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Blended Learning MOOC: Learning Analytics

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Edited by Kim Aling, Thursday, 4 Feb 2016, 12:52

I’m a strong supporter of the use of data to analyse learning in order to improve my learners and to develop my practice.  Technology leaves a data trail richer than anything we’ve had before, so why not use it. 

For online learning I have the potential to see if the materials as being accessed and how regularly.  This gives insight into why students aren’t performing well on assignments, if they are missing key content.  If I know lack of engagement is a problem I can target my feedback and have a chat with the students about any technical or accessibility issues they may have.   I can also see from combined indicators which students are at risk of not submitting as assignment or at risk of failing.  This allows early intervention. 

From the student perspective it allows me to be proactive and address an issue before the student gets to a point of no return.  This helps them to avoid risk of dropping out or the risk of an overly stressful period, which in itself can result in low assignment grades.

Learning analytics in another context can allow the teacher, or course designers to continually develop and tailor learning to the cohort.  Advanced data collection and analysis can even allow course content to be personalised to the learner.  Areas of weakness can be identified and additional material pushed, or stretch and challenge activities offered where learners are doing well. 

From a learners perspective it is also important to allow them access to their own data so that you give them the tools to reflect and develop their learning.  This fosters autonomy and empowers students to take control of their own learning.  This does need scaffolding so that students can be helped to understand data and understand the options available.  Therefore is has to be an easy tool with data that is easy to interpret.

For me, student use of data is vital if we are not to be seen as comtrolling their learning.   As teachers we may see what needs to be done, but developing autonomy is important if we are to develop their cognitive skills and create truly independent learners.

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QAA Conference on Developing Digital Literacy

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Thursday 12th November

There were some useful thoughts and discussion on TEL (tech enhanced learning or tech enabled learning?).  Various frameworks were presented, from Brighton University, Oxford Brookes and Trinity Laban Conservatoire.  There were discussion on whether you start with staff or students ( Brighton Uni).   Brighton's framework is quite involved, includes the ability to reflect on digital skills and links them to training and information on technologies. it's got me thinking about developing our CPD into something more coordinated/integrated and trying out ways to get teachers involved.  A framework might be something to start to work towards and to combine it with the blended learning strategy.  Teachers and learners need to be convinced of the benefits of developing digital literacy for it to work.  Brighton has had difficulty getting their lecturers engaged beyond the early adopters.  Trinity Laban highlighted the fact that some disciplines cannot see the value of EdTech in traditional subjects, notably practical subjects  The notion of an assessment tool I've seen before- particularly at institution level. Would it work for us? Would it get any additional engagement?  It might be something to think about at induction and to make sure that new teachers are encouraged to develop their own digital literacy.  This might be a better audience to focus on. 

George Roberts (Oxford Brookes) argued that we shouldn't think of developing teacher and student DL as two separate aims- but that they are both part of the same learning community. The idea of a culture shift was not really discussed and yet I think we need to think of it as such and try to think of ways to change the culture of teaching and learning.  There are pockets of good practice and so perhaps focus here and use sharing events to push it out further.  Teachers may listen to other teachers about the benefits of TEL. 

Southampton focused on students and developed a digital champions programme.   Students work with each other and with lecturers to develop DL skills. This is something we haven't considered at college.  Though a good idea, we couldn't pay students and they would have to fit it around their course commitments.
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MOOC Blended Learning Essentials: Reflection on Week 2

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Edited by Kim Aling, Sunday, 15 Nov 2015, 22:09

It's been very interesting reading all the posts.  I've followed people who are either in the same job as me, or whose posts have been interesting.  I can then focus on a narrower range of posts.  I look at recent posts on a thread when I add my thoughts and reply to as many as a I can.  Managing interaction in a MOOC is quite hard and I'm sure I'm missing a lot more interesting comments.  I've been introduced to some additional tools that I have passed onto others to evaluate at college.  Some have interesting possibilities.  I felt there was a little too much technological determination at times and wondered if pedagogy might have been tackled earlier and given more emphasis.  The pedagogy part was quite basic.  Developing digital literacy is another area that needs more investigation.

Some of the tools used in the course are interesting and have demonstrated how they can be integrated into learning.  The survey tool is good, particularly the feature to email the responses. I've been using Quizlet in the Dutch MOOC, which is really fun and I think it would be ideal for a lot of our teachers at college.  I am hoping to plan a training day so that we can share good practice with technology.     

Interesting points to consider:

  • The issue of cost, both in the UK and in developing countries. How can we implement blended learning at low cost?  What are the simple things that we can do? BYOD is one way, but risks excluding poorer students who have no technology. 

  • How can be make sure that blended learning is inclusive? Technology has the potential to exclude poor students and students with disabilities if not introduced well.

  • How can we develop a culture of Technology Enhanced Learning?  We need to be aware that teachers and students can be resistant to new ways and we have to find ways to change their views.  Change has to be managed carefully to ensure success.  There needs to be more research into managing change. 

The arguments for using technology were good and I liked the way they stemmed from the features of technology:  Storage, Access, Multimedia, Personalisation.  I am still of the view that blended learning has massive benefits for learners and teachers. 

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MOCC: Blended Learning Essentials- the technology for blended learning

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There are so many tools, Web2.0, mobile apps, desktop applications, that the offer so many opportunities for teachers and learners.  They offer novel ways to learn, authentic ways to leave, collaborative ways to learn.  It is an amazing choice, probably more than ever before.  Having just some from a demonstration  of the new HP Sprout (not a small green vegetable), it is clear that there's even more on the way.  Teachers are faced with a tremendous amount of choice.  It can be incredibly confusing.  Talking to a maths teacher recently, he was confused as to whether he should use voting pads or Socrative, or some other voting tool a colleague had recommended.  

However, the main point to remember is that whatever choice you make it should be based on pedagogy, not novelty, not wow factor.  Technology is not at the centre, learning is.  We need to avoid technological determinism: I have this tool, what can I do with it?  It should be: My learners need to be able to ...  What tool would help my learners the best?  

