Using the online format to encourage discussion & decisions
When working in the field of public policy, students “cannot sit on the fence. It's critical that they take a position." says course coordinator Lisa Harris.
Her Ethics and Values in Public Policy course is built around a series of discussions of ethical issues, and participation in discussion of these issues is a focal point of the course design. Lisa's decision to teach this course fully online was to create a space where students could engage with each other and find their own voice, preparing them to confront ethical decisions in the policy making process.
What’s the course about?
The course provides an introduction to key moral theories that feature in contemporary policy debates, and reflects on the tensions between ethics and politics.
This is a core course in the Masters of Public Policy, and students are generally already working—or hope to work—in public policy.
How is the course delivered?
- Entirely online
- Students engage in weekly discussion, then reflect on a selection of those discussions for five graded personal blog posts.
- Weekly content includes introductory video lectures, readings and supporting video resources.
Creating space for people to "find their feet"
Lisa made a strategic decision to limit her involvement in discussions, allowing the students to own the space and not be influenced by an authoritative voice.
She established students' expectations early in the course by not contributing to discussions but being clear that she was reading everyone's posts, and reaching out to students individually with feedback or guidance when required. This light touch approach, in combination with her question-driven activities, is intended to encourage participation and independent thinking.
A structured course with weekly videos
Students get access to the course resources week-by-week, which scaffolds the course learning but also allows Lisa to adapt it if there are events outside the course that have particular significance to what they're studying.
Every week the course tutor posts a video, reflecting on the previous weeks content and conducts a quick review of the discussion post topics. This is followed by a weekly video tutorial by Lisa.