Opening up my practice

We have now reached unit 6 in the course flexible, distance and open learning  and the topic for this unit is “Open educational practices”. I will here reflect on my current practice and identify I can provide opportunities to my students to connect with individuals, groups and resources beyond the course, module, programme boundaries.

An idea that I have already written about is to use blogging as a tool for my students to interact more openly. I will revise some of the content here, and also add some reflections based on the insights I’ve gained so far in the course.

In one of the courses in health informatics I teach, the students work in smaller groups (5-6 students with mixed backgrounds, some clinicians and some developers/engineers) throughout the course to analyze needs and requirements for a health informatics system of their choosing. It is very difficult to gain access to real stakeholders/end users during the 6 weeks the course is running and so the course (albeit being hands-on in the use of different analysis and modeling tools) becomes quite abstract and disconnected from reality. The students are very creative in their work, but have complained about not really knowing whether their ideas are really relevant or not (despite getting feedback from me, they want to hear from the real end-users which is exactly what I teach them is important). An idea I’ve gotten was that if the students were to describe their proposed systems and progress continuously on blogs, would it then be possible to get feedback from real stakeholders? By making the blogs public perhaps we could actually get healthcare professionals, patients and other stakeholders to access and comment on the proposed solutions.

Hilton et al describe three different types of learner interaction that is important to support; learner – content, learner – learner, and learner – teacher. The blogs I suggest could be a means to support interaction within the course, but my goal is rather to create opportunities for learners to interact outside the course. I’m not entirely certain what this interaction might be called, perhaps learner – public interaction? Either way, it would be interesting to explore how useful such interactions could be.

I see two main challenges to get this idea working, (1) to get others to feedback/comment on the students blogs, and (2) to get all students to feel comfortable opening up their learning like this.

Here’s my plan to address these issues.

1. FEEDBACK FROM OUTSIDE I think that there are a lot of people out there who are interested in health IT and who are eager to comment and give feedback. If I were to organize f2f sessions with such people it would however be costly and time consuming. BUT, reading someones blog posts and writing a few lines back is much less resource consuming. And since I have a growing network in Sweden and internationally of people (both technical and clinical) who are interested in health IT, why not make use of it? So, today I asked on twitter (making use of the fact that it’s an IT in healthcare conference going on in Stockholm today with the hashtag #ITivardendagen) for volunteers to read and give feedback on my students blog. In a matter of minutes 5 persons expressed their interest, and I haven’t really started trying yet. So, I’ve got high hopes for this, and I’ve decided to at least give it a try when my course starts in January – and even if the feedback from outside does not work, we’ll  use traditional peer feedback which will be an additional learning experience for the students.

2. DIGITAL LITERACY AND OPENNESS – one concern I have is that not all students may feel comfortable sharing their work online. My plan is to let them choose; since we have the opportunity to create closed blogs within the learning platform we use at Karolinska Institutet it would be possible for students to reflect and receive feedback within the course. I will however clearly describe the rationale for using open blogging, and provide an introduction to the tools, to support and motivate those students who are uncertain. Simpson also focus on motivation as a key aspect of online learning [2], and I believe that both peer feedback and (perhaps even more so) feedback from the public could increase student motivation and creativity.

I have other ideas for opening up my teaching practice, some I have described previously here. Providing my courses as completely online courses is not relevant right now, but I think it could be a step-wise development – by using more open, online resources in our campus-based teaching the effort required to offer the course fully online is decreased. Finally, I do find the idea of open courses appealing and hopefully in the future more of the health informatics courses we teach at KI can reach a wider audience!

[1] John L. Hilton III, Charles Graham, Peter Rich and David Wiley, Using Online Technologies to Extend a Classroom to Learners at a Distance

[2] Ormond Simpson. Motivating learners in open and distance learning: Do we need a theory of  learner support?

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6 Responses to Opening up my practice

  1. Åsa Cajander says:

    Du kanske ske presentera ditt pedagogiska utvecklinsprojekt på tex eller kanske på

    • Det är ju en lysande idé, Åsa! Deadline 12 januari är kanske lite tajt – kursen jag vill prova i börjar inte förrän i slutet av januari… men vore roligt att göra något mer av det.

  2. Hej Maria,

    Another great post . It is truly wonderful how you relate FDOL to you own practice and reflect on opportunities for your courses. I like your idea about letting students decide if their spaces are open or closed to the wider public. I am wondering if these could be shared ‘openly’ among students so that conversations can happen within the group?

    Thinking about opening up our courses can, as you say be valuable for our students. You mention a collaborative course with another university. I would be very interested to find out more about this especially how learning looks like fir students from both institutions.

    Wishing you a good weekend


  3. Thank you for your feedback, Chrissi! Yes, the “closed” blogs we have as part of the learning platform can be shared within the student group so feedback is still possible – otherwise I think it would definitely loose some purpose.

    When you mention a collaboration with another university – are you referring to students with different background (both clinical and technical)? It just happens to be that the entire master programme is now shared between Stockholm University and Karolinska Instutet (when we began KI “owned” the programme), but all students are registered at the same time to the same programme and there’s no division of KI-students vs SU students.

    There are some challenges in getting clinical and technical student to “speak the same language” and sometimes there’s frustration when “the other topic” is difficult to grasp – but I think most students really appreciate working together and learning from each other and being a health informatician requires you to grasp both worlds even if you started your journey in one of them. It is a profoundly interdisciplinary field and one of the main lessons learned is that you can’t be an expert on everything yourself, so you have to work together with people with different kinds of knowledge and experiences. And in order to prepare for such collaborative work, I think collaborative learning is mandatory!

  4. annelee2 says:

    Dear Maria, you thoughts and ideas presented here are innovative and highly interesting! I work a lot with quality initiatives in the pediatric department i am working in. as part of the initiatives i try to develop IT systems for health care workers. the ultimate goal is to improve patient safety. in my work i am to an increasing extent faced with the demand of seeing things from a user perspective (‘brukermedvirkning’) and there is a trend towards empowerment of patients in the health care labyrinth. Giving patients and their relatives the opportunity to participate in discussions around developments within health care in general is a highly welcome direction of development.

    In the case of patients, I suggest you approach patient organizations, like for instance organizations that are on Facebook and/or Twitter, reflecting some kind of digital literacy within the organization. I would suggest you invite patients to give feedback to blog post through the respective organizations instead of just merely opening up the blogs.

    I wish you all the best of luck in your efforts and I would be curious to find out how it goes!

  5. Thank you Annelee, that is great advice! Since we work a lot with participatory design with both healthcare professionals and patients, I already have some connections with patient organizations and individual patients that could be interested in helping out. Once the students have chosen the topic (type of health information system) they want to work with, I hope to be able to match some of the student groups with relevant stakeholders…

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