The University of Cumbria Career Ahead employability award has been transferred from a blended to wholly online method of delivery. As a major part of this transformation, fostering engagement in a non-compulsory course would be key to the future success of both the course and the students. The use of rewards was trialled as an incentive to student participation., At each key milestone on the course students were encouraged to feedback on both the structure and delivery of the unit, in order to inform future development and improvement of the course. The online-only nature of the course has supported students’ digital literacies through the use of digital media, learning objects and submission.
This presentation will demonstrate the steps for creating an auto-certification reward system, offer an indication of the staff resource savings for this delivery method and provide statistical data for the effects on enrolment and completion rates versus the previous blended approach to delivery.
Session content: evaluation and reflection
At the university, our Careers and Employability Service deliver an optional employability skills course that rewards students with the skills to help them gain graduate employment and offers non-credit-bearing certification of completion. Due to a “right-sizing” of the service it became necessary to explore new ways of delivering the course as the previous blended approach was no longer sustainable.
This staffing change drove the design, development and deployment of a new fully online course targeted at on-campus undergraduate students. Based on the HEA paper “Defining and developing your approach to employability” (Cole & Tibby: 2013) the course is delivered as three distinct modules which focus on different areas of employability, with certification at each level.
Two criteria of this new course were:
* Reduce regular staff input to a minimum
* Automate certification generation
By removing the regular staff engagement, with the students, this also removed opportunities for both synchronous and asynchronous communication, a key element of student success in online courses (Oztok et al. 2013). This further reduces any prospect of creating a community of inquiry (Garrison et al. 1999) and presents the probability that students who cannot self-motivate are more likely to not complete the course. This effect may be somewhat negated by the inclusion of the incentive and reward (Kirkwood: 2009) system offered by the certification.
Alongside taught face-to-face sessions, the previous iterations of the course utilised our VLE, Blackboard. As students use Blackboard for their undergraduate studies, we were keen to maintain familiarity and foster best practice, by exploring options within this existing platform.
Although not previously exploited, at the university, the Blackboard Achievements tool appeared to offer the desired functionality, allowing for the creation and awarding of both badges and certificates. On further exploration, the default range of certificate templates was restrictive, however a workaround was discovered that allowed a more customised and visually pleasing design to be created. An advantage of this route is that having defined the rules, the system will generate and issue a certificate to students meeting the agreed criteria.
Desired outcomes included:
* Informing a new model for delivering non-accredited optional courses to existing students
* Evidence the affordances of the Achievements tool
These outcomes will help define the future delivery of academic skills, team working and money management courses.
Cole,D. and Tibby,M. (2013). Defining and developing your approach to employability. Available from: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/resources/employability_framework.pdf
Garrison,D.R., Anderson,T. and Archer,W. (1999) ‘Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education’, The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2), pp. 87–105.
Kirkwood,A. (2009). E‐learning: you don’t always get what you hope for. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 18:2, 107-121
Oztok,M. et al. (2013) ‘Exploring asynchronous and synchronous tool use in online courses’, Computers & Education, 60(1), pp. 87–94.