Tel Tales

Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Tag: experience

Listening to the Student Voice | an Overview

Melita Sidiropoulou

The University of Portsmouth places the student experience at the centre of its philosophy and vision. The University’s vision as expressed in its education strategy 2012–2017 is: “To provide an excellent, inspiring and challenging educational experience underpinned by research, scholarship and professional and ethical practice, through which our students will be able to achieve personal, academic and career success”. Since the University strives to provide an excellent student experience, it creates and follows policies that promote ways in which such an experience can be facilitated. Such ways include teaching and other staff practices, support services, mechanisms that enable student participation in the shaping of University policies, student surveys, and other forms of feedback that allow the student voice to be heard.

In order to improve its standards, various teams are involved in undertaking research and conducting surveys. The Department for Curriculum and Quality Enhancement (DCQE) plays a major role in these activities. Other departments that are involved include the Academic Registry and the Graduate School. In addition to working with its people (staff and students), the University of Portsmouth often works closely with other institutions, the government, and bodies such as the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

With both external and internal support and participation, the University of Portsmouth conducted a number of student experience surveys over the last few years, including the:

  • annual National Student Survey (NSS);
  • biennial Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES);
  • biennial University of Portsmouth Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (UPPRES);
  • biennial Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES);
  • International Student Barometer (ISB);
  • UK Engagement Survey (UKES)
  • Mres Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (MPRES)
  • JISC Student Digital Experience Tracker
  • Unit Satisfactions Questionnaires (USQ); and the
  • University of Portsmouth Student Experience Survey (UPSES).

Furthermore, the University participates in various student experience projects, such as the Postgraduate Experience Project (PEP) and policy change projects that focus their efforts on the student experience, such as the Transform Project. These among other surveys and projects explore aspects of the student experience and educational excellence which revolve around the key areas of ‘teaching quality’, the ‘learning environment’, ‘student outcomes’, and ‘learning gain’ (as stated in the Teaching Excellence Framework). Overall, the University of Portsmouth promotes and achieves a student experience of a very high standard which results in a number of desirable outcomes: it places us very high up in the national rankings; encourages the pursuit and attainment of teaching and learning excellence; offers an equally rewarding experience to its staff; and contributes to the academic ethos that the University strives for.

The very existence of such a variety of student experience surveys and projects reflects the values that the University puts on a quality student experience – values that are upheld in the University’s policies. The high performance of the University – as presented in reports following these surveys and projects – as well as the subsequent action taken in response to such surveys demonstrate this. The University will continue to undertake research and conduct surveys in order to promote its values and strategies; provide first class educational opportunities to its students; improve its standards for and with society; develop the potential of its areas of strength; and gain a better understanding of areas in need of improvement.

 

MOOC Experience

Mandy Harcup

Encouraged to enrol on a MOOC, and then write about my experience, I decided I had better first find out some information on what MOOC stands for and what a MOOC is. For those of you unfamiliar with this turn of phase, MOOC stands for a ‘massive open online course’ – originally designed to make distance learning available to the masses, where courses were intended to be free of charge.

So after doing an initial internet search on MOOCs and finding searches advertising ‘Free Online Courses’ – great I thought, free courses, I want to know more. So I searched Wikipedia where I read about background information and discovered how MOOCs have increased with popularity since 2012. MOOCs main appeal was that its online courses could have unlimited participations with open access via the web.

Although each MOOC has its own unique structure and style, I discovered that students on a MOOC were to learn from each other, by sharing knowledge through discussion and experiences.

Interestingly, there are two types of MOOCs: ‘xMOOC – Focuses on scalability’ and ‘cMOOC – Focuses on community and connections’ (illustrated in the image).

George Siemens (2013), co-creator of the first cMOOC, reported that they were‘based on the idea that learning happens within a network, where learners use digital platforms such as blogs, wikis, social media platforms to make connections with content, learning communities and other learners to create and construct knowledge.’ Whilst xMOOC are based on a more traditional classroom structure with a lecturer in control of the learning process, along with quizzes and assignments to monitor student learning.

