ILE designers collaborate to improve the learner experience
Athabasca University (AU) learners’ needs are top of mind as AU team members and learner representatives help plan for the new Learning Management System (LMS).
A diverse mix of faculty course design and production experts brought their knowledge and enthusiasm to a recent series of workshops to help shape how courses will look, feel, and function in the new LMS, called Brightspace. The goal of these collaborative workshops is to build a new OneAU course template as a team, synthesizing best practices from existing faculty templates. This is important as existing templates are the product of consultation with lots of stakeholder groups and insights about what has worked in practice.
“It’s all about what learners need,” said Kevin Lander, director of user experience and learning experience productions. He leads the workshops for the LMS templates, which are a major part of the Integrated Learning Environment (ILE) program.
“All this work is collaborative, discussion-oriented and ultimately, we will come up with a course template that provides learners with the various elements they need in order to be successful.”
The process is comprehensive. Faculty colleagues initially shared current course templates, which highlighted existing similarities and differences in terms of navigation, style, and terms used—for example, some courses feature course coordinators while others do not, and some use the term “tests” while others refer to “assessments.”
Using a virtual collaboration tool called Whimsical, the group was able to analyze the various elements in each course template. Lander explained it’s important to be able to apply the principles of design thinking, and Whimsical allows for collaboration and communication of design ideas more effectively in a remote environment.
“The learner experience is inherently visual, so we should be working to visualize, discuss, test, and iterate our ideas before we expend valuable resources building them,” he said.
Using this tool, participants were able to visually brainstorm ideas about how the LMS can best serve AU learners.
Almigdad Eldoma, the vice-president of finance and administration with the Athabasca University Students Union, participated in the workshops. He said he was happy with the efforts AU has made to keep learners involved and engaged in the process and is happy with the technology being used.
“The ability to have a better interactive learning experience will help students keep a good eye on their course progress,” he said. “And with a new platform comes new needs for virtual students (including) alternative assessments, better communication avenues between students, tutors and staff, and research opportunities for undergraduates.”
Lorna Brown, an information architect and course production specialist in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, took part in the workshops. She said learners have been vocal about their needs and she’s happy to see the workshops reflect that.
“I’m encouraged and thrilled to see representatives from all the faculties across AU engaged and our learners involved, because we have the knowledge and experience to make this project a success,” she said.
The next step in the process is to summarize the requirements for an AU course template identified at the workshops, work with the technology vendor (D2L) to develop the template, and then allow the AU community to test and provide feedback by migrating 10 courses into the new template for our Phase 1 pilot.