It’s been such a quick two months since our first blog! Thankfully, I’ve made good progress and have lovely news to share with some strong emergent findings.   

I successfully gained ethical clearance on the first attempt (yay!) for using student evaluation feedback and work samples that refer to their learning experience. So now I can use this beautiful feedback and data as well as some students’ writing to complement the evaluation. In other news, the most recent CDU restructure merged the College of Indigenous Futures, Arts and Society with the College of Education, meaning more future impact with the Remote Aboriginal Teachers Education program (a work integrated learning program) and B.Ed. students. OEP used in this unit has so far been received very well by all students and I hope that education students will embrace its use and propagate more in their own practice as we work on the merger.  

Progress on main targets from the last blog: 

  • I identified from the criteria that language use needs more scaffolding. We now have a structured session plus a dedicated Q & A time for terminology, concepts and deeper discussion, and assignment preparation in addition to workshopping and peer reviewing drafts on the discussion board each week.  
  • Yolngu lecturer mini lessons are framed in each weekly session with more focused questions and relation to the main concepts and themes. 
  • I’m making more time for a weekly cognitive wellbeing check in, unpacking critical thinking skills around culturally charged topics but also applying them to different information sources and self-directed learning approaches.   
  • Digital literacy learning outcomes are also more closely linked to seeking information rather than having it ‘fed’, and to navigate the forum resources, databases, and internet searches more purposefully.  
  • I’m still recruiting and recording sector representatives now who speak to our first assignment (Equity Unbound’s Alt CV) and discuss how they perform culturally specific skills on the job; this is taking some time, but I have secured 5 more representatives (Nursing, Engineering, IT, Accounting and Education).  
  • 25-50 students attend the live class each week but there are 800 enrolled; this means making sure the asynchronous options are offered in a range of ways (this is a normal synchronous attendance rate). 

Workforce Development, Teaching & Learning Interactions, Unit Content and Design 

The Student evaluations and work samples yielded some very good insights, which I categorised into workforce skills, teacher-learner interactions, and learning design. 

Some wonderful comments about how students feel this is preparing them for the workforce: 

‘I can now use them to effectively to facilitate change within my workplace, studies and future workforce as a teacher. It was one diverse group working together as a team. I feel confident now to participate more actively in the future, not only in my further studies but also at my workplace.’ 

‘This Unit has impacted the way I see my studies and profession in future by the way it has evoked a part in me that will always try to see things from different angles not just the one I consider normal. I have a more complex appreciation for subcultures in my academic, professional, and personal life’ 

‘…. as an international student, I am more mindful of the biases and disparities that help me to better understand how to cope with these problems….’ 

‘…. I can also use this knowledge as the instructional material in order to work in a constructive environment and regard for compassion. The easiest way to build harmony at work is to take the opportunity to connect.’ 

Teaching and Learning Interactions and Design 

A common term for describing the design was that it was collaborative and inclusive, forced them to reflect, think deeper and consider their future, facilitate change, self-awareness, relationships, and interactions. Behaviours and characteristics identified in the delivery of the teaching also supported this: 

‘The variety of content was incredible. Loved opening up each week to see what was included.’ 

‘The content… strengthened my understanding of the topics and made me think more deeply…’ 

‘The structure and how they worked on the main assessments week to week so that we weren’t stressed and rushed as the due dates approached.’ 

‘I have to cross a new subcultural border and adjust myself to the online learning environment and also the academic expectations….’ 

Digital Literacy  

Every week we provide separate digital, academic, and information literacy learning outcomes in addition to conceptual. As we refine the literacies students need throughout the semester, I’ve found some digital learning outcomes gave ways to provide information, multimedia management and organising skill and to work as a group. We encouraged students to claim the discussion board as theirs and work together to help each other navigate and find information: 

‘As an external student, the discussion board was my safety net. The publications were productive and beneficial. Everyone was helpful towards one another; no judgment or exclusion occurred.’ 

I have also been playing with a ‘flagship’ issue with reading links; we share the title of the reading in reference form with the doi or the link if it is open access, but this requires students to be able to recognise the link information. For several readings, we have a subscription via the library, but students are still running into the paywall and stopping there and asking for help.  

The expectation of automatic feeding links could indicate being ‘fed’ info and not seeking information, much like on social media. So, extra digital skills messaging has been scaffolded to ensure students can find information and navigate multiple interfaces.  

This is preparing students for the workforce by encouraging them toseek and share information with colleagues via networking and digital communications, peer evaluation, promotion, and support in a forum.

Information Literacy and Critical Thinking 

One student felt limited from using other research materials aside from the library data base. While the kind of materials preferred were not specified, I am taking this to start emphasising more information and academic learning outcomes to discern between peer reviewed articles, blogs, news publications, opinion pieces, and policy literature.  

Given some topics in the unit (one being privilege) led to some students wanting to disagree, agree, or pick sides whereas we encourage them to just engage with multiple perspectives in order to build critical thinking for workplace interactions.  This polling activity helped this exercise: 

How is this preparing students for the workforce?   

‘The content was important learning for professional development. How clear and thorough the information was I learned a lot about my own behaviours in the workplace and became very aware of others. Quick and helpful discussion board made it possible to feel like a part of a collaborative group especially when studying distance, it felt like a classroom.’  

From this, I’ve been thinking that an additional edit for the sector representative videos might be sharing real work situations where they have had to put their personal opinions aside and perform their duty of care and comply with codes of conduct. I shared an experience from my primary teacher days, and it was helpful to distinguish between values, beliefs, personal opinions, duty of care and professional conduct.  