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MOOC Blended Learning Essentials: Week 1 reflection

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It's been a very interesting week exploring the meaning of blended learning.  I think that there are many ways to define this term and none will be any more correct than the other.  It's up to the definer to defined their definition and it depends upon the values they wish to include.  The course definition is similar to the concept of technology enhanced learning. I don't have a problem with that. There is nothing about 'blended learning' as a term that should exclude that.  Another definition of blended learning is one that blends face-to-face teaching with online using digital technology.  That is also a relevant definition, just a different view of what is blended.  However, the course definition does open up a greater range of study.  It's not just about the technology that students use outside the classroom, but also what they use inside. Diana Laurillard suggests that it provides opportunities for all students to engage with technology, especially where they may not get it at home.  This definition therefore includes an element of equity.

Other values that I want to see embodied in a definition are empowerment of learners, independence, interaction and social constructivist pedagogy. Learners should be able to interact with each other and with technology, so an interactive whiteboard should not be used simply as a whiteboard to present, but something learners can physically interact with. Technology should allow learners to take charge of their learning and learn at their own pace and in their own way.  Technology should allow choice in ways to access learning. Technology should facilitate collaborative learning. 

This week has introduced some interesting tools, especially reminding me about wordwalls.  I'm now intending to use Padlet in a session on learning technology later this month.  I also liked the survey tools and have shared it with others at college.  The Glossary is OK but clunky to use.  Moodle Glossary is much easier.  The danger is that you can end up recommending so many tools, all doing similar things that teachers get confused.  Why use an online survey tool when you can use a survey on Moodle, or a Google Form, or Survey Monkey? 

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MOOC: Blended Learning Essentials - Why we use blended learning

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The Features of digital resources include.

  • Storage
  • Access 
  • Multimedia 
  • Personalisation 

These features lead to different ways on which teaching and learning can be enhanced.

These four properties and the ways in which they can add value to learning certainly align with my views on the benefits of blended learning.  Digital technologies also foster greater collaboration by providing more opportunities to co-create.  This develops students' wider skills in collaborative working.  

Another feature of digital technology is that it can open the door to greater personalisation through learning analytics.  Learning analytics is an exciting new area, providing ways to analyse what a student does and feed them new work tailored to their needs.  The OU have several projects trialling this.  See  http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/mar/26/learning-analytics-student-progress. 

The ability to create quizzes that provide instructive feedback, but are machine marked helps students in terms of immediate feedback, particularly for formative assessment.  They also help teachers by freeing up the time otherwise spent marking that can now be utilised for those topics that require more face-to-face teaching time.  

Other ways in which digital technologies change teaching and learning are greater sustainability, with less need for paper. Our recent projects at New College include the roll out of Office 365 to all students and staff.  Teachers are now sharing documents with their class, reducing paper and photocopying usage.  

We have helped teachers set up Class OneNotes as a form of ePortfolio.  For example in Photography we have helped them set up a class OneNote for students to collect resources for their projects.  The teacher can review and comment on the collections.  We are exploring Yammer as an alternative to Facebook. 

We are now using the Video app in 365 to store videos that students can search and view, eg for GCSE Maths.   

Some subject areas, particularly Design and Technology and Fashion are using Pinterest so that students can share their research. 

We also have three pilot schemes using Surface tablets.  Three classes selected from different subject areas have been gifted tablets and the eLearning team are working with teachers to integrate their use onto the scheme of work.


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MOOC: Blended Learning Essentials- How is blended learning changing teaching and learning

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Please use the comments to reflect on the responses highlighted in the video. And what are your thoughts? How is digital technology changing teaching and learning for you and your learners? And maybe more importantly, how would you like it to change in the future?

There were several ways highlighted in the case studies:

  • Fosters independent learning
  • Student-centred learning
  • Widens range of resources available
  • Uses devices that students already use
  • Anytime-anywhere learning
  • Makes learning more interesting

I would also add that it can contribute to more authentic learning.  Students can work with a wider community of practice within their subject areas.  They can link with practitioners to see how what they are learning makes sense in the real world.  Abstract ideas can then be grounded and made more accessible.  Also, technology enables new and novel ways of teaching and learning that can't be achieved face-to-face in the classroom.  For example, engaging with practitioners through twitter, or collaborative work with peers through shared documents.  Collaborative and curating tools available online allow students to engage with higher thinking skills much more easily.

Anytime and anywhere learning also changes the culture of learning, making it something more than what happens within the physical and temporal confines of the classroom.

In the future I would like to see much more opportunity for all students to experience a blended learning approach from their early education onwards.  It is still patchy, in spite of the rhetoric, in schools, colleges and universities.  Adopting a blended learning strategy is a collective action problem as it requires everyone to be involved in order to change the culture of teaching and learning away from the acquisition model towards the participation model.

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ocTEL MOOC week 2 Teaching and learning

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Working with adult learners

Adult learners:


Distance learners are more likely to be adult learners and so this means that we have to not only consider the needs of distance learners in terms of the specific support they need to undertake this method of learning, but we also need to think about their needs as adult learners and ask if this is distinct from young learners.

Greaves looks at the support needed for distance learners. Particularly support for their affective development and the need to create a supportive environment.  It is also important here to provide way for learners to avoid or quickly deal with negative emotions, such as the frustration of not being able to use the technology or find help.  Negative emotions are counter to effective learning. Students develop better in a fully supported environment, which includes technical as well and content support and when they feel supported they are more likely to feel more confident with the new learning environment.  Research has highlighted that lack of support is a considerable barrier to learning for students. MMU (Manchester Met) provided a website to support studying online. 

Support is an important aspect of distance learning.  As the use of online tools increases it has become even more important.  Students are not necessarily furnished with the skills or confidence for online learning and it is a very big barrier to success. The OU has a similar supporting framework to MMU with a very well developed site on Skills for OU study.  For technical help there is the Computing Guide which is well linked from a number of different areas and is very student and beginner friendly.  The library also have information and guidance and hold a number of online seminars on a range of online tools, as well as guidance on how to use the online library. Tutors are also another source of advice and guidance and the tutor group forum is a good place to provide support.  It is important that this support is timely though or it can only add to a sense of frustration.

