Delivering Online Distance Learning (DODL) Final Report

This paper will present the methods and findings of the first phase of the Delivering Online Distance Learning (DODL) project. DODL was funded by the Centre for Learning and Academic Development (CLAD), a unit within the University of Birmingham (UoB) over the 2010 – 2011 academic year and proposed to:

1. Investigate ODL practice within UoB and a selected sample within UK
Higher Education institutions
2. Produce an overview of a range of ODL models with reference to the literature that provides practitioners stimulus and guidance for designing and developing their own programmes or modules

Read: Delivering Online Distance Learning Final Report

DODL Models:

ODL Case Studies:



Of Course! Game Based Staff Development

It has been sitting on my table for a few days now. In preparation for its first official outing I played (by myself sadly ) “Of Course!” the board game designed by Alex Mosley of Leicester University. The game is designed to help teams start discussing designing a new course or enhancing an existing one. Here is his reflection on building and testing it. Designed to be a conversation starter, I’m sure it will be a helpful tool in our staff development arsenal.


Of course I won!


Another interesting game which I got to play a month or two ago at an OU event was Accreditation! (see below) designed by Rachel Forsyth and Nicola Whitton from Manchester Metropolitan University. THis is one to reflect on. Have a go yourself because all you’ll ever need to play the game is here:!


Another one we played explored the initial student experience. We were encouraged to place snakes or ladders comments onto a typical student timeline:

Initial Student Experience

New Challenges: Moving DL Content Online

This academic year (2011-12) we have been moving all our formally paper-based learning resources and activities from paper delivery to online delivery for the Mandatory Qualification for Teachers of Children with Visual Impairment distance learning programme.

Online content has colour coded pages depending on whether they are content, a personal/private Note Book Study Activity (NSA) or a Professional Activity Log (PAL) private between student and tutor. All pages use the College CSS that has inbuilt text enlargement and page colour scheme options to encourage accessibility.

Note Book Study Activity (NSA) example

Enquiry Based Learning (EBL) scenarios are often used to trigger and link learning to student’s professional roles.

Example EBL Scenario

Towards Enhanced Feedback Practices in a Virtual Environment


Occasion: Sixth International Blended Learning Conference, 2011
Presenter: Peter Mellett
Abstract: “The context of this study is an M-level distance learning programme in International Construction Management. EPSRC funding in 2006 facilitated conversion from a traditional paper-based delivery into a blended-learning format. However, while study content and educational processes changed radically, assessment did not evolve in parallel fashion. Speaking largely from within their online ‘collaborative communities of practice’, students expressed concerns about clarity and consistency of feedback in relation to (opaque) assessment criteria, also noting that assessment offered inadequate opportunities for demonstrating the full extent of their new learning.”

Learning Objectives

  • Explore tips and techniques that are transferable to blended and online distance learning at Birmingham

Key Ideas

  • The evolution of a programme of study and the interwoven strands that influence student learning
  • A tutor questionnaire across modules (individual, external? tutors being responsible for each module) – a common framework to start from?
  • Students have a wide variety of assessments over the modules, but as is common each activity is not defined adequately and the distinctions between them made clear. There is also the challenge of common understanding of the action verbs used to frame assessments.
  • It is clear that we don’t often look at a problem holistically in terms of assessment types and performance required. This should be part of a 5 year review process as has been done here:
  • Importance of tutor training and processes has been highlighted.

Action Plan

  • Explore local practice, especially related to review processes

Full paper:$FILE/IBLC%20Proceedings%202011.pdf

Delivering Online Distance Learning (DODL)


Having access to curriculum design resources is a fundamental way in which the University of Birmingham can support quality enhancement. The sub-set of curriculum design which this project wishes to explore is Online Distance Learning (ODL). ODL is defined as any programme or element thereof which “has a significant component delivered to students online and at a distance” (HEFCE, 2010). We define “distance” in terms of this project as learning that incorporates some time or geographical distance barrier (this includes placements, work-based learning, year-in-industry as well as shift patterns for postgraduate students).

Scope of initial project:

  • audit ODL practice informed by current pedagogical practice, research and innovation, both here at Birmingham and more widely
  • work towards establishing the structures that will allow the development of a resource supporting the broader curriculum design process for ODL

Approaches have been made by key individuals from within CAL, MDS and EPS to staff within the CoSS eLearning team and wider, signalling the increasing importance that is being placed on ODL in its various guises. This highlights the challenge to move from a cottage industry approach towards embedded systems based on good practice and, ultimately, to input into a Birmingham Curriculum Design online resource. Phase one is limited by staffing constraints within the planned time period.

Who We Are

Danielle Hinton, Learning Design Consultant, College of Social Sciences
Linda Curry: E-Learning Manager, School of Government and Society

What We Did

Prezi Summary Available from:


A number of strands were produced as a result of this project. Firstly there were ODL Models, Case Studies and Planning Notes as well as an End of Project Report and Final Report (in progress). The models, case studies and planning notes are the first (we hope) in an ongoing series.

Effect of Instructor Behaviors on Course Completion in Undergraduate Online Courses (DLA 2011)

Presenter: Anna Obedkova, Julili Fowler University of West Georgia
Abstract: This presentation will discuss a study which explored the instructor’s role in student course completion, specifically as related to discussion board behaviors. Among the variables considered include timeliness of response, number of postings, instructor warmth, and teaching effectiveness. We will discuss the most significant factors, the differences between disciplines, and implications for DL administrators.

Learning Objectives

  • Explore the potential relevance of the findings to UoB DL programmes

Key Ideas

  • Research was undertaken in a range of core Undergraduate  modules across Science, Humanities, Maths and Social Sciences
  • Four independent variables were evaluated (timeliness of response, overall effectiveness, posts per week and discussion quality
  • One dependent variable was evaluated (retention)
  • Michael Herbert (1994) found three important variables relating to online instruction:  personal, institutional, and circumstantial
  • Essential for the online instructors, administrators and students to make a personal connection with each other, peers, institution – to feel a sense of belonging and identity
  • Key findings included
  1. Instructor timeliness (including type, value) of response is key indicator of student course completion
  2. Instructors who called students by name and who were warm and inviting  scored higher

Action Plan

  • Explore further findings of study but bear in mind that this was an Undergrad study (whilst ours are all Postgrad Profession) and the large number of variables within a programme of study