Tel Tales

Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Tag: learning

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/

 

Podcasts – Listening In

Tom Langston

Header image used under Creative Commons Licence. Taken by Jonas Smith from Flickr

Podcasts are episodic audio files that can be automatically downloaded when they are publicly made available. The most familiar podcast congregator is iTunes. However, there are many other sites and apps that provide access to a vast range of podcasts. For iOS there is Overcast, Castro or paid options like Pocket Casts and iCatcher. On Android there is Podcast Republic and Player.fm both of which are free and very customisable.

Photo used under Creative Commons Licence. Taken by Kreg Steppe from Flickr

The wonderful thing about podcasts are that no matter what your interests are you are bound to find lots of podcasts that talk about them. You can listen to more common topics such as comedy, technology, sport and education to more specific podcasts that talk about the Arts and Activism!

Podcast are free but the big ones are subsidised through advertising and sponsorship. This can get annoying at times but is easily skipped or ignored until the program starts and keeps the rest of the process all free which is, I think, the key to what makes podcasts great.

Full disclosure… I have not actually listened to any of the podcasts I am about to list but using “education” as a search term using player.fm (an android and web-based podcast site) I find podcasts from named sources such as ‘Times Higher Education’ , ‘TED Talks’ and ‘The Microsoft Innovate Educator Spotlight Series’. However, there are also series produced by unknown individuals and groups who are just passionate about their subject.

Podcasts are a great source of opinion and discussion that you might not meet your normal sphere of work or study. The joy and fear of the internet reign with the ability for anyone to have a voice. Anyone can, but actually very few maintain the content but when they do it can be interesting to hear the evolution of a podcast from when they first start to what they release now.

It is also a great outlet to produce material around subjects you are passionate about. Podcasts (unlike vodcasts or video channels) can be produced on the smallest of scales. A microphone like the Snowball by Blue can be bought for £60 and used to produce high-quality audio recordings. On a Mac, the free program GarageBand allows simple quick recording and editing features, the same can be had on a Windows machine with Audacity.  The biggest commitment is that of the time to record your ideas and producing it as a continuing series. This can be daily, weekly or monthly but requires that regular input to provide content to those that might want to listen.

The choice of listener or producer is easy to start with. Start with just listening and it can give you that idea of how you want to produce or present a podcast you are planning. It may just be a passive activity providing you with ideas and thoughts to investigate that might help enhance your work.

With the relative ease that a podcast can be produced, it can easily be used to develop your learning and teaching practices. A feed from the podcast can be added as a block to a Moodle unit. This gives your site a dynamic content section that is always updating and progressing as you produce the resources for the podcast.

Working with podcasts around your subject matter could help contextualise problematic topics that slow down learning with some students. It can be used to talk broadly about your subject and bring in other areas of interest you don’t have time to cover in the traditional teaching avenues. This can then help develop the reading and activities a student has to engage with. A reading list is essential on every unit but with a potentially long list to try to get through an apathy could occur where it feels like there is too much, but through a book review section of a podcast or developing ideas citing your sources (that are all on the reading list), the student can engage with your enthusiasm towards the material and subject matter.

Considering the effort that can go into a podcast, it is a valid concern to as why should I bother producing anything at all, recent figures show that 1.7% of the time Americans spend listening to audio is devoted to podcasts. In late 2014, the BBC (a large producer of Podcasts in the UK) announced record figures for podcast downloads of its programmes. People are now able to listen on the go and are not limited by the technology anymore. With phones able to do what once expensive MP3 players could do, the limitation of where you listen has vanished. For students on a commute to university it might be a good chance for them to get into a learning mindset before they arrive, and as a podcast rather than a vodcast it can be listened to while driving as well as walking or getting public transport.

 

Lynda.com

Adrian Sharkey

Lynda.com is an online learning platform that offers thousands of e-learning courses (mostly video, but it includes downloadable materials, exercises and manuals). The vast range of courses cover business, software, technology and creative skills. The courses are delivered by recognised industry experts and are of the highest quality. Lots of the courses offered map directly to courses offered by the University, for example, programming, 3D design, photography, digital marketing, video production software and many more, as well as general software and business skills for employability and continuous professional development.

Having worked in training for a number of years, Lynda.com is a tool I’ve been aware of for a long time. Whenever I’ve had a chance to look at it and compare it with similar tools I’ve always been impressed with the range and quality of courses available. What was difficult, was justifying the cost of buying Lynda.com licenses to support the role of a relatively small IT Training team.

The last couple of years has seen ‘digital capabilities’ rise on the agenda for Higher Education (to be covered in a future blog post). The government and agencies like Jisc and UCISA have been emphasising the role universities have in meeting the digital skills gap and conferences have been promoting the digital capability framework and methods of meeting its requirements. One topic kept recurring and was the subject of a few presentations – the use of Lynda.com by universities. With increasing numbers of universities (now 70% in the UK) using Lynda.com, it suddenly seemed a viable option.

After gathering some interest from around the University I was given the go-ahead to submit an investment proposal in 2016 and aimed to match up the benefits of Lynda.com with the University and Education strategies. This meant showing how Lynda.com could be used to help provide a flexible digital environment, accessible anytime from any device, develop employability skills and support Continuing Professional Development (CPD). It also supports distance learners and can be used to extend and enhance the use of other digital resources by raising awareness and providing training for under-utilised tools such as Webex.

At this point, pre-launch, a number of us from around the University are working to get Lynda.com ready for students and staff to use in the new academic year. It has great potential to make a difference and enhance teaching and learning. It gives students and staff:

  • Unlimited access – more than 5000 video tutorials covering business, creative and technology topics.
  • Relevant recommendations – explore the most in-demand skills based on your interests.
  • Expert instructors – learn from industry leaders, all in the one place.
  • Convenient learning – access courses at your convenience, from any desktop or mobile device.

