PEP in your step: Q&A with Dr. Jerome Buhl
Being involved in our PEP workshops, can fast track your course design process and allow you to enter the semester with a solid framework. Working with our learning designers and student representatives allows for a safe space for trial and error and for the development of new ideas. We spoke with Dr. Jerome Buhl about his time engaging in PEP workshops.
How did you hear about PEP?
I first heard about PEP when I had to design a brand new course for our new Animal Behaviour degree. When I discussed the challenge of creating a course from scratch, Susan Hazel, the program coordinator, told me she knew exactly what I needed for that and asked LEI whether we could organise a PEP workshop for that course. Around the same time, I faced the challenge of redesigning another course which I had inherited and whose popularity had been on slow but steady decline, so I requested a PEP workshop for that too.
How did this benefit your course design process?
If I’d list all the benefits of this process, this could turn into a very long blog. The most strikingly efficient part of the process is how you end up mapping the whole course (using colour coded sticky notes) on a wall during the first morning of the workshop. For the new course, we literally went from a blank page to a full outline week by week, including all teaching activities, in just a few hours. And this structure survived almost entirely as we initially planned it during these first hours when the course was later finalised. Learning designers are the key to this. They excel in guiding us towards the perfect set of activities to achieve our learning outcomes, and their help is a great way to get started with innovative techniques which we might not have heard about or dared to try. And then PEP workshops are also the opportunity to sit down together with the other lecturers and think about the course in a setting that makes it much more productive than the usual annual debriefing that we’d typically do.
How did your students benefit from the outcome of this process?
In the case of our new Animal Behaviour course, it is still early to tell because the course is still running, but from the feedback I had so far, I think the students really appreciated the modern look that the course had, especially on MyUni, and the variety of methods that we employed for teaching activities across the semester. In the redesigned course I had plenty of positive feedback about how the students enjoyed the increased variety in activities and how they felt more engaged.
How beneficial was the student voice as part of this process?
For the redesigned course, we invited 4 students from the previous year to look at the new course outline (including that wall of colour coded sticky notes, which impressed them as much as it did us), let us know their feedback and tell us more about what they thought could be improved. Their feedback was really positive, and their suggestions also really helped us to further refine and tweak the redesign. As the workshop ran in 2 separate days, but a few months between, we invited the students again for the second day to critique our work, and it was really rewarding to hear them give us the greenlight and say they would love to experience the redesigned course themselves if they could. For the animal behaviour course, we invited to a small group of 1st year students (who would then do this course the next year) to try a new learning activity with us. This was extremely useful as this trial allowed me to tweak the activity (which otherwise would have not worked that well) and I got it to run very smoothly for the 1st time a couple of weeks ago thanks to that.
Were resources produced as a result of this process?
Most of the resources created for these courses were co-created with LEI: LEI really helped me set up the MyUni pages for both courses by creating shells, with a homepage template and a whole structure for each week etc., including a detailed structure to present each activity (e.g. by introducing the purpose, then inspiration for the activity before developing the content of the activity itself). I also got a tour and short tutorial for the recording studio, and LEI offered to help me during video recording too. Finally, for the Animal Behaviour course, we had planned to run a twitter feed during week 0 to introduce testimonials of people who worked in this field and LEI created great graphic resources for that (although we ended up changing the format for a longer blog like style using MyUni pages in the end).
Why would you recommend PEP to your colleagues in the future.
PEP is an incredibly efficient process. It will save you so much time. For the new course, we achieved in a matter of hours what would have taken me weeks of work. PEP is also the best way to redesign a course by sitting in front of the course map with other lecturers and the learning designers and really figure out the best way to connect all the content to achieve the learning outcomes of that course. Learning designers make it so much easier to try a new teaching method or software. And finally, it’s also a great format to involve students and have them co-create course content in a way that couldn’t be achieved otherwise (that part really feels rewarding).
If you would like to know more about PEP or be involved in one of our PEP workshops, get in touch with your faculty learning designer.