University of Brighton (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2015 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 8126-8131
ISBN: 978-84-608-2657-6
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 8th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2015
Location: Seville, Spain
This paper takes an evaluative and critical stance to review an innovative course design and to identify what worked and what was not so successful. When we embarked on the process of responding to senior management demands for a distinctive business degree for a small inter-disciplinary campus in the UK, we took the familiar business curriculum and searched for a distinctive approach to learning. This paper sets out the gestation and delivery of that distinctive degree which was designed as a whole programme rather than as a series of separate modules, and which had problem-based learning principles (Barrows and Tamblin 1980, Savery and Duffy 1995) at its heart. The paper attempts to determine whether anything distinctive did result, and what, if anything, can be gleaned from the experience by the institution in relation to future course design. The designers of this course faced considerable opposition through the validation phase of this degree, since it lay outside the standard paradigm of what constituted, in the traditional mind, a normal undergraduate course. Problem or task-based learning was the ethos of the whole design, meaning that students were thrown into the deep end of task and client response not as a result of foundation learning but before it had happened. Combinations of units were designed to build the appetite for learning before serving appropriate models and concepts, which meant high levels of student attendance and engagement and different work patterns for staff. Institutional challenges included small credit units, lack of transferability to other courses, the need for generalist teachers and examiners as well as specialists and considerable staff team development. The location of the campus meant a new agenda of local business engagement which was largely driven by teaching staff in forging new business community relationships. Technology for learning was vital to the process and the virtual learning environment, e-portfolio software for groupwork, reflective work and formative and summative assessment, online testing, online feedback, video lectures, class open polling, weekly podcasts with student co-editors, digital reading lists, student video minutes of group meetings and online business games were some of the ways in which learning technology supported the course design. The course aimed to treat students as apprentice professionals rather than periodical attenders; people who were responsible for their and their peers’ development and who would experience a broad range of practical business experiences, developing not just a set of academic skills of analysis, synthesis and evaluation but also creative communication and organizational skills which would support them in their careers. The paper shows how many of these aims were indeed met, yet the course itself failed. There are some practical reasons for the failure to recruit, specifically to do with branding and location, but there are also some ideas developed in the learning and teaching experience of this course which could transfer successfully to other business teaching. The paper aims to bring out these lessons in order to ensure that the closure of one course does not close down innovative approaches to business course design and in particular problem-based learning approaches to learning and assessment.
Critical review, Problem Based Learning, curriculum design.