It is argued that adult learners have different needs and motivations to young learners.  Knowles (2005) work on andragogy suggests that adult learners need to know why they are learning something, feel more responsible for their lives and their learning, are life-centred and usually have a reason for undertaking study which motivates them. The suggestion is that learning is therefore grounded in learners’ experiences and interests. Adult learners are also much more diverse and so a more student-centred, individual approach is required. McKeachie (2002) provides advice on teaching strategies best suited to adults. Lectures should give space for student involvement and activities to help think through ideas and ground them in experience. Problem-based learning is effective, including role play and simulations.  Case studies are useful as they show real world situations to support abstract ideas. Discussion is also suggested as, again, it helps ground ideas in experience and improve learning retention. From experience adult learners generally do prefer to be engaged in activities and discussion.  It is also useful because it draws out prior learning and other examples from people's own life experiences and enriches discussions.  The most effective tutorials are those that are active.  With adult learners the teacher becomes a facilitator (Gagné) and this is very much how I see the role of an OU tutor. We facilitate understanding of the module material via a range of methods and technologies.  Understanding is improved if learners have to think about the material, sometimes giving them a slightly different perspective.  Thus questioning and discussion are the basis of facilitating understanding. We have the benefit of not needing to deliver material as this is achieved though the online and written resources produced by course teams and so we do have the luxury of being focused on the assimilation of knowledge.

Clardy (cited in Rees 2010) provides a critique of the andragogy theory arguing that adults aren't different to children as learners - ie they still learn in much the same way.  Possibly at a fundamental level this is true. My argument is that the different strategies they call upon to make learning effective and their degree of control over their method of learning are different. He does argue that adults are an heterogeneous group, which is true and possibly more so than children and so this is also a feature that draws them apart.  However he does argue that not all adults are ready to be self-directed learners and this is where the need for advice, guidance and support comes in. 



Knowles, M. S., Swanson, R. A., and Holton, E. F. III (2005) The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development (6th ed.)California: Elsevier Science and Technology Books.

McKeachie, W. J., Pintrich, P. R., Lin, Y., and Smith, D. A. F (1986). Teaching and learning in the college classroom: A review of literature. Michigan: The University of Michigan.

Rees, D. (2010) Androgogy: Adult learning theory found at http://www.slideshare.net/AtomicMeme/adult-learning-theory-principles-and-practice-4247587 [Accessed 02/05/13]


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ocTEL MOOC Week 2: Online Learning Questionnaires

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Several universities use questionnaires to assess learners' readines for online learning. They are simple diagnostic tools completed online that give immediate feedback.

The characteristics questionnaires have in common are:

  • Asking about computer skills and readiness to use computers

  • Looking at independent learning skills and ability to be self directed

  • Looking at willingness to communicate with others via online means

These three elements cover the main aspects of online learning, use of technology, need for self discipline and independence and willingness to use online and electronic forms of communications with peers and tutors.

However, it might be useful to gain a better insight into the types of tools learners are familiar with, for example do they use social networking tools, wikis, blogs? This would be further evidence of the level of digital literacy.  However, if these are learners who are completely new to online or distance learning they may not have an accurate view of the issue of isolation and what distance learning is really like.  They may not also fully understand the particular nature of asynchronous computer mediated communication.  It is a particular skill be be able to use forums effectively and to learn at a distance. These questionniares may not be accurate if people have never undertaken an online course and don't really know what to expect.  
The OU does not have such a questionnaire, though distance learning is explained on the website. However, this might be a good diagnostic tool to have for prospective students particularly now that we do use technology at a fundamental level and students are expected to use a computer. We are also expecting students to pay quite a lot of money for courses now so it's vital they are encouraged to make the right choices. A questionnaire would both help prepare students for the level of technology used and the level of independent learning expected and give the university information of the level of preparedness of new entrants, perhaps highlighting where additional training might be needed and indeed where it could be embedded in modules.


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ocTEL MOOC activity 1.2 My Course

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Put yourself in the shoes of a student on a course you might be teaching,

 •at what points of your course are there opportunities to express opinions and instincts?
 •at what point do you have to absorb information and how?
 •at what points do you work with fellow learners?
 •what percentage of the course is assessed individually or as a group?
What do you think this says about your teaching approach, and what would you like to do about it? How might technology help, or hinder, you in this.

An Open University course is subtly different to courses in traditional university settings and technology plays a central role for our students.

There are opportunities to express opinions and instincts at all points though the course.  Students are encouraged to comment on ideas in the course material via the forum and sometimes it generates discussion. As a tutor I sometimes pose questions to get students thinking more about the material.  Within the material itself there are often activities to stimulate thought and ground theory to everyday life and the more familiar. There is also space to express opinions at f2f tutorials and which take place about every 6 weeks and online tutorials which are  more adhoc. The main difficulty is that students are often reluctant to express opinion as they are not confident in their learning.  The trick is to use real life and everyday situations to represent the theories they study.  Then take them back to the theory and show how their opinions relate to it.

Information is being absorbed all the way through as they work through the course material.  This consists of written material, audio CDs, DVDs and online activities. Activities embedded in the material, encourage students to think about the material, possibly creating tables or diagrams. The online activities build on the written material, reinforcing learning.

Working with others occurs in f2f tutorials on the forum.  Some courses have collaborative exercises embedded, such as a group role play activity on the forum which is then used as the basis of an assignment.  Other courses have collaborative activities creating artifacts on wikis or by sharing documents on Dropbox or Google Docs.

Unfortunately almost 100% of the assessment is individual.  Students are assessed by regular tutor-marked assignments and sometimes by examination, as well as other elements such as their contribution to forums or collaborative exercises. The ability to collaborate is an important skill, both academically and in terms of employability.  It would be good to see more use of groupwork and some assessment of how learners work as a group. 

It's difficult to say how this reflects my teaching approach as courses are designed by others to work in this way. As a tutor I see my role as facilitating the learning and helping with the process of understanding and assimilating the information provided by the course material.  I aim to develop students' skills of critical thinking, developing arguments using concepts, ideas and theories, and communicating their arguments effectively. Technology plays a central role in OU study and tutoring and for distributed learners is vital for communication and the discussion element of learning.