To be really successful, staff and students need to be engaged and using Lynda.com embedded in the curriculum. The ability to share playlists and publish courses through Moodle helps with this, with the potential for flipping the classroom and changing the way contact time is used makes things very exciting. Independent learning and opportunities for students and staff around employability and CPD are greatly increased.

Around the launch there will be articles on UoP News, you’ll see posters in the open access areas and briefing sessions will be organised. The aim is to have Lynda.com available for staff early in August and for students when they start the new term. There will be ongoing support from DCQE and IT Training. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.

Lynda.com Google Community
@adrianjsharkey

Adrian Sharkey has recently joined the TEL Team from IS for a 12 month secondment. Adrian is working with TEL, the Library and other stakeholders to support digital literacy of staff/students around the university. A particular focus will be on how to make best use of Lynda.com, for which we will soon have a site license.

Welcome to the team, Adrian! 🙂

 

MoodleMoot 2017

Tom Langston

MoodleMoot UK & Ireland is held each year; it is the main Moodle conference in the UK which focuses on collaboration and sharing best practice. This year MoodleMoot ran for three days between the 10th and the 12th April, I attended the two days that make up the main conference and missed the “hackfest” on the first day which is typically more developer-led.

The choice of sessions available to attend were diverse and interesting. I was able to visit a number of sessions that have some great ideas, which I can hopefully introduce to the team.

I’ll will try to highlight some of the most relevant or interesting information from the sessions that I attended. However I would recommend searching Twitter for the hashtag #MootIEUK17 as many people were tweeting notes, comments and observations from each session. It really enhanced the first day of the conference for me (until my phone with the Twitter account died, but that’s another story!).

The first session I saw was from the University of London. They reviewed Moodle from both staff and student perspectives, specifically looking at navigation and how to improve the user experience. An example they used was how it’s difficult getting feedback to the student when the gradebook only displays a grade and no indication of feedback. From the academic point of view they discussed how it wasn’t clear if work was marked, or whether the student could or couldn’t see it. They reviewed the new themes being developed at Moodle and the problems they may face rolling them out before they were ready.

Janice Button from Plymouth University implemented the grid format which is a Moodle plugin that hides all the topics and creates a grid view of icons. When they are clicked the relevant section of content is then displayed.

The next session I attended was presented by Lewis Carr. He demonstrated how well developed badges increase engagement, creating more gamified interactions, this was interesting at Portsmouth we have looked at creating badges within Moodle and a few in academics within the University are using them. Properly thought out achievements and goals can also improve how the student progresses through a course. It was pointed out by Janice Button that from entry courses to level 5 (second year courses) the amount of content increased dramatically, this made the progress bar more daunting and the revisiting of quizzes and similar interactions dropped off as the amount of work to be done increased. Lewis also highlighted the need of social interaction and engaging the students before, during and after the course to develop and build the learning experience.

The morning sessions were interesting and informative and gave us plenty to discuss over lunch. After we’d eaten, there were pico presentations (short and snappy when compared the the morning talks) which opened the afternoon sessions and were a great way to continue. Two sessions stood out: our own Mike Wilson spoke about Assessment Enhancement and the customisations that have been developed for our Moodle installation, and Rebecca Barrington put the “oo” back into Moodle by looking at how to keep academics on-board with the development of sites, explaining how embedding resources within Moodle is a great way to enhance and develop what you already have.

My turn to present was nearing, now, I am not normally a nervous presenter but the thought of presenting on a stage with the glare of lights and a massive screen behind me contributed to the nerves this time around! Whilst I got through it with positive feedback and managed to handle a few questions reasonably well, I felt I could have been better and should I be lucky enough to do another talk will endeavour to get those nerves in check and slow down!

Looking back, there certainly wasn’t a need to be nervous, the whole day was incredibly relaxed and just a creative hub for people who are keen educators, all looking at how we can approach our teaching, training and Moodle usage in a interesting way.

A panel discussion on getting rid of the desktop and turning to only a mobile solution ended the day. This was a very open discussion with questions from the audience and a range of views. A point that resonated with me, was the idea that we should always look at what we do for those end users on a mobile as the number of active mobile users is rising. The other side of this argument however, is that development from a mobile is not really practical. Whatever we develop should allow us to be flexible though, ensuring that our end users having the easiest and most simple experience of Moodle. The new themes and tools that are being added to the newer versions of Moodle show that this is also a concern for the ‘core’ Moodle team.

Day two of the conference saw my phone die, which meant that tweeting from the @TelPortsmouth account was curbed! The sessions I would like to draw on from the second day happened just before lunch as the second day was more sedate due to the evening festivities of the reception dinner the night before.

Mary Cooch, who is known amongst the Moodle community as the ‘Moodle Fairy’, did two sessions and I attended one entitled “10 user experience improvements since Moodle 3.1” of which I had heard of most updates. It was useful to see but essentially if you go through a versions release notes they will be highlighted there (I am sure many people don’t!)

The second session and my pick of the second day was “Competency based education a look at the features in Moodle 3.1 / 3.2”. This session was interesting, informative and above all confusing! Competencies are used to “describe the level of understanding or proficiency of a learner in certain subject-related skills”. Competencies are a new and growing feature of Moodle. TEL are researching Competencies so that members of staff in the University can possibly make use of them in the future.

MoodleMoot is a fantastic event that I would suggest to anyone involved with any aspect of Moodle. It was engaging, with a great range of subjects and everything from back end/admin level sessions to those designed to be understandable for the average user. It was also a great place to ask anyone a question, everyone was approachable and for the reception dinner, a great place to hijack the Moodle stage display and use it for photos!

 

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/