AdelaideX is a new online teaching and learning initiative at the University of Adelaide, and when (as often happens) I meet a new colleague, they most often ask me two things: what is it we are hoping to achieve, and how are we planning to deliver on those goals? These are big, important questions, and I can’t hope to answer them in one sentence! Instead, here’s a quick overview of the reasons AdelaideX has been created, in partnership with edX, and the paths we’re hoping to travel in exploring this exciting new territory.
What are the aims of AdelaideX?
First things first, Adelaide is making MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) because we want to learn more about them, and the technology that drives them. We have partnered with edX because they are working with other leading universities around the world in genuinely creative and exploratory ways, which means we have a great opportunity to work together to find out what we need to know.
MOOCs are undoubtedly the most headline-grabbing of all the open learning initiatives universities are exploring today, precisely because of their scale — it’s obvious that they represent a very significant community of learners, whether a course attracts 10,000 or 100,000 people. These are huge numbers compared to traditional on-campus class intakes, and it’s appealing to think that among that pool of online students, we can encourage some of them to come and experience what else the University of Adelaide has to offer as one of Australia’s leading research-intensive universities, either on campus or online.
But MOOCs are really only the starting point when it comes to the benefits of open learning technology, and what we are hoping to achieve in beginning to produce open courses with ed
X. We’re actively looking at how we can use AdelaideX’s courses in on-campus settings, which means that the world of SPOCs (that’s Small Private Online Courses, and yes, we do have the best acronyms!) is also highly relevant. Blended learning, flipping the classroom, adding value and personalisation to student experiences — we’re not alone in wanting to help our teaching staff deliver education differently — but where AdelaideX is different is in the reasons we want to do it. At Adelaide, we have embraced small group discovery, which essentially means that students are encouraged to take an exploratory approach to their studies, working as much as possible in teams rather than large classes. This means we need nimble ways to deliver education for that model, and giving students greater access to quality online content is likely to be important here.
With this in mind, it’s fair to say that AdelaideX will succeed on other factors than on the strength of its enrolments alone. If our courses are embraced by students on campus, if they are adopted by educators in a range of teaching activities, and if they help people to explore and innovate in their chosen paths of study, we could also say that’s a job well done.
How are we getting there?
Creating learning content, collaboratively – AdelaideX is at heart a collaborative effort shared between academic course author teams from the University’s faculties, and a small but highly skilled digital development team based on the University of Adelaide’s North Terrace campus. (I’ll introduce you to the team as this blog grows and we explore the team’s activities in this space.) The emphasis on collaboration is important, because we couldn’t easily make MOOCs (or SPOCs) without it, and learning how to collaborate on digital projects is a much-needed skill-set for future teaching.
Embracing learner-centred change – Aiming for perfection at all times is a noble aim, but I prefer to say that AdelaideX is about continuously learning new ways to make our online courses great. This may often mean that we challenge our initial view of the ‘right way’ to do things, asking ourselves whether we can figure out a way to do them better. Listening to students is vital to understanding what our courses need to deliver, and we’re building into our course creation methodology regular reviews, surveys and user testing to ensure that we hear what they tell us about what and how they want to learn.
Focusing on online skills and capabilities for teaching – We recognise that the complex multimedia, video and online content creation work involved in making a MOOC can be challenging even for educators who have been delivering online materials for a while. That’s why we focus explicitly on helping our course teams to build new skills, and hone their existing ones, ready for use in the online space, and it’s something we hope they will take onward into their future teaching activities at the University. We’re also fortunate to work with edX on this front, with its excellent range of support for course author teams.
I hope this quick overview inspires you to find out more about what we are doing within the AdelaideX program, and if you have questions about our work you can find out more at our homepage or at our edX school page.
Dr Katy McDevitt, Program Manager