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Embedding the personalities of educators and an effective social learning model into an online course

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Many Australian universities are famous, not only for the quality of teaching and research at their institutions but also the figures leading their schools, and often the industry, at the same time. With the withdrawal of international students from face-to-face learning since the start of 2020 and the translation of their courses to online, many of our partners find themselves facing the challenge of how to embed their time-poor but brilliant academics into their online courses in a sustainable and scalable way. In 2020/21, Curio partnered with a Group of 8 university, who were moving their hugely successful foundations course in Cyber Security to the online environment. The academic leads had effectively embedded a social learning model where students co-created and shared a “class textbook”, security tips and case studies that built upon content covered in lectures and readings. They sought a partner who could embed the enigmatic personalities of their academic leads and effective social learning model into the new delivery mode to reach their students across the globe. Our approach to this project was to focus on design workshops with the lead academic to determine key design priorities and outcomes for learners. We discovered early on that the objective of the course was to build not only cybersecurity skills and knowledge but more importantly, for learners to develop a security mindset. Our design priorities in the course were to:
  • Build-in guiding voices that formed the foundation of the learning
  • Provide opportunities for the learner to build on this individually and together.
Forming the narrative of the course was the learner’s development of a security mindset through activity-based social learning, where students were given simpler scenarios (e.g. home security) and asked to identify all the security risk points (e.g. unlocked windows) and how they might mitigate these. Students would then share their ideas and challenge each other’s solutions to build even more secure ideas using discussion threads beneath the initial task. By starting with more concrete examples, learners could then apply the same principles to more complex cybersecurity problems, thus encouraging them to establish a security mindset and question their path to solving problems. Learners were encouraged and supported in giving peer feedback to cryptographic and security challenges to broaden their understanding and build their mindset with broader possibilities. Throughout the course, the guiding voice of the academic lead introduced new concepts through weekly overview videos and podcasts on the more complex ideas. Former students co-designed the activities for each week and participated in weekly videos, reflecting on how the learnings of the week had translated into their careers and lives beyond the course. The design of the online course allowed for the academic to be embedded in the course without being required to deliver the learning. Their approach to constantly challenging students to question their assumptions and solutions was engineered into the activities, all whilst they navigated through the development of skills and knowledge through well-structured and scaffolded learning. We set out to embed the “human touch” into the online space and achieved this through a highly personalised and social design that invited students along for the journey and put them in the driver’s seat. The client’s feedback was one of deep appreciation that despite tight timelines and limited availability we were able to support the academic through the process and realise their vision for learners
about the writer

Anne Youssef

Senior learning designer

Anne is an experienced Learning Designer specialising in designing for blended and online learning. Anne has worked in vocational and higher education in both Australia and the UK prior to joining Curio. Anne is outcome focused in her learning design, ensuring students leave with a confidence to apply their knowledge and skills in a real-world context. Anne is passionate about working with academics to design assessment activities that are authentic to their area of study, outcome-focused, sustainable in their design, ensuring capacity for meaningful feedback and onward learning. Anne is known for her collaborative and organised approach to design and her passion for harnessing educational technologies to create excellent online learning experiences.Learn more about Anne

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Curio partnered with a Group of 8 university, who were moving their hugely successful foundations course in Cyber Security to the online environment. The academic leads had effectively embedded a social learning model where students co-created and shared a “class textbook”, security tips and case studies that built upon content covered in lectures and readings. They sought a partner who could embed the enigmatic personalities of their academic leads and effective social learning model into the new delivery mode to reach their students across the globe.