A core component of the LXT shift of post-graduate subjects into Canvas, referred to as Whole of Course (WOC) brought course teams together in a series of workshops. Through this process I’ve had many valuable discussions with course teams looking at common features, opportunities, and challenges for subjects as they interrelate within a course.
Taking time to ask questions around who the students generally are, where each subject fits a course, and how the subject contributes to successful graduates resulted in some fantastic insights, particularly in relation to the student experience. While some of these conversations were more difficult than others, and not every course has a defined pathway or common student experience, the conversations that I have been part of have been fascinating.
For courses where student progression through subjects is more defined (think closely monitored external registration bodies or professionally aligned degrees) there is still a surprising amount to talk about. Even where the relationship between the subject and the course is carefully documented and adhered to, there is still an opportunity to talk about consistent approaches and patterns for student tasks. Consistent approaches to tasks, and even spending time focussed upon the consistency of the look and feel for subjects within a course, brings cohesion to subject sites adding up to a holistic and unified approach to the course.
For other courses where progression through subjects is more flexible, there might be distinct disciplines that, after the foundational content, have less in common as a student progresses. Similarly, students might take subjects in any order as it relates to their personal learning journey (or whim!), in which case, it is hard to design-in where they are introduced to a key concept or skill across the degree. In these cases the conversations can start much more broadly; what type of students does this course typically attract? What are common experiences, pain points, or opportunities that we can build consistency around? In both instances a level of consistency can be achieved through uniform language, similar patterns of module sequences, and attention to the look and feel of subject sites.
Mountains and termite mounds
These are all admirable and useful conversations, right? But it is not always easy to get the whole teaching team together and some of the conversations that happen are complex and messy which takes time, something in pretty short supply! Things like assessments and core content can be difficult to update outside of the Faculty processes and often require confirmation from course teams, and faculty course committees. So, while it is important to schedule in time for course discussions and include the perspectives of all subjects, teaching staff, students and stakeholders, if that feels a bit overwhelming or impractical, there are still some things you can do at a subject level to reflect a course-lead approach.
Engage students in course level thinking
Reflection tasks or prompts at the beginning and end of a subject can encourage students to think about a subject in the context of their course, what is it they hope this will add to their experience of of the course, and how this subject will contribute to their professional identity and understanding.
Begin by speaking to someone coordinating a subject in the same year group, session, or discipline to you and talk about some of the questions outlined above. Collaborate on common patterns for presenting tasks or agreeing on a common use of language. Is it ‘pre-class’, ‘pre-work’, or ‘before class’ to describe student tasks to be completed before their synchronous class? See how students respond to the changes you and your colleague have made and share them with others coordinating in similar subjects, or with your course team.
Keep it front of mind
As a great resource once said, no subject is an island, so keep the overarching objectives of the course in mind when making changes to the subject. Aligning to the graduate attributes, but also any professional registration frameworks can provide a useful structure for these conversations, and if in doubt have a chat with the Course Director or Head of Discipline to talk through some of your questions.
Other resources and articles on connecting a subject to its course you may be interested in reading:
- Program alignment and consultation
- Advice from academics going through the LXT Whole of Course process
- Spotlight on: course-led approach
- Planning your canvas course resource collection