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ocTEL MOOC Activity 1.2 My Practice

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Edited by Kim Aling, Wednesday, 24 Apr 2013, 11:09

My Approach

Teaching with the OU has always followed a flipped approach where the students work through course material in their own time and then come to tutorials, f2f and online, where they use discussion to explore the ideas further and assimilate learning.  Here is where their misconceptions are cleared up and their ability to apply ideas to other contexts developed. 
Within a matrix of individual to social' and 'autonomous to directed my teaching methods tend to lie strongly towards the social and towards the autonomous:

Teaching matrix, social to individual, autonomous to directed

My technique is to use groupwork and discussion to come to groups responses and then a plenary. Sometimes I use flipchart paper so that they can write down their comments and then swap with other groups to add their comments. I use guided questions to get students thinking about specific aspects of the material and then to think deeper or apply it in new situations. Therefore it is less autonomous, though the responses are not right or wrong, but need good argument, which, for me means it's not totally directed.

If I wanted to shift into another quadrant, such as individual and autonomous I could provide students with stimulus materials and questions and let them explore for themselves and come back with responses.  This would work as on online activity using Elluminate, break out rooms and allow students to roam slides as they wish.  Breakout out rooms could contain different activities around different aspects of some material with weblinks, information etc.  Students could be asked to choose a room, work through the materials and create a response with a word limit that they can put on a slide and add to a response room. There would still be room for some social learning as we could review all the answers at the end giving learners the opportunity to take more away.  I'm keen to explore the opportunities for learning that Elluminate/collaborate offers by allowing participants the freedom to explore materials in their own way. 

I did this recently in a TMA briefing session where students came into the Elluminate room and with 'follow moderator' switched off and asked to navigate to the page for their TMA option.  There they found some questions designed to get them thinking about how to answer the assignment question and they were asked to add one of their own.  They had previously been told to think about a question to bring to the session.  When the session started the boards and students were put into break out rooms to discuss and respond to all the questions. Back in the main room later all students were able to contribute to both assignment options and extend the responses. These kinds of session require quite a bit of prep in terms of the materials provided, making sure it's relevant, covers several aspects of any idea and stimulates a range of responses.  However, it has the potential to result in a very good learning experience.



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ocTEL Mooc Champions and critics of teaching machines

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Skinner introduced the 'teaching machine' in the 1950s which he argued allowed for self paced learning (Bonaiuti, 2011).  Students were able to work through exercises at their own pace, moving on when they were ready.  The main limitation opf these mahines was their focus on rote learning not developing understanding.  It is only applicable to certain subject areas and is limited to the information provided by the writer of the material.  It does not encourage exploration or discussion and is very much an independent approach. 

Social constructivists would criticise this because for them learning is a social activity where meaning in created through discussion.  Theis is reflected in Sugata Mishtra's 'hole in the wall' experiments.  Learning comes from working together.

Followers of Illich would also criticise this approach (Smith, 1997).  He made a distinction between machines and tools, where tools enable learning and are in the control of the user, whereas machines are in control and users becomne slaves.  Illich argued for the disestablishment of schools and a return to more authentic forms of learning. 

A political critique would come from Paulo Freire who argued that teaching is a political act and takes place within a social context (Clarke, 2012).  He argued that education today aims to maintain the inequalities and principles of capitalist society, whereas education should provide the means to question and change the status quo. It shoudl free the oppressed by helping them to understand their situation and thereby givign them the tools to change it.  He would argue the machine is simply passing on accepted knowledge and not promoting the means to question and change.

Boniaiuti, G. (2011) B.F. Skinner: teaching machine and programmed learning [online] Found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTH3ob1IRFo [accessed 19/04/13]

Clark, D. (2012) 'Friere (1921-1997 educator and activist' Blog post, Donald Clark PLan B posted 11/02/2012

Smith, M. K. (1997-2011) 'Ivan Illich: deschooling, conviviality and the possibilities for informal education and lifelong learning', the encyclopedia of informal education, http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-illic.htm.



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ocTEL MOOC How technology has enhanced learning

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Edited by Kim Aling, Thursday, 18 Apr 2013, 09:16

Eric Mazur’s talk was based on the flipped classroom idea that students get the information in their own time via readings and recorded lectures and then the hardest part of the process, assimilation of that knowledge, in undertaken in the classroom with the teacher via questioning and working together to discuss ideas and construct meaning.  Students defend their answers by pair discussion.

Sugata Mitra, who pioneered the hole in the wall experiments in India, argues that small groups of children can teach themselves.  The optimum group size, he suggests is  4-6.  Any bigger and it becomes chaotic.  Everyone adds their idea and through discussion and experimentation they develop understanding.  He ran an experiment with school children getting 10 years olds to do GCSE questions, where they worked towards the answer and achieved a high average score .  Several weeks later they were retested and had retained much of the information.  This suggests there is power in discussion and working together to assimilate knowledge.  However, he argues there is still a place for the teacher to set the rules and pose the questions.

George Siemens talks about the importance of building social networks in learning so that it is an ongoing process.  He argued the course material in the MOOC they developed was a conduit for developing a community of practice.  He also stressed the importance of PLEs - people building their own suite of tools on the internet to suit them.  Their course encouraged use of a variety of methods to interact beyond the module tools. The internet globalises knowledge and creates opportunities for distributed learning unlinking people from single institutions and allowing engagement with the global knowledge base using experts from all over the world.   It allows a global discussion and pooling of ideas - eg the development of understanding of the SARS virus with data passed on across the world so that work continued 24/7 and pooled different expertise.

In my own field of teaching with the OU these ideas resonate.  Students with the OU work through course material in their own time and we encourage discussion between students through forums and in online and face-to-face tutorials to help them develop meaning and understanding.  Online and face to face tutorials are used to help students understand the material rather than deliver material.  My preferred method of conducting tutorials is to use stimulus material to pose questions which small groups discuss to come to a group answer which is fed back to a class discussion.  It is amazing what students find and how often I see the ‘aha’ moment, as Mazur calls it.  Redistributing groups between activities also helps to create new learning as different combinations of people create new ways of working.  Siemens ideas are interesting from the point of view of the freedom that the internet creates for education.  The fact that students can now develop their own suite of tools, or Personal Learning Environment separate from any institution frees up their learning and puts the power back to the learner.  The idea that learning becomes a global process without institutional boundaries is quite liberating.  However, as Siemans suggests how we change the existing structures to incorporate this and break down the barriers created by competition is another topic for discussion.

