Parallel 1

Exploring hybrid learning

Situated learning derives from the belief that learning is embedded in particular contexts, physical and cultural. Ideally then, knowledge - and especially knowledge in disciplines with a strong spatial dimensions like history, geography etc - should be presented in as experiential and original contexts as possible. The quality of learning depends critically on experiences and interactions as 'real' and participatory as possible. Until recently, for humanities subjects this kind of learning that is both participatory and immersive-experiential involved overwhelmingly (a) the physical presence of the entire group in one defined space and (b) the relocation of learning in physical environments embedding the information relevant to learning (e.g, museum, field trip, lab etc). But it is exactly here that digital platforms can offer a constructive and inspiring alternative. During the first semester of 2020-21, amidst the COVID pandemic, I used insights from a LPDC-funded project to integrate the metaphor of 'virtual field trips' into weekly learning. These were used as both synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences, the former enhancing the digital teaching experience, the latter providing a more interactive and structured way to bridge the gap between directed and independent learning (in this particular context also meaning time in-between 'live' learning sessions).

LAW-10037 ‘Introduction to Property Law’, is a Level 4, module, due to be delivered for the first time in Semester 2 of 2020-21 as part of a raft of new modules for the recently restructured LLB core curriculum. Developing this module presented a range of challenges around content, organisation and delivery. Not least was how to pitch notoriously difficult subject matter at an appropriate level for a large, first-year cohort. Working on this project during the summer of 2020, we sought to adopt wholeheartedly the tenets of flexible digital education to design a module which truly embraces and applies the potential of cutting-edge curriculum design. Our aim was to develop a template for delivery which would generate discussion and stimulate engagement with colleagues and students, and develop a ‘case study’ to share within (and possibly beyond) the School.

In our presentation, we will:
· review our original template and its pedagogy;
· reflect on tutor and student experience and feedback from Semester 1, (especially in relation to ‘online learning tools’); and
· explain, on the eve of its first delivery, how these have influenced the final format of the module.

The hybrid or blended learning has a complex heritage that has evolved from the distance and open education movements and the development of the online accredited or non-accredited e-learning programmes such as MOOC (UK-PSF: A2). In this case study we look at the hybrid preparations and approaches (UK-PSF: K4) used to effectively run an engaging laboratory session at the School of Life Sciences in semester-1 of academic year 2020-21, and we will reflect on learners' views as one of the major stakeholders in curriculum design (UK-PSF: A1, K5). Our observations showed that blending synchronous face-to- face learning with asynchronous online components could provide an engaging, effective and efficient lab experience. Moreover, if hybrid teaching/learning approaches are used innovatively, they can build a valuable bridge between learners and the jobs of the future (UK-PSF: V4).

Reflector: Dr Laura Hibberts

Reflections of Parallel 1

Conferences always look exciting until you remember how much work you have on and then you end up wondering if it will really be worth your time to attend, but in this case, the answer was a resounding “Yes!”

Parallel 1 began with historian Aristotle Kallis’s Simulated places, situated learning: an adventure before and during COVID, which was an account of his Teaching Innovation Project. He had me from the start when he described the project as a “productive un-success” rather than a failure. His project aimed to use innovative technology to provide his students with virtual situated learning, such as online virtual tours of museums and other places of interest. It was a fascinating account of different approaches, their impacts, and the obstacles that prevented their further development. Aristotle is a natural story teller, and what stood out for me was his resourcefulness, resilience and creativity, showing that there is always something else to try and maybe some of his ideas will work for you.

Next was Mark Davys and Lara McMurty’s account of their development of a Level 4 module on Introduction to Property Law: From Dream to Delivery: Developing a Law Module for the Future, which aimed to move away from some of the more traditional methods of delivery.

This was one of those talks that I was able to take ideas from and put into action straight away. As someone who has recently spent months on module development for Foundation Year, I was interested to hear Mark and Lara’s ideas. What struck me most was the idea of giving students a study plan for each week that told them what tasks they should be doing and how long these tasks should take.  I incorporated this idea into the module guide I was writing that very afternoon. They also had students completing group work on a tutorial topic before the tutorial. This was an idea I had been contemplating, but as a result of their talk, I decided to adopt the same model.  Maybe some of their innovative ideas will provide you with an instant teaching fix as well!

Finally, Ella Maysami and Samirah Chowdhury presented Delivering Laboratory practical sessions using a hybrid approach-case study (L5 Life Sciences). The most crucial point from this session for me was how important the student experience is in any teaching and it was represented here by Samirah, a L5 Life Sciences student. Samirah gave her response to a blended learning approach to bench work, implemented by Ella and the results may surprise you. This joint presentation by a lecturer and student highlighted the partnership between teacher and student that is vital to high quality learning.

What makes a good presentation? It is sharing a well-told story of good practice that inspires others to apply it to their own teaching, and that is what our Parallel 1 presenters did.

Recording: Exploring hybrid learning