We all learn in different ways and personally I’m a hands on learner. I need to be learning and doing at the same time, otherwise it’s not going to stick.
Currently I have dipped my toe into the world of coding. This is something I’ve tried my hand at over the years but each time I pick it up, without practiseI lose what I’ve learnt. So I started to search for apps that could help me learn and practise basic HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) throughout my typical day.
So what did you find?
After a few clicks and swipes I came across SoloLearn – a free mobile social platform that offers coding courses which can be completed via the Web on iOS, Android or Windows.
The aim of the game with SoloLearn is to learn through playing. The courses consist of bite-size guides and quizzes to keep you engaged and your progress is saved each time you reach a ‘checkpoint’. To practise and play with what you have learned, there is the ‘Code Playground’ where learners can experiment with what they have learned so far and save for future reference. This is excellent for when life gets in the way and you need to put the app to one side for a while, making for a easy return when you pick it back up. Another benefit is regardless of what platform you happen to be using, Sololearn will sync up, so you can access your course in a range of situations via your mobile device and the app will know where you left off from.
A very important part of SoloLearn is that although their name suggests otherwise, you are in by no means ‘solo’ in your learning. On each course there is a space for comments at the bottom of each page from the global SoloLearn community to ask questions or find handy tips from other learners taking part in their course. Many learners also share code they have written to be used by others for practise.
This is all well and good, but why should I learn to code at all?
Many people wouldn’t bat an eyelid at being told by a friend that they might be learning a spoken language such as French, but telling them you’re learning a digital language? That can get you a few funny looks. Although a genuine interest in the first place doesn’t hurt, there’s no harm in learning a new skill and adding another string to your bow. There’s no escaping that we live in a digital age and learning to code can only benefit you in the long run. Having a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS can help your career, such as being able to improve your employer’s website, or quickly publish your own content on your own website or digital platform.
You can find out more and join up by visiting SoloLearn here.
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!
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:
Beyond the Buzz: use social learning to supercharge your training program
Transforming the real learner experience
OMG not another seminar about eLearning
Harnessing the power of social learning
(Traditional) eLearning is dead – here’s what the future holds
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.
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:
Deliver engaging learning experiences
Ability to deliver learning impact
Quality of partners and support
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:
Social / Collaborative learning
Analytics and dashboard features
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Lynda.com, an on-demand learning solution, has now been made available to all staff and students. Lynda.com provides a flexible digital environment, accessible from any device and can be used by;
Lecturers and tutors - to support students including distance learners, content can be embedded into Moodle
Students - to access learning resources anytime from any device and to develop employability skills.
Staff - to support the PDR process and continuous professional development
This half hour briefing session will give you a tour of Lynda.com and a chance to share ideas on its potential use in supporting students and staff. Find more information at www.port.ac.uk/lynda
We are a talented bunch of individuals that specialise in providing support, development and design to staff around the university. We help to support staff in using technology to enhance their students learning.
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