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Models for collaborative teaching


Steve Draper, Dept. of Psychology, University of Glasgow

Time and place

25 June 1999, Institute of Public Health, Cambridge


There is a fundamental reason for collaborative teaching between HEIs (Higher Education Institutions): the structure of HE is that individuals specialise in narrow topics, but all are required to teach broadly. While teaching is done locally, most teaching is done by people who, while competent compared to the students, are not national or international experts in the particular topic. It is becoming possible through the Internet and other communication technologies to teach collaboratively across the world. The spread of expertise is such that in few if any subjects is there a department whose expertise is greater than the sum of all the other departments in the world. Thus the idea that world-famous HEIs may dominate the market for distance learning may be quite wrong: it may be multi-national consortia who could provide overwhelming combined expertise and quality (and monopoly power should this approach take off).

At the level of particular modules and modest collaboration (as in the MANTCHI project), there are two related fundamental reasons why collaboration is advantageous. Firstly, it saves authoring effort: if four sites collaborate, each need only author a quarter of the material, while doing it better and enjoying it more because they will author the topics they feel most interest and confidence about. Secondly, quality will go up: because participants author what they know best, because they are authoring less but for wider scrutiny, and because each piece of material will get delivered more often, and so revised and improved more often and more rapidly during its (short) lifetime.

The kind of collaboration in the MANTCHI project, called here "the MANTCHI model", consisted of negotiated barter of small units of teaching. These were then drawn on for a small part of existing courses. Thus course design as well as administration and delivery remained local affairs, but there was some sharing of authoring.

Tom Carey, at the University of Waterloo (in Canada), is assembling a consortium to offer courses in HCI: largely distance learning, targeted at industry (that is, students in full time work, taking courses for professional development), but also offered to local campus students as part of their degree.

His model is that there will be a single course structure, with elements contributed by participating HEIs. All HEIs will market the course, thus providing some students. For the first few years, subject to review, HEIs will keep the fees of the students they recruit (both campus and distance students) and there will be no funds transferred between HEIs.

The kinds of quality and originality/distinctiveness aimed for, and on which success is expected to depend, are:

  1. Content quality from expertise of contributors
  2. Up-to-dateness: of some importance throughout higher eductation, is an acute issue in the field of HCI, and critical for professionals in work, as opposed to undergraduates.
  3. Original forms of teaching and learning to suit this kind of course: both at the level of whole courses, at the level of modules, and at the level of each learning activity.

Slides from the talk

A memo written after the talk and seminar

Strategic decisions for public health education

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