In this blog series, we’ve shared lessons learned based on our experiences developing and teaching new subjects for the OPM-mode of the Master of Education (Learning and Leadership) in the School of International Studies and Education in FASS. In the first blog, we reflected on what we learned about flow and pace in the online, asynchronous format of OPM. We followed this up in our second blog post with our lessons around teacher presence and student feedback. In this third and final blog post we conclude the series by reflecting on “it takes a team” and the role of collaboration within and outside of UTS in designing the new subjects. 

Critical friends

One of the key lessons we have learned is the importance of collective expertise within and beyond our team.  

We relied heavily on the expertise of our PGLD partners, who helped us imagine and build online assets that could provide variation and relevant scaffolding. The team at PGLD co-designed with our academics, focusing on the learning experience, ensuring the structure and alignment of the course and guiding the process of developing quality online resources. Learning designers also worked closely with academics to review materials, organise the production schedule, and focus our combined effort and attention. This close partnership also meant that the learning design team could take on the role of ‘critical friend’, and provide another perspective and viewpoint. 

We also benefitted from reaching out to community and industry contacts, both to help generate authentic content, but also to ‘stress test’ some of the key ideas being presented in subjects and assessments.  

Most importantly, we have learned to work even more closely and collaboratively across the course teaching team. The fact that we have a long history of working together, and understand how customisation works through subject-specific learning goals, helped us to help each other. We walked through each other’s subjects as if we were students, and discussed and tested teaching innovation ideas together. We also had the privilege of alumni who were industry experts ‘walk through’ as well as co-design and build some of our subjects too. Quality assurance is an iterative, ongoing process but feedback on our first subject inspired confidence prior to launch: 

I enjoyed the program so much that time flew and often I found myself completing the reading, activities and video for personal pleasure. I’ve seen hours of these at work and you feel like it’s a clicking multiple choice robot completing a transaction with a policy on a screen versus a  digital learning experience. Your program was the total opposite – enough context and load of content in different formats and things for me to do as a learner that I felt like I was not alone completing the learning… Not to mention the narrative the learning journey was seamless… 

A shared expertise

When you have spent hundreds of hours fully immersed writing Canvas pages, it is hard to see the wood for the trees. Dilemmas come up frequently between maintaining consistency with other subjects and tailoring to specific content and how best to introduce it. How do we afford students the trust and freedom they need to personalise their learning, while also ensuring that learning is tightly scaffolded? 

We depend on one another because of our shared expertise in both the whole-of-course approach and content. We have also developed new shared expertise, figuring out how to transform our teaching into the challenging but exciting OPM space. We have also used the whole-of-course processes to help students see the connections between subjects, as a student commented in SFS:

Many theories I had visited in other subjects continued to resonate with me, and I developed a deeper understanding of their meaning and the potential insights they could provide to my professional practice. 

We’re proud of our collective accomplishment, in partnership with our alumni, industry, UTS’s PGLD team, UTS OPM, FASS, the SOISE teaching and learning support team and, of course, Keypath. Student feedback and rapidly growing enrolments is the truest testament of our success.

Thanks to the following people for their contributions: Dr. Annie Agnew, Leticia Bairo, Professor Nick Hopwood, Dr. Lauren Knussen, Veronica Lauria, Dr. Amanda Lizier, A/Professor Jacqui McManus, Dr. Jonathon Mascorella, Dr. Soli Le-Masurier, Amanda Nairn, Mitchell Osmond, A/Professor Ann Reich, Caecilia Roth Darko, Dr. Donna Rooney, Megan Spindler-Smith 

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