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I was just looking at some of the activities I did not complete and one of them was looking at online resources to help students prepare for online learning. Penn State University have an online questionnaire to help students check if they are ready for online learning. I thought this was helpful in helping students to decide if they are ready for online learning and I liked the fact the quiz referred students to further help. I also looked San Diego Community College district online learning readiness assessment. I liked the feedback for this assessment which again referered students to further help. I think it is helpful for students to undertake this kind of questionnaire as it helps them to reflect on the course before starting. Both online questionannaires established technical skills using a computer, consideration of time mangement and motivation for undertaking an online course.

I watched both the videos for this week and found them very interesting. The Saylor Foundation Video claimed some startling statistics e.g. that more people have access to global networks than running water. As much as I support the use of technology this does not fit in with Maslows hierarchy of needs – if  basic needs are not met e.g. access to water then education is not likely to be my priority. The video highlighted the importance of resources they provide being vetted and peer reviewed by experts however, I couldn’t help wondering who was paying the ‘experts’ for their time, who was paying for the technology platform – it is true that there is no cost to the end user but there are costs to be met. It was not until near the end of the video that any mention was made of building communities of Learners via the planned e-portfolio. The video emphasised high quality content and I liked the way the expectations were set out for the students with the time expected on each activity (as happens for the ocTEL MOOC). What struck me was the quote ‘each course is designed to provide the student with the educational equivalent of a traditional college classroom’. This is in contrast to the Udacity open education video where the tutor emphasised the use of technology to change the traditional approach. I also liked the fact that the Udacity video included students views of the course, that they liked the ability to work at their own pace and go back to material they did not understand. The tutor stated that he used a problem based approach with help available to the students. The criteria for the success of the Udacity course was the assessment scores with the tutor stating that even though the exams were harder, the scores for the online course had increased. Online learning still requires tutors and this was clear in both videos however, there is still the fear of tutors that technology will somehow replace tutors – the example given in the udacity video is that a tutor does not have to give the same lecture twice which is clearly more efficient but when you think about scalability does this mean that there will be less roles for tutors in the morning? I do not think so although I do think that technology can change the way tutors approach their teaching. Anecdotal evidence would suggest that running an online course is no less time consuming and in fact can place more pressure on staff as students accessing the course at different times of the day and night expect tutors to respond to queries quickly.

I really enjoyed the presentations from Julie Voce about the VLE Review project at Imperial College.  I was currently working at my institution in a different role when a VLE review took place but I can see some clear similarities in the approach that was taken. Of particular interest to me was the presentation by Lisa Carrier about the development of a Masters Blended Learning course at Imperial College London.  Blended Learning is an area of growth within the faculty I currently support. One of the projects I would like to reflect on was a small project that some learning support staff were asked to undertake which was to devise an online learning object.  Being relatively new to post I made a large number of assumptions about the project and there were many things I would do differently in hindsight. First and foremost I would work with the staff to ensure there was a project plan. I think I assumed a project plan was not needed as this was not a large project however, I failed to take into account the timescale and assumed I would be able to remember key points in this project.  The project was initiated by an academic staff member who asked a small team of learning support staff to undertake this development so although he was involved as a key stakeholder I never met with this member of academic staff. The project objective seemed vague as the learning support team had to interpret what the academic member of staff wanted and the requirements of this learning object seemed to change over time. This meant that the technology chosen did not have all the functionality required. This was partly a reflection of my inexperience in gathering the requirements of the technology to be used and ensuring these requirements were documented as part of a project plan. There was no project lead within the learning support staff, as my role was to support the use of the technology. Lisa Carrier emphasised the importance of people, their skills and their time and it became clear that the staff had been given this project on top of their current duties. It is difficult to persuade some staff that online does not mean there will be a time saving as development of effective online resources takes time and I believe that the academic who asked the learning support staff to undertake this task simply underestimated the complexity of the task. The success of the project was that the Learning Object was created in our VLE environment and  quizzes were used to test student learning. However, the staff realised that there had been insufficient time to pilot the resource and so changes to the learning object had to be made after the students had begun to use it which was not ideal. It did raise for me the issue about the more hidden costs of developing of learning objects ‘in house’ and the more obvious costs of ‘buying in’ learning objects if they are available. In the future I will try to use a more project based approach to even the small projects.

The task this week is to write about my experiences of using e-assessment and e-feedback. As a Learning Technologist part of my role is to advise staff on how to use technology for e-assessment and feedback. There is a growing demand in the faculty for e-feedback, driven by a desire to return feedback quicker to students, some of whom are part time so provision of e-feedback would mean that they do not have to come to campus to collect their marked assignments. Currently the drivers are more related to gains in administrative efficiency but quicker return of feedback should mean that the student is able to use this feedback to inform their future assignments. The e-feedback is for ‘traditional’ assignments using an online system. What I would like to concentrate on in this post is an area I am developing an interest in – e-portfolios for assessment and feedback.

