Reclaim Open Learning

better online learning for higher ed

Professional Ethics Course

September 19, 2013 by Claudia Caro Sullivan

Michael Rowe, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Rachael Lowe, Physiopedia

The course we’re running is an open, online course in Professional Ethics for a class of 60 students from the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. Other course participants include 26 physiotherapists from around the world. We are using Inquiry-based learning as a framework, which aims to promote the development of higher order thinking by guiding students through the exploration of questions that they generate themselves. It requires an environment that supports open discussion, the questioning of assumptions, and the critical evaluation of information, evidence and argument. The learning environment we’ve designed allows students to independently explore concepts in relation to questions that fill self-identified gaps in their own understanding of the world, thereby preparing them for lifelong learning.

The course is publicly available and hosted on the Physiopedia wiki, which made it possible for us to collaboratively develop the learning space. Each participant has a learning portfolio in the form of a WordPress blog, and they are connected to each other by following participants’ RSS feeds and the Twitter stream. The purpose of the portfolio is to make a personal statement about what they learn during the course and how it has influenced their development as practitioners. There is no “content” in the course, only topics, which allows participants to explore content of their own choosing and encourages them to challenge their own worldviews and to engage in critical debate with others.

We believe that this is the first time a course of this nature has been offered to Physiotherapy students and may serve as a model for other such courses. It is a departure from traditional university learning in a professional field. This project has been cleared by our institutional ethics review board and is currently being evaluated as it proceeds.

The course structure and supporting information is provided at the project wiki hosted by Physiopedia (see links below). All course materials are licensed as open access (or are at least openly accessible). There is also a course overview on Twitter (link also provided below).

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