense so that one logical step follows another. In practice, I use books as well as LinkedIn Learning as sources when applying the flipped classroom method. The aim with the theoretical material in UX & UI is to make students aware of history, about how web design and usability has changed alongside the technical development of computers and smart phones. Still showing them how many old usability theories still apply today.
In a field that rapidly changes, students need to search for information themselves. If one compares the current students’ performance with that when flipped classroom was introduced, there is a big difference. Earlier the expectation was that the teacher lectures and informs the students of things, whereas nowadays students are comfortable to learn by themselves. This raises another set of challenges and questions.
“The videos that are on LinkedIn Learning are annoying to watch when they are divided into many videos, so I rather search for similar videos on YouTube and watch them.” This particular feedback makes me think about a couple of things. 1) Can I trust student’s source criticism? (here: my personal scepticism towards YouTube) 2) Is this a matter of habits and comfort zone? 3) or is this in fact a reliable measure of the student’s abilities to learn? And this is not the first time someone comments on preferring YouTube over high quality pedagogic videos on LinkedIn Learning.
The third point made me think about my colleagues’ blogs, “Learning from Scratch” (Kelly, 2020) and “Rote learning and epistemic beliefs” (Ståhl, 2020) discussing student’s abilities to learn. Has the ability and habit to find information in order to learn gone so far that students start questioning all other sources than the ones with which they are most familiar?
In general, I don’t see this kind of mindset as a problem. This is exactly the kind of 21st century knowledge students need for Lifelong learning in fields that are rapidly changing. I will start thinking more closely how I can support this kind of student initiative without losing control of the course content and without totally outsourcing the learning.
The ‘content packaging’ experience has shown an appreciation and a need for choice. My next steps moving towards making this a standard, is to have the same set up next year and gather more qualitative feedback from all paths. I want to research the correlation between paths, ambition and possibly the mindset of knowing the grade in advance. Also, I am going to expand the theoretical material in my courses by encouraging students to find their own sources in addition to my chosen ones. This can lead to an interesting analytical comparison as well as being an exercise in critical thinking by motivating the choice of source. Which, in turn, puts us one step closer to the academic thinking required when writing the thesis.