We have begun to introduce an e-portfolio tool within the faculty so in this post I would like to reflect on how this technology can support some of the REAP 12 principles of formative assessment and feedback in the JISC publication ‘Effective Assessment in a Digital Age’. One of these principles states that there is a need to clarify what good performance is using goals, criteria or standards. As reflection by it’s nature personal it can be difficult to assign specific criteria without making the reflections too prescriptive. The technology itself cannot encourage ‘time and effort on challenging tasks’ this can only be done by assignment design, so this is a challenge for the tutor. This e-portfolio technology can be used to deliver ‘high quality feedback information that helps learners to self correct’ as the facility for for staff to provide feedback formatively and engage in a dialogue with students is an important feature of the technology. Online formative feedback provides the opportunity for students to act on feedback. There is a blog tool within this e-portfolio system which could be used to ‘support the development of learning communities’. There is also a peer review system which could be used to ‘encourage interaction and dialogue around learning’. However, it is clear that the technology can only support assessment design and a major challenge in using this e-portfolio tool is engaging staff with the new technology, ensuring they are aware of their role in supporting and encouraging the students use of the technology – it is more than just a case of the students knowing which buttons to press on the software. It is important the students have an understanding of the nature of the assignments using the e-portfolio and clear guidance on what they need to do to complete the assignments. The ethos of the e-portfolio tool we have purchased is that it is a ‘personal learning space’, this should encourage a sense of ownership for the student however, a challenge is ensuring that the students see the value in keeping their e-portfolio even if it is not assessed summatively. It may be difficult for students to understand why they should undertake tasks that are ‘only’ summatively assessed. This is a challenge for the tutors to highlight to the students the importance of learning beyond summative assessment. The e-portfolio technology allows students to include multi-media resources as evidence of achievements and the ability  The fact that the students can access their e-portfolio on their mobile devices provides flexibility for the students. Although I believe that technology can enhance assessment and feedback I was particularly struck by Gilly Salmons quote which was used in the JISC Publication ‘Don’t ask what the technology can do for you, rather what the pedagogy needs’. 

I have taken this opportunity to revist week 2 of the course – mainly because I want to achieve the relevant badge! (I had not realised what a motivator badges would be for me and I was disappointed that the Activity 2.3 I completed earlier would not count towards a badge). I am glad I did go back to this content as it gave me the opportunity to look at the freely available publication – Marton, F., Hounsell, D. and Entwistle, N., (eds.) The Experience of Learning: Implications for teaching and studying in higher education. 3rd (Internet) edition. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, Centre for Teaching, Learning and Assessment. I read chapter 3 ‘Approaches to Learning’ by Marton and Saljo. The authors outlined their research which was to look at differences in the process of learning and the different outcomes which occur. They wanted to find out why students had arrived at different ways of interpreting the same piece of text they had been given. They found “that students who did not get ‘the point’ failed to do so because they were not looking for it” p43. The authors state that the main difference in the learning process was whether the students focused on the text itself, trying to memorise it, or whether they tried to understand what it was about. The authors go on to question ‘What is that a person using a deep approach does differently from a person using a surface approach?’ p50. They state that the person involved in deep learning engages in ‘active dialogue’, they ask questions about the text, try to relate it to what they already know. The surface approach lacks the reflective and active attitude so Marton and Saljo suggest that  maybe it would be a good idea to give people some hints to how to go about learning. However, when this was tried with a group of students who were prompted with the types of questions that ‘deep’ learners ask about the text, the results showed that this led to even greater surface learning. Marton and Saljo believe this is because students answered the questions but did not engage with the text – it became mechanical learning, answering the questions became the objective of the learning, not understanding. Fransson (1977) looked at student motivation and found that to promote a deep approach it is important to keep in mind student interests and remove the factors that lead to surface approach to learning e.g. irrelevance, threat, anxiety.

Saljo (1979) asked adults what learning meant to them. He devised 5 characteristics of learning and Marton et.al (1993) added one more

  • quantitative increase in knowledge
  • memorising
  • acquistion of facts and methods for later use
  • abstraction of meaning
  • interpretative process aimed at understanding reality
  • developing as a person  (Marton et.al 1993)

It is argued that the approach to learning will be influenced by the conception of what learning is. In relation to the questions posed for this week I have begun to analyse my own approach to learning on the ocTEL MOOC and whilst I recognise that I took a predominantly surface approach or perhaps a strategic approach for a majority of my previous studies I believe I am beginning to adopt a deeper learning approach by thinking about how what I learn on the ocTEL MOOC could be applied to my current role. It is more difficult to take a strategic approach in the current course when my goal is not to gain a formal qualification so I think a deeper approach is easier in this context. That said I know I am motivated by obtaining the badges but I see this as giving my learning structure. I know I like order and progression as a learner and I think it is important to realise that motivation differs from learner to learner.

The task this week was to choose one resource from the following:

Khan Academy you tube videos

e-learning examples e-games

i-ethiCS simulation

What elements of these are appealing to different learners?