So after researching MOOCs I decided to register with FutureLearn – a provider of free online courses. I found creating an account and choosing a course was nice and easy. I decided I would start off with a short course and chose one that said it was two hours a week for two weeks – short and sweet, I thought.

Disappointingly, a few days into my free online course, I received an email from FutureLearn stating that I would need to upgrade, at a cost, to experience the full range of benefits the course offers. The upgrade would costs between £24 and £69 – the actual price would not appear until I had almost completed the course.

During the first week of the course I felt like I spent longer than the recommended 2hrs per week working through course content and exercises – perhaps this was just because this method of study was a new experience to me. I enjoyed participating in online discussions, however, I would of liked to see more discussion from other participants, this could of been an idea time for the ‘lecturer’ to encourage train of thought and direct should the discussion stray off course.

Due to illness I was unable to participate in the second consecutive week of my course. Although I hadn’t upgraded I knew I still had access to course materials for another 14 days after the course had finished – if, however, I had upgraded I would have had unlimited access to course content for as long as the course exists in FutureLearn.

I successfully worked my way through the second week content until I reached the assessment section which was titled ‘Assess your Understanding – Test’.  If I wanted to take this test and receive a Certificate of Achievement I would have to pay £39, this I didn’t want to do. The last step of my course introduced the next course in the series, asked me to complete a questionnaire and showed a promotional video on the University of Leeds.

Did I enjoy the course, did I learn anything from it and would I do another?

The course covered managing identity online, the objective was to consider our online presence and how what people say online can have major implications on people’s real lives. We looked at defining and applying a personal code of practice for online communication, history of glossaries and enhancing our online identities using social media tools.

Would I do another course? Yes, I’d probably do another one in this series. I did enjoy the course and have put some of the practical skills into use, I’ve tried to tidy up what can be found if you searched my name and in doing so found it’s not so easy to remove everything.  On social media I’ve changed quite a few settings so I don’t receive so much unwanted advertisement and I’ve put security steps into place so that other people cannot see information on my Facebook page, should they type my name in the search box. One of the setting I’ve put in place is, if other people want to upload photos onto my page instead of happening automatically, I now receive notification and have to give permission, however, this doesn’t stop the photos appearing on their page.

On a more critical note, I did feel that, perhaps due to the shortness of the course, there was a real lack of discussion from other participants and a lack of presence from the online course leader to encourage direction and dialogue. I never did know if my contribution to the course was correct or not.  My main disappointment was, if I wanted to complete the course and receive a certificate then I would have to pay for it… so the course wasn’t entirely free!

References

MOOC poster (March, 2013). What is the media & cultural studies of the MOOC?Retrieved from:
http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/MOOCbetterwordbubble.png (Assessed: 11th April 2017)

Massive open online course (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved March 30, 2017 from:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massive_open_online_course

Mathieu Plourde (2013). MOOC poster (by licensed CC-BY on Flickr). Retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mathplourde/8620174342/ (Accessed: 29th March 2017)

Touro College Online Education for Higher Ed (August 2013). What is the Difference Between xMOOCs and cMOOCs? Retrieved from: http://blogs.onlineeducation.touro.edu/distinguishing-between-cmoocs-and-xmoocs/ (Accessed: 30 March, 2017)

Siemens, G. (2012). MOOCs are really a platform. Retrieved from:  http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2012/07/25/moocs-are-really-a-platform/

 

Learning Technologies Conference 2017 – Reflection

Tom Langston

The 2017 Learning Technologies conference took place on 1st and 2nd February. There were two sections to the conference, the paid sessions and the open floor with free talks. The free talks were to some degree or other essentially sales pitches from trade stands on the floor. That being said, they did attempt to not be too “salesy” and provided some very useful ideas and concepts.

