Dr Lucy Tallents from the Department of Zoology has won the Higher Education Online/Hybrid category of this year’s Teaching With Sakai Innovation Award (TWSIA). TWSIA, which is a worldwide competition, has been running since 2008 and recognises excellence in teaching and learning using Sakai (which is the software upon which WebLearn is based).
Winning this prestigious award is a stunning achievement especially considering that Lucy only started her course in earnest from October 2014 and has only been using WebLearn since June 2013. What is even more impressive is that the whole course is constructed using the brand new Lessons tool which has never before been exploited to this extent at Oxford.
After receiving the award Lucy said, “Amazing news! I’m thrilled that the judges like my work! [....] I found the application process really useful to reflect on how I design my courses, and what I can aspire to in terms of better student engagement.”
What the judges thought about course
The judges assessed the TWSIA entries based on five aspects of a Sakai site: community-building and collaboration, communication, learning materials and strategies, learning outcomes and assessment, and learner support. Lucy’s course was judged ‘excellent’ on all five aspects.
The judges remarked that Lucy’s course was well-designed and soundly implemented in order to support a group of full-time professionals from countries around the world. They were impressed by the innovative course design – integrating technologies and tools with sound pedagogy. For example, the course encouraged students participation, intersection and self-reflection.
Through the WebLearn Lessons tool students were given opportunities to negotiate their learning contracts by developing consensus on the responsibilities of themselves, tutors and peers.
Lucy has been invited to attend the upcoming Open Apereo 2015 conference in Baltimore to talk about her winning entry; she plans to deliver her presentation using the Lessons tool.
The Conservation Statistics Course
Lucy teaches a 9-week on-line WebLearn course called Conservation Statistics.This engaging course is centred around the newly added Lessons tool and employs many different tools sometimes in novel ways, for example, the Surveys Beta tool is used to conduct a skills audit.
Lucy has also used a Lessons student content page to ‘negotiate learning contracts’ by ‘unpacking expectations and…deciding which behaviours create a supportive and exciting learning environment…’.
Wildlife conservationists in the developing world are the keepers of biodiversity, yet they lack access to training in research techniques to support their valuable work. By studying on-line they don’t need to interrupt their work or pay the costs of overseas travel.
Lucy’s course is full of team activities, self-paced assessments and engaging learning materials. Students from around the world can work together to learn from each other about how solutions developed on different continents can help species in their local area.
Feedback from their tutor and fellow students helps them to self-assess their attempts to save species, using scientific methods to improve their approach.
Lucy also paid tribute to the support she received from IT Services’: “I’d like to say how supportive the WebLearn team has been. Their training and assistance boosted my confidence and curiosity to experiment with Sakai, and their advice was crucial to implementing some of my ideas.”