Learning to Teach Online – a great new resource

COFA Online has just launched an excellent new resource for lecturers getting into online teaching and learning. I have taught in several other institutions in Europe since I moved back in 2006, but the work being done at COFA Online is lightyears ahead of anything I’ve seen elsewhere. It steers clear of being trendy, while staying on top of changing trends. The focus is on high quality teaching and learning, not on technology for technology’s sake.

With nearly half a billion people on Facebook and blogs, Twitter and Wikis so dominant in the media, you would think all of this is obvious, but it’s not. I know many faculty feel pretty daunted and overwhelmed by the prospect of teaching online and it’s often a challenge to re-think many years of experience teaching face-to-face. I also know many who see the technology as a quick, cheap fix, which it is not. Teaching online well requires a lot more care, planning and attention to pedagogy than face-to-face teaching.

(Me talking about managing time online – my wife will be laughing)

I have been lucky to have been part of the early development of COFA Online at UNSW for over 11 years now. In the early days, Rick Bennet, Leon Chan and I used to sit in Leon’s kitchen and discuss how our three courses were running. Only three courses? Yes. The reason being that we wanted to iterate the process and make our mistakes on a small scale before expanding the course numbers. Bear in mind that this was during the dotcom boom when many institutions were throwing up hundreds and thousands of “courses” online without much care for the user interface or pedagogy.

Since then, the COFA Online folks have expanded those kitchen table chats into a far more sophisticated set of strategies and methods for mentoring staff through the process of developing an online course as well as supporting their teaching. And they now have over 1,000 They have been working hard on an Australian Learning & Teaching Council project for a some time and have just gone live with the first batch of episodes from their Learning to Teach Online Project.

From Simon McIntyre and Karin Watson who have masterminded the project:

The project is designed as a free professional development resource for teachers from any discipline worldwide. It aims to help them better understand online learning and teaching, and to help them get starting in developing their own online teaching practices – a necessary skill in today’s changing society. Episodes contain a video to introduce and discuss issues and ideas, and a PDF that people can download to read about the issues in more depth.

The episodes contain interviews with academics from many different disciplines and institutions around Australia and the UK. There are contextual videos discussing topics related to online pedagogy and practice, case studies that feature specific examples of best practice, and technical ‘how to’ style videos to help teachers get starting themselves.

The number of episodes will continue to grow and diversify over the next few months, and we would really appreciate your help in spreading the word about the project. In the future we’d also like to feature more COFA Online teaching, once we have finished all of the episodes we are committed to make for the ALTC.

These are but the first of many more video and PDF episodes that will released over the coming months. These episodes were made with the assistance of the Creative Development unit at Learning and Teaching, and use UNSW TV as a distribution point, pushing the content to:

You can also watch the content on mobile devices such as phones and iPads on the Gateway website.

Mentoring Creative Minds

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The current issue of COFA’s Incubate magazine has a piece by me in it called Mentoring Creative Minds, which is a reflection on 15 years of teaching (that I have been teaching that long came as a bit of a shock). They also used a scarily large version of my head logo (I can see some bezier points that need work there).

You can download a PDF copy of the magazine here (14.4 MB) to read the whole thing (my piece is on page 33), but here is an excerpt I wanted to share:

Unfortunately, the Vice-Chancellor does not whisper the secret to success in your ear while handing over your testamur. Fortunately, I can deliver it to you here: there is no secret.

Getting students to trust in this, and the knowledge that some projects succeed, others fail and that there is always another one around the corner, is really what teaching is all about. I’m sure there are academics who thrive on being the source of brilliant knowledge. For me, nothing beats the moment when the smart, creative student sitting opposite me realises their own brilliance and doesn’t need me anymore.

I’m sure my current students will be only too willing to remind me of this, but it’s true.

Interviews with Brendan Dawes and Simon Waterfall

A few months ago I trekked around London with my filmaker and editor friend Rachel to shoot a whole load of interviews with designers and artists for COFAOnline. I still teach online for the College of Fine Arts at UNSW in Australia and these interviews will form an independent site as an ongoing resource as well as teaching material for the Masters of Cross-Disciplinary Art & Design. They are also being put up on YouTube and here are the first ones with Brendan Dawes and Simon Waterfall:

Collabor8 – Creative Waves 2008

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The Omnium Project will be running another global online creative collaboration project under the Creative Waves banner from 28th April – 20 June, this time convened by Ian McArthur and Rick Bennett.

This time the project, called Collabor8, will see design students and lecturers from Australia and China join forces for eight weeks, with project convenors, teachers and special guests worldwide, to work collaboratively and fully online.

The project theme is about creating awareness about the importance of cross cultural design practice and sustainability in design. It will do this by challenging students to work together to design graphics for contemporary, environmentally friendly and sustainable ceramics, textiles, products and environments.

Participation is free and I believe there is space to squeeze in a couple more people, even though the website says the deadline is mid-April. If you are interested, you can apply here.

If it’s any kind of incentive, I’ll be doing a special guest podcast and hosting a thread called “What good is service and interaction design for saving the planet?” in which I’ll take a look about how ‘network thinking’ – something inherent in interaction and service design – is essential to solving some of the complex problems facing us.

Of course, that might be a disincentive for you, in which case just ignore my part and enjoy the rest of the special guests in there.

[tags]Omnium, creative waves, COFA, Australia, China[/tags]

Re-imagining Higher Education

Recently I have been giving much thought to the structure and issues that most of us in Higher Education have been struggling with for several years. There are three areas of thought that come together when re-imagining education, particularly within Art and Design education. The theory of the Long Tail, the Play Ethic and Cradle to Cradle sustainability. Each of these requires a radical turn-around in current ways of thinking. Tweaking the edges won’t do.

What if we thought about education the same way we thought about our other precious resources or the same way that we think about the changing face of the media? The full post after the jump is quite long, but covers a lot of thought. If you would prefer to read off-line, you can download a PDF version (with references) here.

Continue reading “Re-imagining Higher Education”

COFA Annual (2004)

COFA Annual 2004 interface

COFA Annual 2004 interface

Interaction Direction and Producer for the Annual CD-ROM of over 320 collected student works for the College of Fine Arts, UNSW. This interface worked on set-theory, allowing you to select subject areas and see the appropriate thumbnails. We wanted to show the range of work in one glance, hence the giant array of thumbnails. It was built with Flash and used an XML structure to describe all the works (which had been uploaded via a Web interface). Each student submitted nine works, resulting in over 2,880 entries – the logistics were complex.