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Susan Barnes, Thursday, 18 Apr 2013, 13:51)
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ocTEL MOOC: Effective channels of communication

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Experiment with and/or reflect on different ways of communicating with fellow ocTEL participants. These include Twitter, your blog if you have one, the ocTEL JISCMail list [octel-public@jiscmail.ac.uk], the ocTEL forums, the chat window in the webinar. Try and use at least one channel of online communication that you haven’t used before (or don’t use regularly), and try and find out why other people like it.

·         What forms of reflection, challenge and learning do each of these do best?

·         How do they support relationship forming and community building? Is that important for learning?

·         Which do you prefer and why?

Communicating with others is an important part of any distance learning course as it has to replace the face-to-face contact you would usually have with co-learners and provide a channel for learners to create their own meanings through discussion.  Any form of communication have to be easy to work and easy to manage to reduce frustration and de-motivating emotion.  It need to be easy to navigate to keep up with discussions and to allow a timely response. 

The email option was an early form used in the course and it was clear from responses that this caused a lot of problems for participants in terms of managing the sheer numbers of emails in the in boxes.  This is not an efficient means of discussion with large group sizes and it’s difficult to keep a track of the flow of discussion.

The forum is a better form as discussion threads can be kept together and the flow of discussion is more clear.  The danger with forums is that contributors write too much.  Forum posts should be relatively short and restricted to one or two points which provide a good focus for replies and means that people can quickly catch up with unread posts and don’t have to read essays.  However the forum style use by this course is fairly basic and it is not conducive to easy navigation:

·         Unread posts need to be more clearly highlighted in a thread, eg in another background colour

·         There need to be more that 3 levels – parent and two replies. So that an single argument can be kept together

·         Small groups need to have separate forums so that they can have several threads of discussion.  As the course matures the small group thread are going to be unmanageable

Twitter is a poor medium for meaningful discussion but useful for sharing material.  Using an ocTEL hashtag we can quickly share ideas and resources.

Blogging is my preferred method of dealing with these activities as it gives me time to reflect on what I’m saying.  People also have the option of reading my blog or not and to comment or not.  Longer and more considered answers can be put here.

The chat box in the webinar is an excellent source of back channel discussion and many of the most interesting discussions I have had have been here.   They are always stimulated by a current question and encourage a lot of comment and debate.  The ability to embed hyperlinks also makes it a rich resource. 

It’s difficult to find a channel of communication I haven’t used before or use fairly regularly.  But the main features of a good one are ease of use, being able to keep up with discussions quickly and able to generate meaningful discussion.

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ocTEL MOOC activity 0.2

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·         What characteristics do you think the participants in this course have in common?

There is a wide range of participants and not only from HE.  There is a growing number of FE participants and people involved in professional training, such as nursing.  People are from both educational institutions and commercial companies.  There are people across the world.  However, we are all involved in TEL in some way and we all have an interest in elearning, sharing our ideas and learning more. We are a community of practice, albeit a very large one.

·         In what ways might they be different or atypical of other groups of learners that might be important or relevant to you?  

The reasons for doing this course are diverse, but I suspect that many are here because they want to learn more about TEL or they want to see what it’s like to participate in a MOOC.  I’m doing this for both reasons. My typical learners are OU students and in the main they also want to be involved in a course to learn more about their subject.  As with OU students we are also fitting this in around other commitments.  As with OU students there is a certain amount of independence expected.  However unlike the typical OU student the level of support of much less and so the level of independence is much more.  The course material is easily found and we know what to do, but the communication aspect is much more chaotic, at the moment.  Not for us the structured forums in tutor groups and a friendly supportive tutor presence.  I suspect moderation of the ocTEL forums is a full time job for several people, if moderation is undertaken.  This course possibly represents a community of practice better than an OU course as it has attracted people from within a particular set of field from education.  Students on OU courses are often following different qualification pathways. Some courses are undertaken because they are mandatory, which can mean interest is much lower. The ocTEL participants have gradually divided themselves into sub-groups of specific interest, such as the distance learning group and the FE group, which will be interesting to watch to see if distinct groups do develop and good discussion takes place.  At the moment there’s little discussion, few replies to posts.  People are still testing the water no doubt.

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ocTEL MOOC Week 0 reflection on Diana Laurillard's talk

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The big questions being asked by ocTEL participants were mainly on pedagogy and strategy.  They surrounded ideas about how we can use TEL more effectively, how can we encourage use and how can we tell that it’s making a difference. 

Diana’s view was that one driver of technology is the growing worldwide demand for HE which she calculated required a 1:25 teacher:learner ratio. The argument is that technology will help to make this possible.  MOOCs for example can cater for 1000s of learners with few teachers.  However, the question is do are they effective for learners.  Though many may register the evidence is that retention and achievement are low.  More guided courses are needed to ensure greater levels of achievement which need more tutors, thus the 1:25. 

My view is that technology can provide a means to widen all education globally, including HE. The costs of technology are falling and projects in the developing world mean that computers getting into classrooms resulting in better education of children and adults where previously ancient text books and poorly trained teachers were the only resource. 

I’m still unsure of the value of MOOCs to improving education.  They seem to cater for the highly independent learner and for people with a good educational background.  I’m not sure they will widen participation or support the increasing demand for HE. The OU model of distance learning, for me, provides a better model: small groups, structured courses, a high standard of module materials, good use of a range of online tools. The model can be adapted for larger groups, but there needs to be recognition that there is a limit to group size before a feeling of being part of a group and of being supported is lost. As an independent learner and one who is very used to online courses and working with technology I have found the ocTEL MOOC relatively easy to get involved with, but there are a lot of participants who are immediately finding the experience of being in a group of over a 1000 quite difficult.  My advice is make it easy for yourself – join a small group or two and stick with them.  You can still discuss the week’s activities but you will feel part of a group, get to know a few people and it will be less daunting.