I looked at a couple of Khan Academy videos around the topic of maths and in particular averages. I think the videos will appeal to those learners who want to watch the video more than once and reinforce their learning. In some ways the approach is quite traditional and the videos do not make use of complex graphics.

The e-learning games example that I looked at was the Shakespeare interactive game.  This made good use of graphics and was fun and engaging but I am not sure it would be appropriate to promote deep learning about Shakespeare  (I suspect this is not the intention!)

The i-ethiCS simulation videos I looked at could be usefully integrated into learning and teaching, maybe as part of the flipped classroom approach. The videos come from a trustworthy source and could be used to stimulate discussion and thought within a classroom setting and the students could answer questions on them in preparation for the classroom session.

What learners, if any, would they be inappropriate for and why?

It was difficult to assess the academic  level of each of the resources on the Khan Academy as they ranged from basic addition and subtraction to more complex maths topics. This means the tutor would have to assess the resource to ensure the students did not find the videos too easy or too difficult.

The e-learning examples games may not be appropriate for those learners who are not familiar with online games (this maybe generational as I struggle with this as a way of learning myself)

The iEthics simulation videos may not be appropriate for more active learners as it is passive to watch videos but I think this could be overcome by integrating the videos with questions/quizzes to stimulate thought.

How to these resources differ from the resources being used in ocTEL? Do they promote social learning, re-use of their materials or open access?

The videos on the Khan Academy and the e-learning games make use of multimedia but it is important to realise that the mutlimedia dimension does not mean that better learning will take place. The Khan videos cover topics that easily lend themselves to the instructionist approach e.g. maths and sciences where there are right and wrong answers, in areas such as the social sciences there were very few videos (I tried searching for psychology videos but I was unable to find any on this topic.) The videos and e-learning games do not promote social learning but re-use of the videos and e-learning games is part of the reason for making them available. The resources differ from the predominantly text based resources used on the ocTEL MOOC.

What ways can you see to improve the effectiveness or potential reach of these sources?

I found the search option for this Khan videos difficult to find and use – the playlists were a much better way of finding topics. As with all these learning resources their effectiveness will be dependent on how they are used by the tutor to help student learn. The video clips on Khan academy youtube and iEthiCS are short and students can view them many times to help them understand the topic. The usefulness of any learning resource available online is going to depend on how it is used by the tutor – if it is an optional extra that the students are referred to if they want to use it, but it is not integrated as part of the course, it may have use only for more motivated students. If the tutor is able to find relevant resources which can be integrated effectively then the resources could have great potential to help student learning.

 

It has been a while since I posted to my Blog due to illness. The reading week in this MOOC has happened at just the right time for me as I am hoping I can now catch up.  I have read the JISC e-learning models desk study – stage 2 review of e-learning theories frameworks and models. 

The report began by stating that it is important to be clear about underlying assumptions about learning when planning e-learning. Biggs (1999) believes that pedagogic decisions should be based on the intended learnng outcomes. Biggs (1999) was very influential in changing my approach to information skills workshops that I led with students when I was a Faculty Liaison Librarian. Initially when I began doing workshops I was concerned about what I would be telling the students, when I started to think about intended learning outcomes for the workshops and how these would be met through the activities students would be doing the emphasis changed from what I would be saying to what the students would be doing. One of the key quotes from the report that stood out for me was “for good pedagogical design, there is simply no escaping the need to adopt a theory of learning”.

This report outlined 3 broad perspectives about what is crucial for learning

  • Associationist/Empiricist perspective – learning as an activity

Learning occurs through a process of activites and making connections. This ties in with Skinner and machine learning which the ocTEL MOOC touched on in week 1. The report stated that this approach to learning is associated with behaviourism, which despite being largely dismissed these days, does emphasize active learning.

  • Cognitive perspective – learning as achieving understanding, learning as the process of constructing and interpreting meaning

Building a framework for understanding becomes the learners challenge, this contrasts with learning as a strengthening of associations. The “learners searching for meaning through activity is central”.

  • Situative perspective – learning as a social practice

Learners will be influenced by the social and cultural setting in which learning occurs. In my current role this can relate to academic writing and in particular plagiarism, where there are cultural differences in approaches to using quotes in assignments so when using the online plagiarism tool ‘Turnitin’ staff need to be aware of this. Problem based learning and Wenger’s ‘community of practice’ are 2 subsections of this approach. I find the problem based learning approach very useful and believe that this can lead to ‘deeper learning’ as what is learnt can be put into practice.

As the report states most implementations of e-learning will include elements of all 3 perspectives but the dominant perspective will influence how the learning outcomes are written; with associative perspective the learning outcomes are likely to be task analysis and competencies, with the cognitive perspective the emphasis of the learning outcome will be ‘learning how to learn’ and with a situative perspective the definition of learning outcomes will be in terms of disciplinary practices. This report has helped me to understand how learning theory influences e-learning however, as Downes (2014) states in his Half an Hour blog theories explain, they answer the ‘why’ questions – a learning theory explains what learning is and why learning occurs, it is not a pedagogic manual.