' ); } ?>

GBSN Fellow: The Power of Collaborative Course Development – Lessons from The Open University Business School

GBSN Member, The Open University Business School is hosting four faculty fellowships from Lagos Business School. The fellows are Ogechi Adeola, Yetunde Anibaba, Nubi Achebo and Obinna Muogboh. The four of them are staying with at the university for 6 weeks during November and December of 2016. This is the third guest blog from fellow Obinna Muogboh.

obinna-muogbohPrior to his faculty appointment, Obinna Muogboh served as the Chief Executive Officer of Jess-NP limited, a Nigerian-based manufacturing firm. He brings back to the academic world his wealth of experience in managing business in a highly competitive and challenging business environment.

Dr. Muogboh, initially joined LBS faculty in 2003 and served as a faculty member and the pioneer Director of the Doctorate programme. He taught sessions in the area of Operations Management, Project Management and Data Analysis. Prior to joining LBS in 2003, he worked as a researcher at the Automation and Robotics Laboratory, and then the Centre for e-Design and Realisation, University of Pittsburgh, USA.

Dr. Muogboh has consulted and researched for various organizations in Nigeria and abroad, including multilateral agencies such as UNIDO. He is a member of Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS). Dr. Muogboh also worked at INSEAD, France as the 2009 INSEAD African Faculty fellow.

He received his M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from University of Pittsburgh, USA. He received his B.Eng. in Electronic Engineering from University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

The Power of Collaborative Course Development – Lessons from The Open University Business School

By: Obinna Muogboh, Lagos Business School, Nigeria

It is the final week of my 6-week academic fellowship at The Open University Business School (OUBS), Milton Keynes. The fellowship is structured to provide me with the opportunity to interact with the OUBS approach to designing, developing and delivering online courses. Five weeks away from the bustling city of Lagos, to the comparatively quiet city of Milton Keynes, in cold autumn weather has provided me with the opportunity to reflect on my noble profession of teaching. This is my 13th year in the teaching profession, and it has been an exciting and rewarding period of my life. Milton Keynes provided the solitude I needed to compare and contrast my traditional face-to-face teaching at the Lagos Business School, with the online delivery approach of the Open University.

From a personal perspective, I have always believed in the power of the classroom teacher to positively impact students through the art of facilitating learning. Teaching is an art that is perfected with time and delivered through the skillful mouth of the orator – the teacher. It is an art honed over years of learning, researching, practicing, and facilitating face-to-face classroom sessions. With the passing of time, we gain more experience and reach the stage where we can stylishly perform this art, like in an orchestra, with our spirit in tune with the students’, as we communicate what we have come to believe is the knowledge of life, survival, and excellence.

The preparation for this life-enriching classroom performance comes through research of the content to be delivered; I call this the science of teaching. The classroom experience is however largely defined by the colourful blending of this science with the art of delivery. To make this happen, we need to understand the needs of the audience. This feeds into the course design by the ‘all-knowing’ teacher/professor. Occasionally, we get help with our presentation slides from the graphics people, but they have to design just the way we want it! There are no questions from them about the design of the course; they simply trust the ‘all-knowing’ teacher.

At the Open University, a team structure is evident. A typical team is composed of faculty members, project/programme managers, and other professional managers from digital media, Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), quality assurance, finance, Learning and Teaching Innovation (LTI) and the library. A typical module production goes through eight phases, including conceptualisation, planning, design, specification, development, production, live delivery, and review/analysis. It is a long and tortuous journey designed to bring rigor and ensure quality in the module development phase. A chat with Devendra Kodwani, the Associate Dean of Learning and Teaching Innovation, confirmed that the OUBS did not get here suddenly; rather, the process has evolved over years of research, experience, analysis, and other feedback mechanisms.

I attended my first module team meeting with some air of arrogance of a faculty that thought he knew how to perform the classroom magic, wondering what new thing could be learned about course design and teaching. The team which was set up to deliberate on the development of a new assessment module for a qualification course, had over twelve members composed of faculty and other professional people. Two team members that could not be physically present joined via conference call.

One key challenge with designing programmes here at OUBS, is that there are no physical classrooms where one could readily read the expressions of students to a delivery. Without the benefit of real-time feedback, I realized that we had to explore and get into the heads of the students in their absence. This is where a lot of research and collaborative effort from an experienced team comes to play. In this process, the discussion on every aspect of the course typically relies on inputs from different perspectives – nothing was left to chance.

A beautiful demonstration of the efficacy of the team came during a discussion on the adoption of a teaching case for the assessment module. While the faculty team members thought the traditional text-based case studies would do, a member of the TEL team, Johanna Garcia, took the discussion in a different direction by suggesting the possibility of using a real-life TV documentary as the case, an idea that everyone found very interesting. It was very humbling to know that non-faculty could really make our course development experience richer.

The specific learning design eventually adopted by the module team would then be translated into an innovative combination of text, graphics, videos, audios, and other interactive methods. The particular combination adopted depends on what is determined by the team as being the best suited to the course and its potential audience.

The entire course development process reminds me of the technique of concurrent “engineering” that revolutionized new product development in the manufacturing world. Wait a minute, what is the difference? We were actually developing a new product – a new course that must be successful from the first day of deployment. There was no room for failure – cost of production was very high, and the impact of failure could be very significant not only in terms of cost, but also the reputation of the institution as one of the foremost online educational establishments in the world.

Are there lessons we could learn from OUBS approach to course development? Certainly! There is value in collaborative course design and delivery! The teacher may know the content, but he could certainly do with some support around the use of technology, research and different points of view in the effort to deliver the best learning experience to students. Collaboration makes the process fun and valuable to everybody involved. Everyone wins!