One question that was raised was the issue of assessment in MOOCs or large group courses.  Obviously assessment is important to the student so that they know they are learning something and they can get feedback to help them improve.  For me this is the most important aspect of education.  Not only does feedback have to be timely but it has to be effective and a key skill of any tutor is the ability to give good feedback that guides the student to improve. How is this achieved on a MOOC?  Diana suggested peer marking and electronic marking.  Both are fine for a straightforward grade, but neither can give the quality of feedback necessary to help learners improve.  

I think eventually the MOOC will disappear, it will need to be smaller – perhaps a LOOC (Large Online Open Course).

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I've signed up to do this MOOC on Technology Enhanced Learning.  Firstly to see what it's like to do one of these course and secondly to get involved in the discussions with like-minded people and share experiences.

My first impression was the shear number of emails of introductions from what could be 1000 participants.  I quickly switched to digest view so it is more manageable.  Secondly, I checked out the LOs and activities for this week.  It is not unlike some of the MAODE modules I have done, though without the tutor group.  I signed up to a couple of small groups in my areas of interest which will hopefully replicate the tutor group feel. 

Anyway the first activity is to think about the big question in TEL.

The biggest question is in what ways does technology enhance learning?  Does it improve understanding of a subject? Does it make learning more authentic?  Does it improve motivation?  Does it make learning more interesting?

I’ve worked for the OU as a tutor for 12 years now and used several different technologies to help learners, from telephones when I first started to plethora of online tools developed over the past 5 years including forums, blogs, online tutorials, Google apps, Moodle, email, Twitter, internet and still not forgetting the telephone.  I would argue that it has changed the way OU students learn and made them less isolated.  The old image of an OU student alone with his/her books in the attic is shifting to a more social form.  This does actually pose some problems as some students still wish to study in this way and eschew contact with their peers.  Technology has made it easier to support students and quicker to help them when they have problems.  Electronic submission of assignments means richer feedback and faster feedback. Technology has also made sharing resources easier now that students can post links to items of news to discuss with others.  For those that want to get involved, learning is a richer experience.

More lately TEL has come to FE.  In what ways has it enhanced learning?  This is trickier as it has had to be integrated into a traditional system of f2f teaching and, arguably, a more teacher-centred system. However, the students themselves have involved technology with the use of computers and the internet and computer use at FE is ubiquitous now.  There are pockets of innovation where teachers are involving their students in forum discussions and encouraging reflection through blogging.  Teachers are gradually making more use of the VLE so that students can access materials and learn outside of the classroom.  However, use of technology is developing slower here, though I know some FE colleges are much further advanced.

I think both experiences have demonstrated that it is both the attitude of the institution and the students as to how far technology is used in teaching and learning and how far it is then able to enhance learning.  I would be interested to hear others thoughts and experiences. 


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H808 Core Activity 7.4

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Edited by Kim Aling, Tuesday, 9 Apr 2013, 09:25



Level of competency




Less than average   

More than average  



Experience of audio and visual facilities of the web; for example, Netmeeting, Skype, digital photos, webcasting, podcasting





 Strong skills in Elluminate/use of Skype - need to get to know other systems.  Created a short podcast using Audacity, hosted in the cloud and linked to from H808


The competence I chose was experience of audio and visual facilities of the web and the evidence I chose the podcast created in Unit 5.  Podcasting is a skill useful for teaching practise, as a means of communication and involves using specific software.  The content of the podcast was a critique of using forums with online groups and therefore can be mapped against this criterion also.  To create a podcast I used Audacity, a piece of software I have used before, so I was able to explore the editing functions a little more.  The podcast was hosted on Podbean which meant getting to know a new hosting site and exploring is functions. 



Understanding and development





























I consider my level of competency to be above average as I was experienced to know that I needed to script it, read through to identify tricky words and phrases and work in pauses to keep the pace right. I was able to edit the podcast, adjusting the pitch and amplitude and filtering out noise to create a sound I was happy with.  My experience of other hosting sites, such as Wordpress and Youtube meant I was quickly able to find my way around Podbean and provide a link from the H808 forum. I didn't assess as myself as strong, or expert because I still think there are things to learn about podcasting, such as frequent summaries and better use of emphasis and tone.   There are also still things to learn about audacity.

In this self assessment I have not only decided my own level of competency, but also have defined those levels myself.  Others may have different views on what constitutes below or above average and strong and on my view of my own level. 

Link to Unit 3 grid  https://www.dropbox.com/sh/n0rvuogky0122dc/C7vjiL2ve-

Link to podcast http://kimlesley.podbean.com/.


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H808 Core Activity 7.4

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Edited by Kim Aling, Tuesday, 9 Apr 2013, 09:25

Robin Goodfellow's Self Assessment

The question is 'do you find it a convincing approach to self-assessment of professional competence'?  

This value of this kind of competency mapping depends on the audience.  As a personal activity is has value because:

  • It involves and is a product of reflection
  • Helps to map personal progress and determine development needs

However in a professional context it would need to be mapped against standards determined by the profession.  In FE these would be the FENTO standards and in HE the Higher Education Academy standards.  It therefore needs to be:

  • mapped against the competencies required of a role - eg mapped to a job specification
  • validated, for example evidence needs to be accepted by management

The limitations of this approach are:

  • It depends on how it is carried out by the individual. It may be a paper exercise and an expectation which doesn't really achieve the objectives of competency mapping.
  • It needs to ensure that evidence does support the self assessment, that it is relevant and appropriate
  • Terminology needs careful definition - what is meant by novice or expert?
  • The general difficulties associated with subjectivity

In the example we were given from Robin Goodfellow, the competency was the  'Ability to support students with diverse technical backgrounds following different pathways through material', of which he rated himself 'above average'.  The supporting evidence is  'the environment map that I produced for H808 students and tutors at the start of the course'.   

It could be questioned if the evidence does support the competency.  The environment map is a product, whereas to demonstrate that it actually supports students it would need results of a student satisfaction survey.  It would require an outcome as well as a product.

Therefore a limitation of this kind of approach is that there is likely to be disagreement between people as to whether evidence accurately supports a person's assessment of their competency. 



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H808 Unit 6 Supplementary Activity

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Edited by Kim Aling, Tuesday, 9 Apr 2013, 09:25

How can collective work be fairly presented for individual assessment as evidence of competence. Would less technically adept group members be justified in claiming that their own competence had been enhanced by working together on this with others who were more proficient? How could they evidence such a claim?

