Azra Naseem: Changing Pedagogy Through Faculty Professional Development in Blended Learning

Azra Naseem is a faculty member at the Aga Khan University (AKU) Pakistan. She also holds a management portfolio of Head eLearning and Open Learning at AKU Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED) .In this presentation Azra showcase the Aga Khan University’s (AKU) (www.aku.edu ) faculty development programme in Blended Learning (BL). The aim of the program isto enable faculty members to design, teach and evaluate blended learning (BL) courses in their areas of expertise.

A blended learning approach combines face-to-face classroom methods with computer-mediated activities to form an integrated instructional approach.

The first pilot program started in 2011 and ended in May 2012. The first cohort had fifteen faculty members from the Schools of Nursing and Midwifery (in Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania & Uganda), Institutes for Educational Development (in Pakistan & Tanzania), Medical College (Pakistan), Community Health Sciences (Pakistan), and the Examination Board (Pakistan). The faculty members were mentored, over a period of nine months, by a team of academics, educational technologists, IT, library and administrative support staff and a research officer, to re-design and offer existing face-to-face courses as blended learning courses and conduct research.

The program started with a two-week online learning phase in September 2011. This was followed by a two-week face-to-face workshop in Karachi Pakistan.

The courses focused in:

  • Course design
  • Course development
  • Course facilitation and assessment
  • And research practice

The faculty members were given a handheld device to mitigate the connectivity and electricity challenges in Pakistan and East Africa. From October 2011- May 15 2012 was the online phase.

Amongst the technology used was a divers amount of free software and open source tools in web authoring, multimedia development, conceptual maps, virtual learning environments and communication and collaboration. Because the technological difficulties, some pre 2.0 as forums where more useful to engage everyone in the course.

During this phase, the faculty members developed and taught courses through a blended learning approach. In May 2012, the final face-to-face workshop was conducted in Nairobi Kenya, where the faculty members reflected on their learning experience. At the end of the first cohort, we have learnt that BL would enable AKU to become a comprehensive university. As well, the situated nature of the faculty professional development program in BL would allow for transformative changes in pedagogy. The second cohort has started in August 2012, with minor modifications in the implementation plan.

In the presentation, the details of the professional development program, as it was implemented during September 2011 – May 2012, will be shared. The lessons learnt about how the program has initiated a process of educational change in the university, in a modest way, will also be discussed.

Challenges to face:

  • Unstable and inadequate technology infrastructure
  • Lack of appropriately qualified academic-IT staff
  • Faculty and students’ readiness
  • Traditional teaching and research policies and practice
  • Distinctions between Academia and the major administrative units

As a conclusion she pointed:

  • System-wide reforms are necessary for bringing pedagogical change through blended learning in higher education
  • An effective BL program begins to break down barriers by requiring a greater level of cooperation and collaboration between all parties
  • Students and faculty members need adequate support to adopt BL

Original posted by Gerard Pagès i Camps on Monday, November 26, 2012 on IX International Seminar: Transformative Changes in Education, System-wide Approach (2012)  for the UNESCO Chair eLearning.UOC