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Many UCL staff members are now in the process of adapting their teaching materials for asynchronous delivery. This is a challenging process, but inspiration and practical advice can be drawn from a number of programmes at UCL that have been running asynchronously for some time. One such programme is the MA in Development Education and Global Masters. 

In June 2020, I interviewed Dr Nicole Blum, one of the developers of the programme, on her approach to asynchronous activities, she kindly provided some excellent tips on designing asynchronous activities and moderating online discussion, as well as a walk-through of a Moodle course from the the programme. 

Introducing the MA in Development Education and Global Learning

The Development Education and Global Learning MA introduces students to a range of perspectives and approaches to development education, global learning and global citizenship. The programme offers a collaborative online learning environment through which students develop their own knowledge and skills, as well as interacting with, and learning alongside, peers from around the world

MA in Development Education and Global Learning course handbook. 

The programme started in 2008 and runs completely online and asynchronously. The cohort is mostly practising teachers based in the UK or overseas, and professionals working for education not for profit organisations. Students are typically part time, often working professionals, with family and work commitments. The course was designed with the brilliant support of the London Knowledge Lab. In the video below, Dr Nicole Blum introduces herself, the programme and her students (2 minutes 43 seconds).

Walk-through of the core module CPAS0080: Principles and Practices of Development Education

CPAS0080 is a core module in the MA programme.  In the videos below, Nicole provides a walk-through of the CPAS0080 Moodle course (9 minutes 43 seconds). She begins with the start of the course,  where essential course information is provided to students and students meet each other in icebreaker forums,  to running collaborative asynchronous activities on Moodle using the Moodle Forum and Wiki activities, and finally to the preparing students for summative assessment. 

The Video is broken up into the following sections:
1. Welcoming students and keeping a consistent course layout
2. Learner reflection using a personal learning blog (starts 1:13)
3. Icebreakers (starts 2:13)
4. Discussion activities for small groups and whole cohorts (starts 3:21)
5. Creative and collaborative activities using the Moodle Forum and Wiki (starts 5:11)
6. Aligning discussion with the assessment and the importance of peer feedback (starts 7:18)

Designing engaging online learning

I asked Nicole how she and her colleagues went about designing course modules. In the video below she explains the thought process the MA team used at the time, which also guides their thinking when designing any new course.

Encouraging students to participate

One of the commonly cited challenges of asynchronous learning is how to get students to engage. Nicole shares her tips on communicating the importance of group discussion activities to students and encouraging students to get involved.  

Moderation and tutor presence

In an online course where activities are predominantly asynchronous, how does a staff member maintain presence? One way is through moderating discussion. In the video below Nicole explains how she goes about interacting with students in both their group discussions and the whole cohort discussion forums.  

Interested to learn more?

Dr Nicole Blum is currently working on a MOOC called "Global Education for Teachers" with her colleague Dr France Hunt, who is also a member of the Development Education Research Centre and part of the MA team. The MOOC will launch on FutureLearn in mid-October. You can view the course on the FutureLearn course page and enquiries can be sent to: DERCMOOC@live.ucl.ac.uk.

Nicole is also happy to be contacted to discuss her work and for general guidance on effective asynchronous teaching. 


Case study written up by Eliot Hoving, Learning Technologist, UCL Digital Education.

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