The assessment of group work has long been under discussion given the more recent interest in collaborative and group learning.  Group work especially prepares learners for the workplace where teamwork is the most usual way to undertake tasks.  However, education also must meet the needs of assessment and the individual's achievement.  There are several models around to assess an individual's contribution to group work, however two difficulties may arise from the fact that the product may be more than the sum of the parts and that it can be difficult to weight the relative roles.  Is the research as important as the person who put together the presentation, in the case of the recent activity?  What about the person who undertakes several small roles compared to someone who makes one larger contribution.  How do you weight the person who encourages and drives the process against the person who makes more concrete contributions?

Belbin (cited in Belbin Associates, 2012) suggests there are nine key roles in a team, Plant (Creative, problem solvers), Monitor Evaluator (Maintains an overview, weighs up the group's options), Coordinator (maintains focus in objectives, draw out team members and delegates work), Resource investigator (looks at the opposition and makes sure the team's idea has relevance), Implementers (plans a workable strategy)' Completer finisher  (Looks for errors and polishes the final product), Teamworker (helps the team to gel), Shapers (provide the drive to keep things moving), Specialist (has area of expertise).  Within our own team we had slightly more defined roles, leader and coordinator, researcher, which was my key contribution, content writers (which everyone did), presentation creator, production person, reviewer (which several people including myself were involved in).  My main contribution was early on, reviewing the literature, adding synopses to the wiki and suggesting questions for the presentation.  I took one idea to write content for and then at the end proof read and made suggestions to improve it.

Laufenberg (2012) suggests that groups work better when individuals know that they will get a fair assessment. She grades work in two parts, one for individual work and one for the group.  Students are assessed on 5 areas, individually on research, knowledge and process, and the group on design and presentation. She also has space for self assessment.  In my own teaching I have also used peer assessment where each person comments on the roles played by others. This would be difficult to apply to the recent collaborative task as without further evidence it would be diffcult to assess the three individual criteria just from the forum discussions.  An addition to this unit it might be useful for  an individual journal of the activity to be uploaded to the blog for the tutor to assess.  From the forum, however, it would be necessary for the tutor to identify the individual contributions and grade them based on the quality of that contribution, eg how would the researcher be graded, or how would the presentation be graded?  It would also be instructive to allow some peer assessment and feed this in. In addition a grade could be given for the whole project and then a weighted final grade given.  My argument would be that the group project should have a slightly higher weighting than the individual contribution to address the difficulties of assessing different kinds of contribution.

However, can the technically less adept group members claim their own competence has been enhanced?  In the case of our own group project I would suggest this is problematic.  One of our group put together a PowerPoint presentation from our combined contributions, however, anyone not knowing how to use PowerPoint would not have learned any technical skills from this, though they would have seen a good example of a presentation. Additionally another member of the group recorded this using Camtasia Studio 7 and again, any who did not know this software would have learnt anything. What group members did learn was a considerable amount about ePortfolios in Lifelong Learning and had the experience of working in a team. Therefore to claim that technical competencies have been enhanced would be hard to substantiate, in this particular exercise.


Belbin Associates (2012) 'History and research' Belbin.com found at http://www.belbin.com/rte.asp?id=3 [Accessed 24/11/12]Laufenberg, D. (2012) 'Group work doesn't have to suck' blog post 1 November 2012, The Innovative Educator found at http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/group-work-doesnt-have-to-suck.html?m=1 [Accessed 24/11/12]

Laufenberg (2012) 'Groupwork doesn't have to suck' Blog post, The Innovative Educator. Available at http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2012/11/group-work-doesnt-have-to-suck.html

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H808 Core Activity 5.3

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Edited by Kim Aling, Tuesday, 9 Apr 2013, 09:26

In teaching it has always been good practice to use a variety of resources to make lessons interesting and to cater for different learning styles.  Instructional design recommends the use of multiple ways to deliver information and encourage interaction.  As the Penn State advice argues the main thing is to be careful that your different modes of delivery don't conflict, so for example, images should relate to the subject text.

With advancing technology and web 2.0, not only are there a whole range of media that can be used by individuals, but storage systems such as eportfolios are also able to upload many different file types.

Recording audio and video is easily done on pocket sized devices, even phones, and files can be converted to compress their size and to be compatible with different storage facilities. There is free software available to do this such as Freemake. For recording evidence for eportfolios the whole range of media can be utilised.  You can do audio recordings of your thoughts and idea, or even video all from a home computer. You could record your blogs as audio blogs using something like Ipadio (Phlogs).  For capturing extracts of audio you can record on a phone, or using software on the computer. Windows 7 has a very handy snippy tool for quickly capturing screenshots as jpg, gif or png files and so you can capture your forum or blog posts in situ, web pages, PowerPoint slides, wiki pages, or your tutors comments on a piece of work.  I used the snipping tool in TMA01 for some of the evidence. Screencasting software could be used to convert PowerPoint presentations or extracts into wmv or mp4 files.  Jing is a handy free tool to capture audio and screencasts. For capturing hand written notes and drawings, and newspaper cuttings or other hard copy I use an iphone app called Scan Pages which does just that and saves them as  pdf files that you can email to yourself.

I think the key thing is that it's so easy now to do these things that previously required expensive equipment and software and exclusive sharing methods.

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H808 Core Activity 5.1 creating a podcast

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Edited by Kim Aling, Tuesday, 9 Apr 2013, 09:27

Creating a podcast.  The activity was relatively straightforward as I have done podcasting (and vodcasting) before.  I already have audacity and have a reasonable amount of experience using it, including some of the advanced features.  The best way to do a podcast is to have a script and I break it up into clear sections so that the podcast isn't rushed.  I also do about three or four practices sorting out the difficult phrases - it's surprising the words that suddenly become tongue twisters - for example H808.

Having got a version I was happy with I adjusted the amplitude and the pitch, just so it didn't sound quite like me. Setting up Podbean took longer.  I did this before doing the podcast so I could explore it a bit.  Setting up an account was straightforward.  I then played with the theme and worked out how to do things and where to upload files.  I discovered that it was similar to Wordpress and that made it easier.  Uploading the mp3 was therefore pretty straightforward and then I published it to the site with a little bit of an introduction and took a copy of the url to post onto the course wiki.

