Tuesday, April 09, 2013

OCTEL 0.1 - My BIG question

So - what's my big question about technology-enhanced learning? It's related to my earlier post about my experiences of being a student before mass use of email / web etc.

How does technology-enhanced learning impact of the learning experience of individual students? What difference does it make - both in terms of day-to-day choices and activities, and longer term at course / scheme / degree level? How is the average student learning differently (for either better or worse) than I did 20 years ago?

Monday, April 08, 2013

OCTEL - Week 0: A little about me!

I have been a ‘learning technologist’ for about 8 or 9 years – it’s a role I fell into via Web development and an MA is Eighteenth Century History!

I read for my degrees in the early 90s and wasn’t accustomed to using technology much beyond word processing essays; when I first went to University you could only send email to other universities! In the final year of my undergraduate degree my tutor introduced us to email discussion forums, which opened my eyes to a whole world of possibilities. Suddenly, as a third year undergraduate, we were able to ‘listen to’ and join in discussions with real researchers and academics. We could hear the debates that previously only took place in staff seminars and postgraduate tutorials. And if we felt brave enough we could ask a question, or even join in. At the end of my final year I used a web browser for the first time!

I worked whilst studying for an MA part-time, and learned to word processing, had a job as a trainee graphic designer, learned HTML (because no-one else wanted to!) and eventually got a job as a Web developer. My role sat in the same team as the learning technologist and when she left I got the opportunity to take on responsibility for the VLE.

During the last 9 years my job has changed massively, but a number of key elements have stayed the same. I still train people to use the VLE, I still answer questions about why people can’t login. But there is much more to CAL / e-learning / TEL than there was. We are involved in university policy and strategy, we have projects that are funded by external bodies, we run large-scale online exams, we help staff to decide what tools and techniques suit a range of class sizes, teaching scenarios and activities.

But I often reflect on those days of email discussion lists and the new horizons that they opened. My job has the potential to help academics and students access resources and opportunities that are far beyond what I was able to do as a student – opportunities to see and experience so many resources, to take part in new ways of learning, reflecting and understanding your chosen field of study.  In some ways I wish I was able to take my degree again, and experience what it’s like to learn through blogging, find video resources, take part in online discussions. Maybe that’s why I’m doing this course …

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Reflecting on the discussion

Just back from a long weekend with my ma and pa, and trying to reflect on last week's discussion exercise. The feedback from participants has been good (although only 6 so far have contributed) and most of them say that they would take part again if we ran one.

The main issue is getting more people to join in; and I need to do more work on this. Looking at the statistics people were looking at the discussion (and quite frequently too); I just want to know why they didn't join in.

Maybe I need to be more structured about the activities. I fear that my questions were either too open-ended, or focused on experiences that people haven't had. I don't think that using the article helped, as people didn't have time to read it. I used the article because I hoped it would be a springboard, but I fear that it put people off.

I also think that needed to be clearer about what people were expected to do - I maybe should have said that they should aim to post everyday. I wondered about offering a certificate to say you had taken part as an incentive. This might encourage the tHE people to get involved.

I'm definitely going to give it another go - maybe when I'm back in work in July.

Now I just have to worry about the forum presentation I have to give in a week's time!!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Discussion Week

We're at the end of the discussion week, and it's been an interesting experience.

It took up more time than I had anticipated, especially as a lot of the time was spent trying to get people who had signed up for it to engage. A lot of people seemed to be lurking and not posting. I guess that lurking is a valuable experience, but I would have liked to have seen more postings from people. Around about 1/5th of the people signed up posted, and what they had to say was very interesting. A lot of the discussion came from people who were already keen using it; maybe that was because I asked questions that only those people could answer.

I spent a lot of time emailing the participants trying to persuade them to join in. Interesting, our VLE supplier has just provided a new set of tools for the VLE and one of them is the abliity to subscribe to a thread so you get emails when a new message has been added. That would have been useful this week! I'm not sure whether my emails just irritated people, or whether it made them at least look at the boards.

I have designed a survey to try and get people to let me know why they didn't post. Maybe it was the wrong time (the first week of term), or maybe the topic wasn't interesting enough. Maybe I just need to learn a few skills for dragging lurkers in!

I have alternated between feeling positive and negative about the experience. However, overall I figure I now know what it's like being a tutor when students don't join in.

The other thing that made me feel a bit low this week was that no-one turned up for a lunchtime session I had organised. I did have a couple of apologies and some interest in any future ones. But I did feel a bit of an idiot sitting on my own waiting for people to come along! Maybe the topic wasn't interesting. I have some plans for the next one ...

That seems a pretty big post. Oh, and the Steering Group I service has agreed that we can take a blog project forward.

But it's Bank Holiday weekend, the sun is shining and we're off to see my mum and dad at the weekend. My little bro will be there too, so pipsqueak will be happy! I'm finishing early this afternoon to have some mummy and pipsqueak time - I think we'll go shopping!

[Hope this post won't get lost this time ... one I tried to publish during the beginning of the week got lost!]

Monday, April 24, 2006

And we're off

The discussion has now officially started. I'm stupidly excited about how it's going to go ...

Friday, April 21, 2006

Online Discussion - Lesson 1

Well - my week long online discussion starts next week; and I have already learnt my first lesson. I pointed all those joining in to an article on an external web site. Got in this morning to find that the web site had gone down!! The site assures me it will be back up soon, but it has taught me not to rely on external content ...

Meanwhile I have discovered that opera is great to work to. Currently getting through loads of little jobs to the accompaniment of Verdi. The sun is shining and my task list is shrinking. Hurrah!!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Online discussion

As part of my strategy for getting more staff involved in online discussion I'm organising a week-long discussion in our VLE on the topic of ... online discussion.

I'm really excited about how it's going to go - especially as this will be my first go at moderating a discussion. I advertised it today and we've already had quite a few people registering their interest. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

This week is pretty busy; it's the first week of the vacation, so I'd organised a lot of events in the hope that staff are around before Easter. Yesterday was a demonstration of a streaming video solution (very nice but pretty pricey); today was teaching a new course - good turnout and positive feedback; tomorrow we have another course; Friday we have to meet with Senior Management about the strategy.