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Optimising Online Learning Designing for the University of New England

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Until recently, the university experience was primarily centred around face-to-face interactions, with online learning management systems underutilised, functioning mostly as repositories for lecture slides and reading materials.

The University of New England has long remained an outlier in this landscape, specialising in distance education for over 70 years. However, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and driven by a culture of responsiveness to the changing world of work, the University of New England identified the need to invest in a future-fit and future-ready digital learning environment.

Pursuing this vision, they identified the need to evaluate all their online course units comprehensively. With an ambitious timeline and a daunting task of assessing over 1,100 units, they sought a strategic partner capable of designing and implementing an efficient unit evaluation and enhancement process.

In response to their requirements, the University of New England chose Curio as their collaborative partner. The collaboration aimed to determine the optimal approach for conducting unit evaluations and developing work plans, aligning with the digital uplift prerequisites for launching their new digital learning environment.

 

Our approach 

In response to the University of New England’s imperative to evaluate and uplift its extensive catalogue of online units, Curio identified three key priorities:

  • A well-defined evaluation framework that would be easy to apply consistently across all units 
  • Repeatable and scalable unit evaluation process 
  • A transparent triage and reporting system  

 

Curio collaborated closely with the university’s project team to ascertain the specific areas that required improvement and set clear, measurable goals for the project. This vital step ensured we tailored our approach to the university’s unique vision. We refined and translated their learning standards into an evaluation framework and implemented this through a smart form. The algorithms embedded in the smart form achieved three objectives:

  • Allowed for automated effort scoring 
  • Provided consistency to large groups of reviewers, scorers, and evaluators 
  • Aggregated qualitative commentary to help give richness to some key areas for unit uplift.

 

After each evaluation, the smart form produced a work plan and, based on the effort scoring, would categorise the unit into one of three categories: refresh, revamp, or renew. We automated the creation of the forms through Microsoft PowerApps.

 

To support the triage and reporting of evaluations, Curio designed a PowerBi dashboard with several key views to cater for the specific requirements of the University of New England.

 

A snapshot of all units by sprint and school:

 

Overview of effort required for work plan implementation:

 

Communication and participation in the evaluation process were critical to the project’s success. Curio designed consistent communications and training for all teaching and learning advisors conducting unit evaluations. We created libraries of support and guidance material to ensure evaluations were consistent, and a team of senior learning consultants conducted quality assurance reviews of all evaluations prior to completion.

Once deployed, Curio and the University of New England project teams met weekly to review progress through the weekly status update reports and the live dashboard. In these meetings, we identified any risks and opportunities within the current sprint and assessed the pipeline of work and the pace at which evaluations were being completed. These regular communications and a dedicated Teams channel meant that the project could maintain momentum and identify and resolve issues as we moved through each sprint.

 

The Result 

The collaborative efforts between Curio and the University of New England (UNE) have yielded many substantial results, all contributing to the institution’s journey towards a digitally enhanced and future-ready learning environment. Our active approach has successfully addressed key objectives:

  • Scalable Evaluation Process: We have established a scalable and efficient unit evaluation process, integrating automated reporting through the UNE dashboard. This initiative ensures that the university can consistently assess and uplift its online course offerings while effectively managing its workload.
  • Comprehensive Evaluation Framework: Curio and UNE co-designed an evaluation framework that thoughtfully addresses 16 key elements defining the user experience. This framework serves as a robust foundation for evaluations and reflects the University’s commitment to enhancing the quality of its online units. 
  • Actionable Workplans: As a result of our collaborative efforts, we have developed actionable work plans for all evaluated units. These work plans provide a clear roadmap for improvements, ensuring that the University’s vision for its digital learning environment is consistently upheld. 
  • Unit Evaluations: Curio and UNE successfully evaluated 600 units over two project phases. This substantial accomplishment demonstrates the dedication and commitment of both teams to meeting the University’s ambitious goals. 
  • Refinement and Sustainability: We have continuously refined our practices based on valuable implementation feedback from the UNE team. This iterative process has led to the development of a robust evaluation system that the University can confidently carry forward, ensuring the ongoing enhancement of its online course offerings. 
  • Building Capability: One of our key achievements has been in building the University’s capability to conduct evaluations independently. Our collaborative workshops, training, and library support materials have empowered UNE’s teaching and learning advisors, enabling them to take a proactive role in maintaining the quality of their course units. 
  • Flexible Partnership: Curio has been flexible in its approach, bringing in additional capacity as needed and partnering with UNE to best suit their unique requirements. This adaptable partnership approach has been crucial in navigating the complexities of the project effectively. 

The results of our collaboration exemplify the power of a strategic and data-driven approach, showcasing the successful implementation of a scalable evaluation process and a holistic evaluation framework. Through the synergy of Curio and the University of New England, we have contributed to a more robust, future-ready digital learning environment, setting the stage for continued growth and excellence in online education.

 

 

 

 

about the writer

Anne Youssef

Senior Consultant

Anne is an experienced Learning Designer specialising in blended and online learning design. Anne worked in vocational and higher education in Australia and the UK before joining Curio. Anne is outcome-focused in her learning design, ensuring students leave with the confidence to apply their knowledge and skills in a real-world context. Anne is known for her collaborative and organised design approach and passion for harnessing educational technologies to create excellent online educational experiences. At Curio, Anne has worked with clients in the Corporate, Higher Education and VET sectors to develop courses and facilitate workshops for educators on moving their courses online.Learn more about Anne

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