We are delighted to welcome Julia Jung who has just started a 6 month Erasmus+ traineeship with the Cobra Collective. In this article, she tells us a little about her interests, expectations and first week!
I have a background in marine and freshwater biology, and my recently completed Master’s thesis focused on using an action research approach for addressing coastal management in Sri Lanka. Dr Andrea Berardi was one of my supervisors and while working on my thesis, I became increasingly interested in the approach championed by the Cobra Collective. During my fieldwork in Sri Lanka I started using simple visual participatory methods, such as rich pictures, to create a shared understanding between stakeholders and identify potential future avenues for community engagement. Therefore, after graduating, I decided I wanted to learn more about promoting community owned solutions using participatory visual methods by becoming an intern with the Collective. Over the next six months, I am hoping to help Collective members to create online capacity building tools for promoting and sharing community owned solutions using visual participatory methods.
My first task was to develop an online module about community mental health resilience based on the recently completed ARCLIGHT digital storytelling project. I have created a module on the “OpenLearn create” platform, an initiative from the Open University that hosts many freely accessible open online courses. The platform itself is based on the learning management system Moodle, which is one of the most widely used systems for online teaching and learning.
The main challenges of creating online teaching material seemed to come on three levels for me. First, there was the aspect of designing the individual elements (content and activities) that follow the different phases of learning during the course. For each learning objective there should be a range of activities that allow learners to engage with the material in different ways. Initially, this involves assimilating new information and interacting with it. At more advanced levels in the course, the focus is more on exploring, discussing and questioning the concepts. In the final stage, the challenge is to design activities that allow the students to produce something themselves. This should allow them to directly apply the skills and new concepts they’ve been engaging with. I really enjoyed taking certain learning objectives and trying to imagine someone moving through this learning process. Designing those elements usually started out with a mini-brainstorm, where I tried to think about all the possible ways one might interact with this idea or skill. However, for some skills, such as for being able to use and set up DIY networks for digital storytelling, I found it quite hard to think of diverse learning activities.
The second challenge I encountered was finding an overall narrative and flow for the course. To make the course interesting, there has to be an easy flow of content and ideas. I tried to find a good flow of different activities to create an engaging mix of reading, listening, watching, writing and critical reflection. Defining what a good flow might look like was quite a difficult question to answer in itself as I knew there might be many different types of people taking this course. I tried to imagine the mindset of someone enrolled in this course and how much time they would be willing to spend on each activity. That was another reason why the flow of diverse activities was really important for me, to ensure the course could be taken by people with different backgrounds. I also decided to flag some more demanding or time consuming activities as optional.
The final challenge was of course implementing all the design into Moodle. During that phase, I sometimes felt a little frustrated when I encountered some technical challenges and couldn’t make things look exactly like I wanted them to. However, I found alternating between designing learning activities and implementing the activities I was confident about on Moodle, really helpful. Being able to recognise when to switch from designing to implementing activities was really important to allow my brain to engage in different types of activities. This approach really helped me to stay motivated even when things were challenging.
It’s been a demanding but thought provoking start to my internship, and I’ll be reporting on my next tasks very soon!