Naomi is lecturer in the the School of Media and Communications, Photography certificate IV and Diploma of Photo Imaging courses. She does some exemplary work in Blackboard (as shown in these interviews with her students) and is making some interesting excursions into new tools. She kindly agreed to be interviewed about what she is doing.

What lead you to working the way you do online?
We were facing funding constraints and more students. At the same time we wanted to maintain quality and better engagement, both with the content and between students themselves. Anything we were going to do online had to enrich the student experience and learning as that was a primary goal. Our  move online wasn’t only a reaction to funding cuts and numbers. Instead it was an opportunity for us to consider how to review our curriculum design and look at effective strategies to cover a number of issues.

Part of what had to happen was that the lecturer became more of a facilitator. Student’s collaboration needed to become paramount for learning. And we needed it to be simple for staff and seamless. It was important that the tech would not get in the way. To help we received some funding for a project from the NVELS strategy. This enabled us to plug an already existing hole in capacity to deliver. We quickly needed something where students were leading each other and were less reliant on staff. We wanted to give them a methodology to enable us and for them to continue doing what we were doing already.

So how did Blackboard come into this?
Things changed through getting students using the Blackboard journal tool. Getting them to review of each others work was the main difference. They use the journals to evaluate concept ideas through to first shoots. What was interesting was how it created a shift in students’ minds. Face-to-face crit sessions became much more dynamic. Knowing that others were reviewing their work as they went along meant that they would put in much more research for their second shoot. There was much more refinement and they would leverage off each others research. You could see students minds opening as they changed from keeping diaries to online sharing. There has been some great successes since with some of them going on to submitting to national portrait awards. It also had a ripple effect into other courses. The students started wanting blogs and online journals as their framework and context. This is because it changed and enriched their dialogue with each other as well as enabling them to better critique their own work.

Now we are moving more into discussion boards and using groups . While peer review doesn’t replace lecturer feedback we do find that having fellow student unpacking their work in front of them enables more benefit. It brings them closer together and there are multiple layers of dialogue now. Assessing students work in Blackboard is going well. We asses the journals as well as a pdf submissions. I use multiple screens to keep the journal,pdf and rubric all visible at once. The more time I put in to assessment the more efficient it gets. I would like to get into peer assessment.

So what tools are you using outside of Blackboard and why?

We are looking to use more tools elsewhere. Blackboard doesn’t allow us to keep up with the speed and quality of development of the students. Images presentation is very basic and the wikis are too basic and clumsy.

So we are trying out Juxtapost. It’s like Pinterest but with private boards. It means students can post their research without copyright issues. They can either link their collections to other students or keep a private research folio. Students can work as a group together. Juxtapost also allows for secondary and tertiary levels of understanding. So I see it as a key tool.

We are using Facebook despite its limitations. We would like to have Google plus for group activity. Facebook has required linking to personal pages and it would be good to have something that is better contained. For me it takes too much tweaking to keep it completely private. So it becomes a bit unwieldy. Facebook is fantastic for keeping in touch with students, such as when we want to share invitations to galleries. We can ensure better return into current courses because we have better contact with students. Being on Facebook also means that everyone is better connected for hearing good news from each other of awards and contracts. However I find it harder to determine rules and parameters in Facebook and for this  I have developed 2 profiles.

What else is on your horizon?
I would like to be able to develop a repository of links and images.  I might look at Diigo for link curation and web sticky-noting. I am also looking for a wiki to collect ongoing knowledge amongst students.