Gathering multiple views on course design: perspectives on the role of feedback to assure quality in higher education courses

Year: 2016

Author: Auhl, Greg, Wood, Denise, Thomson, Elizabeth, Whitford, Troy

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In recent times, the capacity of technology to contribute to approaches to instruction has been enhanced significantly. Higher education providers are increasingly capturing this enhanced functionality to offer courses that are frequently described as blended mode, or flexible offering. These terms usually denote an online component in the presentation of course materials. As this has evolved, new approaches to the development of course materials have been required, as few individuals possess the breadth of expertise in the multiple aspects required, such as discipline knowledge, online pedagogies and instructional design (Chao, Saj & Hamilton, 2010). This has led to courses being developed within larger collaborative teams, rather than being the domain of an individual or small group of people. Such collaboration is characteristic of self-organising systems, as applied to education, where dispersed control and use of emergent feedback are major principles (Bain, 2007).A vital aspect of such collaborative teams is the feedback provided by the various agents involved in developing the course. In designing a course, feedback from various perspectives allows it to evolve and develop as the collaboration of the group comes into play. Locke and Latham (1990) describe the importance of feedback as informing development of a course and allowing the setting of goals, moving toward the ultimate outcome of a quality course design. This paper will report on stakeholder perspectives of the impact of feedback approaches in the implementation of a course design approach that requires working in collaborative teams. The approach further requires the collection of feedback from multiple stakeholders at crucial points of course development. These stakeholders represent a variety of perspectives from discipline experts, to educational designers and those charged with the responsibility for ensuring that university requirements (in terms, for example, of literacy and numeracy requirements) are met.A phenomenological methodology (Cresswell, 2009) was implemented using semi-structured interviews with participants who provided feedback from a diversity of perspectives. This approach allowed the participants to describe their experience of providing feedback in order to determine their perception of the impact of their feedback on the final course design. The researchers had roles as participants-as-observers in the process. Thematic analysis was undertaken on the data to determine key themes and concepts emerging from the data. The findings of the study support feedback as an appropriate mechanism to inform quality course development, while also highlighting some challenges encountered during the process.