Teaching & Learning Interactions; Consent, Caveats, and Expectations 

It’s not hard to acknowledge that students were dealing with serious cognitive overload this year. Faced with some contentious cultural and political concepts, the reaction was mixed. Compassion was helpful in dealing with the sensitivities of students who found some concepts a personal and emotionally evocative attack rather than critical discussions and systemic observations of bias, equity, diversity, inclusion, privilege. That students thought of these ideas as debatable despite multiple discussions and in-depth examples is notable in itself. In addition to these concepts being examined in depth each week, I took extra care to clearly distinguish between shame some may feel from identifying a privilege they hold and the ability to manage it in their interactions.  However, some students still felt that identifying levels of privilege were not enjoyable, but confronting, accusatory or a political choice not aligned with what they thought of as cultural awareness training.  Social aspects of the unit were also criticized by a student who claimed that their nursing degree should be mainly scientific.  

As a result of this feedback, I’ve made extra time to engage in more discussion of what critical thinking skills are (and aren’t); especially as our second assignment is a critical reflection. As a main ‘job ready’ skill identified by multiple employability frameworks, this unit offers an opportunity to discuss concepts such as privilege (white, gender, age, economic, education, language) as a concept to think about and address rather than agree or disagree with. Students feeling ashamed to be white indicates the need for space to transcend emotional reactions and distinguish between long held /inherited opinions and developing informed perspectives on issues affecting professional capabilities.  

I’m hoping to emphasise more professional association literature, codes of conduct, and the sector representatives’ stories to demonstrate discerning between personal opinions and informed perspectives make them better at their jobs. I also think threading through these links weekly to connect abstract concepts to real world impacts will help make the skill more of a critical engagement. 

How is this preparing students for the workforce?   

‘Being an Indigenous woman myself I feel greatly appreciative that individuals are continuing to path a way to ensure that the education, the knowledge, and the tools are there to better help others in creating an understanding of our culture… I now see myself standing up prouder and stronger to educate people around my culture and more so now with the knowledge of a deeper education and history.’ 

‘With personal experience within myself and my family learning at an academic level was inspiring and empowering without focussing on guilt about implicit biases or other privileged aspects of my background’ 

Some students criticized the range of content available for self-directed learning. Given the significant asynchronous majority of student attendance in the unit, multiple tools such as recap mini recordings, reading clips, assignment feedforwards and ‘other links to help understand this idea’ resources are offered. Some analytics reports showed students only clicking onto the assessment folder, requiring more scaffolding and suggestions for spreading time evenly between unit material folders, as well as continual review and streamlining of materials.  

This also signalled possible time poverty, cognitive overload and perhaps unfamiliarity with self- directed learning.  These issues also highlighted ways we discuss and organise content but also scaffold for students who never watch or participate in a collaborate session (given attendance trends identified earlier). Analytics data for minutes spent watching lecture recordings (despite making them downloadable) varied widely given the number of students enrolled.  

All the more argument for offering varied and shorter asynchronous options, and perhaps offering students multiple graphics for time management and understanding how the assessment folder fits into the rest of their learning management. 

More comments on design and teacher-learner interactions: 

… even though it’s online is still like learning in a classroom. As a distance learner I found the discussion board very helpful and the learning materials easy to access’ 

‘….by building a unit based on sense of trust, you have created an academic environment which challenged me to rediscover my voice…’ 

‘As an external student, studying online was a positive and unifying experience… I connected with and learned from a diverse group of people from all over Australia. The blended approach of lectures, mini-lectures, videos, readings and discussion boards abled us as students to access …’ 

‘Thanks for all the help this term! Appreciated how the teachers and students interacted on the discussion board.…’  

‘Each Assessment in this Unit has helped to layer core concepts and themes in a simple way that prepared us to analyse a scenario in our final report fairly in an educated way…. the best way we learn individually.’

‘…you bought back the passion of learning through thought provoking questions, understanding and immense empath and equity toward students.’ 

Actions for round 3: 

  • I’ll make more use of current events demonstrating the concepts and use more active problem solving and critical thinking. 
  • Leadership, social influence, innovation as workforce skills we have yet to explicitly embed in the unit; perhaps with more problem solving in assignments and the use of current events to develop synthesis of concepts.  
  • Emotional intelligence check ins: linking to personal reactions to material versus academic and professional responses, acknowledging ongoing impacts of isolation and lockdown specific to Covid and normal stressors students experience.   
  • Include case studies on digital criticality, cancel culture, social media culture and misinformation as more in-depth engagement with digital agency or fluency
  • Add to digital and information literacies (commanding their LMS, readings, scaffolding, links, platforms, portals, and associated terminology; perhaps with a graphic?)  

I am greatly encouraged by all feedback so far and respect its richness. The small handful of difficulties students expressed have been incredibly helpful, as have the overwhelming positive feedback from students at such a challenging time of their lives, added to the global crises we are facing. I also appreciate the data reliability of student evaluations and work samples can vary. I also consider that if students felt strongly enough one way or another to complete the voluntary evaluations, that we can also rely on this as an indication of validity.   

  ‘I work in an IT Management organization and there is a power imbalance between different roles as well as in seniors and juniors.…’  

‘Working collaboratively in a culturally safe environment enriched my learning experience. As a future educator, generative interactions and safe spaces are essential to providing an environment where all children are respected, valued, and awarded equal opportunities.’ 

‘As a Nurse student, I feel the benefits of learning from different tutors as they all have their own perspective about the given topics. At work, the diversity in people’s ideas helps to develop better results for our clients’.   

‘I learnt a lot as someone who is studying nursing and would like to take care of my patients in future. This was a great unit.’

Wishing you all had a safe and healthy break, although not ideal, a bit of peace at least. 

Cheers!

Johanna

Cover photo by Johanna