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Archive for June, 2014

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.

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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.

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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.

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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’. 

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