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S. Straver, B. Muscat, J. Delahunty

University of Wollongong (AUSTRALIA)
Universities are increasingly offering online learning options, which bring some of the less transferable pedagogical practices common in face-to-face teaching more clearly into view. This exposure can give rise to tensions between academics and educational designers in regard to re-thinking content, teaching practices and pedagogical design. In 2017 a suite of postgraduate certificate courses was earmarked to be offered fully online, marketed under ‘UOW Online’. Biofabrication was one of these. Biofabrication is a highly specialised, postgraduate course usually taught in disparate, face-to-face intensives. This paper reflects upon the shared conversation between fourteen Biofabrication scientists (‘scientists’) who had not designed for nor taught online before, with backgrounds in chemistry, biology and/or engineering, and two Technology-Enhanced Learning Specialists (‘designers’) responsible for transitioning the course to fully online. The first issue in the re-design process was the siloed topic-based approach – a vestige from the face-to-face intensives. From the early stages in the process it was decided that this would be exchanged for a case-study approach for a more experiential, clinical application-based experience which meaningfully framed the content in real-world contexts.

The study draws on the concept of Cognitive Activity-Based Design methodology (Kim & Lee, 2016) to retrospectively analyse the records and reflections kept by the designers in order to move from ‘ill-defined design problem’ to ‘satisficing design solution’. Data included the designers’ self-reports; writings, sketches, computer iterations; observation notes/reflections that were used to make sense of design rationale during negotiations with the scientists. These were categorised according to the design phases of problem structuring, preliminary design, design refinement and detailed design with the kinds of activities this involved such as thinking, examining, writing, sketching computer work. An adaptable low-level ‘course design overview’ diagram became the design model and focal point from which an authentic, shared language between the designers and scientists, was co-constructed. Amidst their polar realms of expertise, this gave all a voice to discuss both course content and pedagogical design. By avoiding a static, one-size-fits-all design model, the wider field and professional practices of Biofabrication informed the design. Through making time to establish collegial relationships and refine the tangible yet flexible course design overview, the designers and scientists were able to effectively design the course using a shared language. This also ensured experiential, real-world learning opportunities for learners. Both parties finished the project with cross-fertilisation of knowledge stemming from the wider context of mutual respect.

[1] Kim, H., & Lee, H. (2016). Cognitive Activity-Based Design Methodology for Novice Visual Communication Designers. International Journal of Art and Design Education.