The School of Social Work at UC LIllebælt has had a distance learning programme for the last decade. While the programme was very much at the frontline of online higher education in Denmark when it began, we feel that both the didactic and the technological approach to the programme could need some updating. As more colleges have started online or distance programmes in social work, UC Lillebælt obviously faces increased competition so one aim in developing the programme is of course to keep UC Lillebælt competitive. It is not our aim to move students from the daytime to the online programme, but the tools available in ICT-based education may also give us a broader selection of didactic and technological tools in the daytime programme.
In terms of didactics, the distance programme mainly builds on a mix of in-house sessions every third week and individual and group-based work in between sessions. We should note that our students are expected to conduct their studies in groups of 5-6. Students then have the opportunity to receive feedback on papers and exercises delivered during or at the end of each period of home studies.
One issue is that teachers generally feel that they lose contact with their students between sessions as students are reluctant to use the means of communication available to then through the College’s LMC. Another issue is that classes during sessions take the form of traditional lecture-based instruction. This means that the selection of didactic strategies in the distance programme tends to be more limited compared to those used in the daytime programme. While both teachers and students see the possibilities of flexible studiespositively, teachers feel that a higher degree of structuring and a higher level of communication between teachers and students should and could be achieved.
In technological terms, the college’s LMS basically allows for the distribution of material – and sequential communication. This means that students tend to drift to other platforms where teachers aren’t or choose not to be presents.
So, what we (or rather: I) will be looking for is first and foremost discussions and introductions about didactic strategies which encourages students’ regular activity in online programmes which the concept of “flipped learning” or “flipped classroom” coming to mind. Last year, some of us were introduced to the concept of “storyboarding” online courses and while we for a number of reasons have failed to implement this so far (one issue here is that programme courses are given as cross-discipline modules involving 5-8 teachers during a 10-week module), a combination of storyboarding and flipping might be a strategy for turning focus away from classroom instruction and to more regular interaction between teachers and students. Just as last year, my focus will be less on technologies in their own right and more on possible ways of expanding the range of tools available in in-class and online teaching and learning.