Learning Technologies to me implied educational technologies and this is very true about the subject matter and stands of the show, however, it looked at a wider sphere of corporate learning and systems that develop the skills required to train and enhance business learning.

I was keen to listen to as many of the shows as I could and had plenty of choice with about 81 free session to choose from. 11 Theatres (Open floor spaces) with sessions on a wide range of topics and varying perspectives on similar topics.

For the rest of this post I will summarise my notes from each session with key points that will help with your eLearning.

The sessions I attended were:

  1. Beyond the Buzz: use social learning to supercharge your training program
  2. Transforming the real learner experience
  3. OMG not another seminar about eLearning
  4. Harnessing the power of social learning
  5. (Traditional) eLearning is dead – here’s what the future holds
  6. Meet the modern learner: digital strategies to engage millennials

Beyond the Buzz: use social learning to supercharge your training program

Hosted by Docebo.

The session was ironically a lot of buzzwords and talked very little in depth about anything however the main focus was around the 70:20:10 model for learning.

Looking at how to blend formal, experimental and social learning with the split being 70% on real life experience, on the job experience and tasks and problem solving encountered through real world problems. 20% can be achieved through observation and social environments. The final 10% from traditional formal training including both face to face and online training.

It stressed that click through learning objects that are created as digital learning that might give you a quiz score and a tick to say the training is complete are not the only option to learning (This was actually a key feature of many of the presentations).

A progress line was illustrated along the Who/What/When/Why/Where idea that featured the focus of Who are the champions of the company, What can they share and offer, When can they offer this and how, Why should the information be learned? A reward system for the learner to achieve goals towards many tasks and Where can this all be hosted or acquired for others to develop their knowledge, A central location for knowledge transfer that is simple and easy to investigate is key to the process.

As this wasn’t a direct sales pitch some of the answers were left to the potential to talk to them on the trade stand and look at the product that they offer.

Conclusion:

It was an interesting starting session for the conference and looking back at my notes it actually echoes through all the session I attended. It offered a model of learning with experts available to talk through this, however reading subsequent literature the 70:20:10 model of learning has had criticism leveled at it towards the effectiveness of the model.

Transforming the real learner experience

Hosted by David Perring from Fossway.com

This session looked at the statistics behind a learners needs and key importance drivers, starting with “What makes a compelling learning technology?”

It was argued that as developers and educators we should hold higher ambitions than just acceptable. The role of acceptable is not adequate in the 21st century learners portfolio and each resource should be able to offer a great user experience and provide the information.

The question of key drivers behind what influences a good learning platform were ranked:

  1. Usability
  2. Deliver engaging learning experiences
  3. Expertise
  4. Ability to deliver learning impact
  5. Quality of partners and support
  6. Learner engagement features.

It was then asked, How can we improve with the increase in demand from many organisations to have more solutions for their learners to access content.

Surprisingly the figures had video resources as the key improvement, followed by Mobile, Blended and User generated content.

The top 5 demands of what a learning platform should offer the students were:

  1. Learner engagement
  2. Mobile learning
  3. Social / Collaborative learning
  4. Analytics and dashboard features
  5. A Virtual Classroom.

Many organisations focus on the short term operational performance but lose site of the long term and need to have a future readiness that can adapt to changing market places and challenges.

Fossway have developed PLASMA Learning.

Plan – What do I need to know?

Learn – How can I learn?

Apply – How am I using the information?

Sustain – What am I doing to achieve the long term learning goals?

Measure – How well am I doing with my targets?

Analyse – Where do I need to go next?

This model takes experiences that we want to create and looks at how to use the technology we have available to achieve that. Real learning experiences are not just the technology  but how we use it to engage the learners own learning.

It is not possible to assess learning through checklists and tick box activities, it is developed through a story and describes a journey of what a learning experience should be.

Conclusion

This was the most interesting talk of the day with a real look at the data behind the student experience. It clarified many of the ideas that we all now understand behind student learning and how the technology is key to the learner experience but is not the central point.

