03 SES 07 A, Curricular Capacity Building
After having taught a course on Curriculum Theory and Development (CTD) via face-to-face instruction to undergraduate students of Basic Education for many years, in the academic years 2011/12 and 2012/13 I taught the same course via e-learning, at the University of the Azores (UA), Portugal. Considering that the full virtualization of a course is still a rare phenomenon at the UA, I decided to use Curriculum Design Research (CDR) to study the development of the above-mentioned online version of the course on CTD, which, from now on, will be designated as CTD-O.
CDR “is often initiated for complex, innovative tasks for which only very few validated principles are available to structure and support the design and development activities” (van den Akker, 2009, p. 45). When a new curricular challenge emerges and heuristics or “how to do” guidelines for dealing with it are hardly available, CDR may be useful as a methodology that is capable of generating design principles. It is not difficult to find guidelines for online course design in the literature. But it is not easy to find guidelines or descriptions of models that can be immediately adapted to the specific needs of the context wherein CTD-O was created. Indeed, the context is quite challenging, both because e-learning is at a very early stage of development within the UA and because there is not much literature on teaching CTD online. Accordingly, the project reported in this paper started with the following research question: what are the characteristics of an online course on CTD that meets the learning needs of undergraduate students of basic education at the UA?
I will describe and discuss the evaluation of prototypes 1 (2011/12) and 2 (2012/13) of CTD-O. Findings from this study have already been presented (Sousa, 2013), but some of them need a deeper discussion, especially findings that raise questions about the relationship between e-learning and one of the key-issues of the Bologna Process: the measurement, the organization and the distribution of the students' workload. Accordingly, I intend to discuss CTD-O in terms of its impact on the students' workload. Some research suggests that in some European countries students have perceived that the allocation of ECTS on the basis of an estimation of their workload hardly happens, whereas in other countries students have perceived that it happens to a large extent (Päll et al., 2012). Even if the overall allocation for each semester is accurate, more attention needs to be paid to the distribution of the workload across the semester, in order to avoid overloads in some weeks (Komenda & Malisa, 2010). Accordingly, one of the main principles that guided the design of CTD-O was balanced distribution of the students' workload across the semester. This kind of distribution is challenging, inasmuch as many Portuguese students are used to an academic tradition wherein their workload across the semester is uneven. They tend to be exposed to lectures most of the time and to formal assessment in two or three moments only. Therefore, their workload tends to be low most of the time and rise dramatically some days before the tests. CTD-O implied an even distribution of the students' workload and also continuous assessment across the semester. This strategy prevents procrastination, which is frequently pointed out as a shortcoming of asynchronous communication via e-learning (Graham, 2005), and ensures the provision of quick feedback, which is critical for the success of e-learning (Cabero, 2006). However, considering that this strategy challenged the students' habits, some data related to their perception of workload was collected and analyzed. Special attention will be paid to such data in this paper.
Cabero, J. (2006). Bases pedagogicas del e-learning. Revista de Universidad y Sociedad del Conocimiento, 3 (1), 1-10. Edwards, J., & Gordon, S. M. (2010). Teaching action research at a distance. In K. E. Rudestam & J. Schoenholtz-Read (Eds.), Handbook of online learning (2nd ed,. Pp. 347-368). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. Graham, C. (2005). Blended learning systems: Definition, current trends, and future directions. In C. Bonk & C. Graham (Eds.), Handbook of online learning: Global perspectives, local designs (pp. 3-21). San Francisco: Pfeiffer. Komenda, T. & Malisa, V. (2010). Implementation of the ECTS-Barometer to illustrate course achievement using the master degree program mechatronics/robotics as a model. Paper presented at the Joint International IGIP-SEFI Annual Conference, Trnava. Nieveen, N. (1997). Computer support for curriculum developers: A study on the potential of computer support in the domain of formative curriculum evaluation. PhD thesis, University of Twente, Enschede. Nieveen, N. (2009). Formative evaluation in educational design research. In Plomp & Nieveen (Eds.), An introduction to educational design research (pp. 89-101). Enschede: SLO. Päll, A. et al. (2012). Bologna with student eyes 2012. Brussels: European Students' Union. Sousa, F. (2013). CTD-O: Developing an online course on curriculum theory and studying how to do it . In J. A. Pacheco et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the European Conference on Curriculum Studies. Future Directions: Uncertainty and Possibility (pp. 841-847). Braga: University of Minho. van den Akker, J. (2009). Curriculum design research. In Plomp & Nieveen (Eds.) An introduction to educational design research (pp. 37-71). Enschede: SLO.
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