This case study explores student perceptions of consistency across key content and design across modules in the department of Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment, IOE.
14 Sept 2021
Case study by: Dima Khazem, Connected Learning Lead (CPA CLL) and Lecturer (Teaching), MA Education programme.
What was the aim of the project?
The project involves MA students reflecting on their learning experiences across modules studied within CPA to help us evaluate the consistency of key content and design across modules. We aim to use this information to understand what represents quality of consistency in module design and key content, while retaining creativity and the need for differing pedagogical approaches.
What did you do/what happened?
In this project, we worked with 16 postgraduate students from across 5 different pathways within CPA to find out their perceptions about consistency of Moodle module design and key content. Students were surveyed from MA Education, MA Education (Assessment), MA Education (Geography), STEPS programme and the Diploma in Advanced Educational Practice. Students were asked within staff facilitated focus groups about their experiences of consistency across Moodle module design as they moved between core and option modules and between those offered in different routes/programmes. Students were also encouraged to reflect on their learning experiences and the effect of Moodle module design and key content on these experiences.
Student partners told us that they dislike inconsistency in Moodle module page design when they work their way across modules and find it 'confusing and needs time to adjust to though we get used to it eventually'. They say they would prefer Moodle module design across programmes and routes to be 'consistent, clear and colourful with some nice pictures' but that 'design should not be cluttered'. They like 'organised pages which are not distracting' and prefer design 'which allows ease of navigation'. Accessibility is important too and they dislike inaccessible design such as using 'dark colours and fonts for section tabs like purple tabs with teal fonts'!
“Our PGT student partners also stressed that consistency matters both 'in terms of learning and engagement' and they felt that 'Moodle design influences experience rather than outcome, but experience is important because we spend so much time online'.
In terms of key Moodle module content, students said they like content that helps them organise themselves and understand how modules are organised and paced such as 'clear timelines or timetables near the top of the Module Moodle page, tasks with clear time periods to complete and checklists'; or clear statements with anaphoric and cataphoric references 'about what has been done or will follow next'. They appreciate little 'snippets of information above each reading material about the context/author' and 'good additional resources and resource folders which are not empty'! They also value 'an announcements section, transcriptions of lectures and links to library reading lists' and absolutely 'love forums' although they regret the difference in student engagement during group work. They want design and content that can help online learning to 'become more human such as introductory tasks with student pictures and stories' and 'additional resources that we can access at our own pace, especially videos and podcasts which are easier to engage with'.
Why was this project important? How would it improve the learning experience of students?
This project was important because discussions with our Student Academic Representatives (SARs) and feedback from our colleagues teaching on the MA programmes, indicate that although students find the different Moodle design approaches within the department both creative and interesting, they feel that more consistency in module design and key content would make learning less stressful and more accessible. This is relevant to the majority of MA students in CPA who study the same two core modules alongside their specialist MA route modules or option modules.
We hope that our student partners’ reflections on the effect consistency of Moodle module design and key content had on their learning experiences will help improve learning experiences for our future students, especially as we prepare for a blended learning offer for next year which will entail revisiting our Moodle module design and key content.
The CPA Connected Learning Lead, Dima Khazem, who initiated the project, presented the findings to staff in CPA in a departmental meeting so findings can be used to illuminate further development of Moodle module design and key content and its consistency within the department (see PowerPoint in Project Outcomes section). The findings will be shared also across the IOE CLL network, the IOE AHLT network, and the rest of IOE in the form of a blog, staff bulletin and other outputs.
A staff rubric will be developed and shared on the CPA department’s Teaching & Learning portal and cascaded to staff.
What was your role?
Dima Khazem, CPA CLL, proposed the project and wrote the application for funding with support from all other 6 staff. She also led on the project, prepared semi-structured questions, populated the ChangeMakers CPA 2020/21 Moodle page with relevant forms, performed initial data analysis, presented findings to CPA department meeting on 9 July 2021, and wrote a blog and a Changemakers case study. She will also develop a staff rubric, and in discussion with the Faculty Technology Lead, Tim Neuman, explore how this can be used to develop faculty wide consistency in Moodle module design and key content.
What roles did other team members play? And how did staff and students work together on the project?
Mary Richardson commented on proposal, set up project Moodle page, collected data and recorded own focus group discussion.
Mary Fargher commented on proposal, brainstormed for research design, collected data and recorded focus group discussion.
Kim Insley commented on proposal, collected data and transcribed and recorded own focus group discussion.
Sophie Kerslake commented on proposal, collected data and transcribed and recorded own focus group discussion.
Lauren Clark commented on proposal, collected data, including student examples of good/poor design practice, and recorded own focus group discussion.
Cosette Crisan commented on proposal, set up project budget, arranged student vouchers and authorized CDA employment and pay. She will also cascade this project amongst the IOE AHLT network and the IOE all staff bulletin. She has also supported the CLL throughout the project application and reporting process because she has past experience of ChangeMakers project work.
We have also employed two CDAs, Kristyna Campbell (PGR) and Kristin Miltner-Zubrzycki (PGT), to transcribe three sets of data and are grateful for their support.
This was a great partnership of staff and students which is one valuable aspect of ChangeMakers’ projects. Our 16 students were willing to talk to us despite the challenging times we all went through this year as staff and students. The project aimed to recruit more students (20 in total) but pressures of deadlines and personal circumstances meant that we ended up with 16 student partners only.
What was involved in terms of approach, logistics, time or resources?
The project was conceived in February 2021 following a CPA Teaching and Leaning Committee meeting and an application was made on 11 February 2021 which needed a couple of hours to fill in. All 7 staff involved in the project shared comments about the application and gave further suggestions, while the CLL chased for approvals, sent queries to UCL changemakers, and finally submitted the application. Approval was granted on 11 March 2021 and another round of meetings and e-mail liaison led to a research design approach involving focus groups with each of the four route leaders and one deputy module leader facilitating focus groups with students whom they have recruited through an open call out. All seven staff involved undertook ethics training in term 2 as a condition and pre-requisite for data collection. Tasks were divided and two CDAs were approached for providing support. In terms 3, the Moodle page was populated by the CLL including information sheets, consent forms and semi-structured questions. Student partners were asked by the 5 staff involved in data collection to undertake ethics training, read information sheets and fill consent forms ahead of focus groups happening. Data collection happened in late May/early June and transcription and reporting back to the ChangeMakers team happened in mid and late June. Data analysis was undertaken by the CLL in late June and early July 2021.
What difference has this made to staff or students?
The project was an eye opener to the staff involved in it who have key roles in CPA including 2 AHLTs/route leaders, 3 other route leaders, one deputy module leader and the Connected Learning Lead. Many of us were fascinated by what students had to say and the project helped us see things through their eyes. After cascading this to staff at the department meeting, several staff expressed interest in the project and a CPA Lecturer, Ronaldo Mazorodze, met with the CLL to share a similar project he was involved with elsewhere. The CLL also exchanged e-mails with the MA Education Programme Leader, Russell Smith about the implications for Moodle module design for next year. A staff rubric should help all staff produce a more consistent approach to Moodle module design and content and this is to be shared within and beyond CPA. We believe that this will have positive short term and long term impacts.
Because students told us that this inconsistency affects both their engagement and experience, we feel that moving to a more consistent approach to design and key content will make to difference to students in the long term.
What are your plans for the future?
We hope to engender an ongoing discussion about this within CPA and possibly IOE as a whole, and to share our findings through other outputs such as a conference presentation and or journal article.