OMG. Not another seminar about eLearning

Hosted by Learning Heroes.

The presenter was very candid about the purpose of these free seminars and how they were offered to them due their investments in the show. The short session was focussed on old elearning skill vs the new skills required. The old model looked at the creator of resources, In-house production of materials. The new model it was argued was as the curator of materials. These would be a person that can gather information from multiple sources and evaluate the experience of other experts rather than being a subject matter expert. The ability to think laterally and find content for free over expensive charged for content.

This last part was not just about it being completely free but developing the model of a singular paid for experience per user, when you can source and disseminate materials for unlimited usage.

Conclusion

This was a very short session that felt under prepared (especially compared with the previous session). It had a the glimmer of a great idea regarding the way subject experts should develop and curate their learning information but it was lost in the fact the slides were uninteresting as was he about delivering it.

Harnessing the power of social learning

Presented by AstraZeneca

This felt irrelevant to me as from the start they were talking about compliance training for a corporate audience, however they underlined their ability to take a small team of developers and produce a resource that was beneficial to all the people within the company that required training.

The key message was that they got the end user to record and share their experiences of learning, and get others to ask questions of that experience so that everyone was learning from everyone else a little each day.

The importance of story telling and keeping information simple and understandable with the learner helping take the subject matter and distilling it down into relevant examples that then develop overall understanding.

They created a search feature for the question “How do I?” that provides each user with a blend of experience and activities that enable the learner to reach the answer to the question.

It showed again how it’s not just a tick box exercise to say you now understand the subject, or pass a test to show competency but an ongoing process of learning and reflection.

Conclusion

The session was interesting to hear a case study for the Fuse Universal product, but was focussed on compliance training.

The confusion for me came when after they finished the talk the showed a video (shot like a documentary) that was essentially the talk again. It felt that they had spent all this money on a video and decided they had to show it.

Traditional eLearning is dead what the future holds

Presented by Juliette Denny of Growth Engineering

This was the presentation that OMG (See above) wanted to be. The presenter was also dressed as a superhero (did I miss that bit out before?) but had a very positive attitude, well designed presentation and had worked hard to get the content and message to be understood.

They key point raised was this; eLearning assumes one off learning is effective. Create one resource, tick a box and you have learnt the subject. This is a flawed concept. Bloom’s Taxonomy was brought in and the idea that the goal should be to change behaviour of the learner, and key to that is making learning fun. Entertainment beats education, people want to play games and they gravitate to what they like. Learning can be seen as boring, but why should that be the case? Research from the University of Colorado shows that game based scores for activities are 11% higher than the equivalent standard test.

Mobile learning is also over taking traditional desktop learning, so the need to make content that is fun and engaging, competitive as well as multi device friendly is a major task. She posited that the human attention span has gone from 16 seconds to on 8 seconds (less than a goldfish at 9 seconds). This was why micro-learning is a more efficient way of learning for current students, apparently 17% more efficient but I was unable to get the data source for this.

Echoing back to the opening session of the day the idea of social reinforcement with 90% of learning being informal and the social aspect is the bridge into changing and adapting the learning behaviour. The idea is to make each area campaign driven and more exciting.

Conclusion

This was a very enthusiastic session and passionate towards the product that was being sold (albeit indirectly). Growthengineering.co.uk is the framework for creating competitive games that feed into their own LMS/VLE platform. They are working hard to change the approach taken by corporate clients but I am not sure that it would transfer to HE.

Final Thought

The conference was extremely interesting with a large selection of products on offer. The free seminars were interesting despite being a little sales orientated, there was still a lot of information worth reflecting on and transferring into our future decisions.

I still have a bag full of flyers to investigate and decide what might be worth considering for implementation.

The conference was vast and I hope to attend again next year as it drives learning within the business sector which will tie to what a HE institution should be offering students who study while on placement or within a role. For free, it was worth the money!

Image credits: http://www.learningtechnologies.co.uk/