Associate Professor Verity Pacey is Head of the Department of Health Professions (DHP) within the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.  Verity has 20 years of experience as a clinical physiotherapist, teaches heavily within the Doctor of Physiotherapy course, provides guest lectures within other FMHHS courses, and supervises students and clinicians undertaking higher degree research. She was awarded Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy this year.

What tool is Verity using?

Verity has recently become a ‘power-user’ and advocate of the iLearn ‘Personalised Learning Designer’ (PLD) tool, running a number of training sessions for DHP staff. 

I have found the PLD tool so useful for managing the administrative functions of teaching. PLD enables me to send the right communications in my Unit, at the right time. I just wouldn’t have been able to keep up otherwise.

Associate Professor Verity Pacey

A number of DHP units now incorporate PLD as a means of regular communication with students! “It is a huge positive in terms of upskilling staff and personalising online communication for our students during these extraordinary times.”

What is the benefit of PLD for staff and students?

The two key benefits accruing to Verity have been increased efficiency (of her time) and consistency of messages (for students).  Verity will set up approximately 15 communications over a 10-week block, including a weekly email helping to keep students on track and several ‘pop up’ notifications when students login to the Unit pointing them to valuable resources or reminders about being active in the assessment task that crosses over several blocks. 

What good practice does PLD enable?

The weekly scheduled and personalised email out to students purposefully draws from activity in blogs and forums, reminds students of upcoming deadlines or points to helpful resources; all communications use an encouraging tone and assure students that their teacher has visibility over their engagement and cares about their progress.  This ‘teacher presence’ in student learning, in turn, drives engagement and motivates students to continue accessing the Unit and participating in the required online activities. 

How does PLD work?

Verity has sensibly coupled PLD with ‘activity completion’ tracking in her iLearn Unit.  For example, students are required to write 10 blog posts over the 10-week block.  If by week 4 a student has only completed 2 blog posts, Verity has enabled a reminder pop-up message to appear when that student logs into iLearn to remind them that they are a little bit behind in their blog writing but “don’t worry, there is still time to catch up”.  In this strategy, PLD is used for targeted feedback to students who may be falling behind in their work schedules. 

How did Unit Convenors administer their Unit pre PLD?

Previously, UCs would have had to trawl through the activity reports themselves or use the reports made available by iLearn Insights.  Many Unit Convenors use the ‘announcements’ forum in iLearn, sending out a communication to all students even if it is only applicable to a specific group.  Verity realised that this form of generic communication is impersonal and can desensitise students to the importance of communication.

How can administrative practice change through the use of PLD?

PLD enables UCs to foreshadow regular communications (e.g. welcome and end of Unit) and predict learning and teaching problems (e.g. students not logging in regularly, not completing work or participating where expected). The UC can set up the communication required for each scenario and leave the system to send out a personalised email or pop-up message when a condition triggers the action.  This is a great example of using technology to increase teaching efficiency and effectiveness! 

An example of a display alert developed through PLD

PLD has hugely reduced the administrative burden of keeping pace with student communications across multiple blocks simultaneously.  I can just copy the ‘rule created’ and change the dates for a different group.  At the same time, it has greatly increased my engagement with students.

Associate Professor Verity Pacey

What student feedback do you have on the use of PLD?

Verity believes that the variety of PLD approaches she employs reduces the ‘repetitive’ nature of a single form of communication and seems to pleasantly surprise students.  She is looking forward to the return on her investment in future iterations of the Unit when all of the communications will have already been set up.  Verity has already received several ‘thank you for caring’, ‘thank you for the regular check-ins’ type messages from students.  She has sought feedback from students, and they are satisfied with the frequency of emails; she has not received one complaint about the communications.

Verity’s advice for getting started with PLD

Invite your colleagues or tutors into a test team first so that you get a handle on how to compose the communication and what it looks like for the recipient.

Still not sure what the PLD tool does?

PLD is an iLearn tool that lets you create events in your Unit when a certain condition is met. The PLD tool is designed exclusively for Unit Convenors to bring inclusivity and personalisation into the Unit through actions such as sending emails or displaying alerts when a certain condition has been met.  It is called ‘personalised’ because the email/notification relies on student data to personalize the message to the recipient, e.g. first name, Unit code, assignment name, due date, etc.  Think of a ‘mail merge’ and you’re on the right track.

There are many possible applications to involve the PLD tool in your Unit(s). Benefits like personalized welcome emails and popup messages enable you to make the Unit more inviting and thereby increase student involvement in the Unit.

Where to find help for using PLD?

  1. An introduction to PLD and how it works
  2. Speak to your faculty Learning Designer for help with getting started.

Posted by Lyn Collins

Senior Instructional Designer in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

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