Innovative, interactive communication
Eleanor, a lecturer in Communication, shows off her own communication skills in her interactive CD ROMs.
Eleanor uses the USQStudyDesk and CD ROMs for her communication courses. They include innovative features such as slide presentations, audio files, video-snippet interviews, multiple choice quizzes, complete required readings, interactive tasks, reviews, diagrams with commentaries, animations, zooms, cartoons, links to sample assignments, summaries, notes and a study schedule, all in one place.
Eleanor's courses are aimed at a variety of first year students within the Faculty of Arts (and a few from outside), representing a wide range of demographics. There are about 800-900 students taking Communication and Scholarship (CMS 1000), and about 60% are off-campus.
Learning goals and objectives
The aim is to provide free access to the exact same content for on-campus and off-campus students. It's designed for maximum flexibility and effectiveness. The course itself introduces students to the theory and practice of communication, with particular application to academic and professional settings. Because it's about communication, Eleanor felt it was important to make sure that the materials were communicated effectively! To this end, she tries to make the course fun, breaking it up into small parts, including pictures, cartoons and interactive activities, and presenting information in different ways for different styles of learner.
Who did/does what
The previous dean originally asked for the introductory communications course to be put onto CD and it was very basic to start with. DeC (particularly Michael Sankey) helped Eleanor develop the material into something more sophisticated and creative, and Greg Coombes did some original cartoons to illustrate arguments and some aspects of group dynamics. The design now includes interactive learning-style assessment, PowerPoint presentations (using Breeze), audio snippets and videos. The latter two are accompanied by transcripts, to aid students from overseas. At the end of each module, students can try their hand at a multiple choice quiz, which provides explanations of the correct answers. Students submit work through this same portal, which they can do either on disc or through the web.
It's been an ongoing process of development and refinement, and Eleanor is happy with the materials, feeling that they provide what the students need. She finds it fun and easy to use. One thing that she did change was to shorten the interviews – originally these were full-length interviews provided on a separate disc, but she truncated them and added them to the main disc to improve digestibility.
Problems and advice for others
One disadvantage is that this way of presenting information and course materials does allow less keen students to ‘cherry-pick', ie, to do the absolute minimum they have to do to pass the course.
With the Breeze presentations (ie PowerPoint presentations with audio), Eleanor found that trying to be too perfect caused her some anxiety at first, but that once she relaxed she found it fun and interesting.
Eleanor recommends not trying to do everything at once, taking things a step at a time, thinking things through and getting information on how the technology works before starting. Learning a bit about the technology in advance can save a lot of anxiety.