There was a big thing about podcasts about 3-4 years ago and as a college we were involved in the JISC MoleNet project  (Mobile Learning Network).  We were partnered with several colleges across the south west. The project involved funding for podcasting equipment and training for staff and the setting up of a podcast hosting site, which was our role.  Several podcasts (and vodcasts) were created and uploaded to the site covering a range of subject areas.  I can't say they were of any great quality or particularly engaging which raised a fundamental question about creative skills in this area.  It is not just about having the equipment to create them and the will, but they have to be good learning objects in the end.

The best podcasts in terms of learning were the ones created by the students themselves where they discussed things they had been learning in class.  It made their learning more interesting and having to explain something meant they had to understand it very well.  They also put it into words that their peers understood.  For me this is the best use of them.  As teaching tools they work if they are short and sharp, but they are essentially passive and so best used sparingly.

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H808 Unit 4

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Edited by Kim Aling, Tuesday, 9 Apr 2013, 09:26

One of the themes considered so far is the idea of an elearning professional and the competencies that might be required.  A study of the posts available in the elearning category reveals a huge diversity of roles and titles. There seemed to be two main types of role, one more technical and the other more pedagogic, embedding technology into teaching and learning and supporting staff in ways to do this.  Few of the roles here were teaching roles, though some had an element of training.  In contrast the studies of competencies by Hiller (2002) and Goodyear relate to teaching and teaching online.  It's far from clear, therefore, exactly what an elearning professional is.  My own role includes both forms, a distance tutor using a range of technologies to support learners and as a Learning Technologist, involved in developing online courses and resources for others and promoting education technology to teaching staff.  Supplementary activity 3.2 was an interesting discussion around developing a list of technologies for elearning and the underlying competencies required of an elearning professional. I contributed to a wiki, adding to the technologies.  To try an tease out the underlying competencies I added a section on 'issues', designed to explore the different issues that an elearning technologist needed to understand.

Goodyear, P., Salmon G.,  Spector, J.M., Steeples, C.,Tickner, S. , (2001) Competences for Online Teaching: A Special Report in  Education Technology Research and Development Vol. 49. No.1

Hillier, Y. (2002) 'The quest for competence, good practice and excellence' (online), The Higher Education Academy. Available from: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/resource_database/id494_quest_for_competence



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H808 Core Activity 2.4: Reflection and Learning

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Edited by Kim Aling, Tuesday, 9 Apr 2013, 09:26

I've been in education both as a student and teacher for many years and believe that reflection is an important aspect of both.  Being able to reflect on one's learning develops strong independent learners and being able to reflect on content promotes deep learning and real understanding of a subject.  Reflective practice helps a learner build a much clearer picture of their own strengths and weaknesses and to develop strategies to improve.  However, as Moon (2001) suggests this does require some training to help the learner develop good reflective practice, including clear and constructive feedback on their work to inform their reflection.  As Moon also suggests, explaining the value of reflection and providing examples is also important.  On two modules I teach for the OU students have to do a 'self reflection' of 50 words at the end of their assignment on a specified aspect of the experience and this enables me to guide their reflection a little.  In H808 reflection is a large part of the module activities and assessment. Blogging is a useful way to reflect and I've started adding a weekly post to the blog on my eportfolio about how I'm feeling about the module so far and where things have gone well and why things haven't gone so well.  Moon made a very good point about emotion in reflection which I believe is thoroughly underestimated in all learning theory.  Much of my learning and work does involve quite bit of frustration and anxiety, as well as pleasure and elation at times, and I intend to also explore my emotions with regards H808 as well.  My reflective blogs remain private however as I think that if I know they can be read by others then they won't be true reflections as Crème (2005) suggests with regards assessed reflective activity.



Moon, J. (2001) ‘PDP working paper 4: reflection in higher education learning’ (online), The Higher Education Academy. Available from: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/York/documents/resources/resourcedatabase/id72_Reflection_in_Higher_Education_Learning.rtf [Accessed 23 September 2012]

Crème, P. (2005) ‘Should student learning journals be assessed?’, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 287–96. Available from: http://libezproxy.open.ac.uk/login?url=http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02602930500063850 [Accessed 23 September 2012]



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H808 Developing and editing wikis

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Edited by Kim Aling, Tuesday, 9 Apr 2013, 09:27

These are my thoughts on the experience of being principal wiki editor for some staff development courses on VLE2.   I was also given the task of creating two new wikis, one for a self taught Elluminate module and one for Associate Lecturers to share ideas and good practice for Elluminate sessions in Region 02.

My aim was to, firstly, set up the necessary pages to start the wiki. As ALs may not be familiar with using wikis, I decided it was best given a clear structure from the start.  It will then adapt it as it gets populated.  Each page has clear instructions on how to edit it and links to the OU computing guide. There were some early issues with IE9 as I wasn't able to edit without going into html mode.   A discussion with IT support identified this as a possible IE9 incompatibility.  I switched to using Chrome and had no further problems.  I began to populate some of the pages with contributions so that no-one would feel they were the first. To make the wiki a little more attractive each page has an image as a header.   Each header follows a similar style and includes an image that reflects the page title. The one issue with Chrome is that when uploading images it doesn't offer the facility to resize in the html editor box, the size has to put in when you upload the image.  I discovered by trial and error the optimum width was 11cm.  Training materials developed for region 02 were uploaded here and included as attachments, a new feature of VLE2.  Links and bridges were also added to other Elluminate pages on other wikis.

The wiki created for sharing good practice in region 02 was done on the old VLE style and so training materials could not be added as attachments.  I therefore uploaded the materials (pdf files) to a public folder on Dropbox, and then copied the link into the wiki.  The documents then opened from Dropbox.  It was interesting to work a way around the shortcomings of the old VLE style wiki.

I now expect to gradually take more of a backseat role, housekeeping and tidying whilst allowing the wiki to develop in the direction determined by the crowd. The aim is that these wikis become a rich and valuable resource for all ALs using Elluminate in their teaching.


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