Writing as mental problem solving

We’re nearing the halfway point of the continuing professional development year, and my learning continues to be fragmented as I choose podcasts and papers based on what interests me at the time.

From an engagement with learning perspective, this approach is fine as it maintains my sustained interest and curiosity. However, the main problem I currently face is the lack of noticeable progression in any specific area, which contributes to the ongoing challenge in my career of not being able to settle on a few key themes and develop mastery in those areas, resulting in a “jack of all trades, master of none” situation.

A couple of months ago, I implemented a strategy in my learning journal to address this issue by creating a section where I could take a meta perspective on my learning and identify overarching themes. Now, one theme is starting to emerge as a result of various challenges I’ve encountered in my role at Flinders, which all point to a similar solution. As a brief overview, my role at Flinders involves exploring different methods of delivering mental health psychoeducation to students, aiming to mitigate the challenges they face in their studies and broader lives. The challenges I’ve identified are as follows:

Challenge 1: Although we offer live mental health and productivity-themed programs for students, the attendance is limited, and even when we record these programs, very few students access them.

Challenge 2: Students express a desire for mental health supports and resources but lack the time and mental energy to attend intensive programs.

Challenge 3: Our programs are traditional lecture/workshop presentations, and the expertise associated with each program is dependent on the individual delivering it, so if they leave, we lose the program.

Challenge 4: We need to improve data collection on the outcomes of students accessing our programs, but administrative difficulties arise due to non-attendance and attrition.

In addition to these challenges, there is an opportunity arising from Flinders’ transition to Canvas as its learning management system. Early feedback from my colleagues who are topic and course coordinators indicates that the platform is promising and allows for growth and advancement. Hence, it seems like the perfect time for me to acquire skills in creating engaging online learning experiences.

By utilizing this approach, students can learn at their own pace, while my role can shift towards supporting their progress through the content rather than solely delivering it (e.g., through office hours and tutorials). Moreover, if a staff member leaves, the program will not be lost. Additionally, we will have access to high-quality analytics on engagement and content utilization, and students who complete full courses can be automatically provided with certificates through the system.

It’s important to note that while the online course format may not be suitable for all mental health and well-being topics, we already have a couple of existing programs, such as a tackling procrastination program and a positive mental health program, that could easily translate into an online format, providing well-defined starting points. Furthermore, building online programs is a versatile skill that can be applied to effectively communicate what I have learned and continue to learn about mental health in various scenarios. Lastly, by developing my capacity to create engaging online courses, I can collaborate with our highly skilled and knowledgeable mental health professionals to transform their programs and resources into captivating online courses, allowing us to share our expertise on a broader scale.

The truth is, however, I have limited knowledge about creating online courses. While I am well-versed in the content of mental health and consider myself an adequate teacher capable of effectively explaining psychological concepts in a classroom setting, creating engaging online courses encompasses more than just subject knowledge and familiarity with website navigation. It requires careful consideration of how to maintain learners’ attention, present content in digestible portions, and provide interactive opportunities. Therefore, venturing into online course development represents a significant area of personal growth for me, and I hope that my understanding of evidence-based learning strategies and behavior change theories will aid me in this process.

This leads me to the main takeaway of this post: I have been contemplating focusing on online course development for some time now, and today, I made the decision to openly address this idea. As I write about it, a mixture of excitement and fear fills me, indicating the validity of the concept. The excitement stems from the potential of having a clearer direction in my work that integrates my knowledge and learnings. On the other hand, fear arises from knowing that this endeavor will test my capacity to learn and challenge my character (it’s worth noting that the informal Flinders motto is ‘what would you do if you were fearless?‘). Writing about this subject allows me to piece together my existing knowledge and identify the gaps, organizing my thoughts in a more coherent manner. It doesn’t mean that I will find immediate solutions, but it propels me forward towards uncovering them. Therefore, I appreciate your willingness to listen as I piece together this next chapter of my career.

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