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Why some online learning works better than others

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 17 Oct 2014, 14:43
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 This is what a reading list looks like - too much of a good thing makes it a bad thing

I 'do' e-learning for two reasons:

  • love of a subject, or a desire to fill holes or build mountains in my knowledge
  • fascination in e-learning: what works and what does not.

FutureLearn is a magic platform

I love it's simplicity, clarity and intuitiveness. In the right hands it's the perfect cup of coffee. (and once a day takes about as long to consume)

Classy copy

The considered, edited and crafted content doesn't dick about: it is a brief talk, or walk and talk BBC documentary style opening (video), followed by a a dozen paragraphs of a succinct piece of required reading that is then opened to the 'floor'.

'Connectedness' is enabled

The threaded discussion looks more like this bulletin-board cum blog cum student forum. Perhaps, as this has developed over the last decade, is where the idea came from? As a bulletin-board each time you comment your thoughts are placed on the top of the pile: someone has to read it when they log in, or at least there's a  greater chance of that.

This connectedness is facilitated and encouraged further by alerts you get as others comment in a thread you've contributed to or started. 

Your contributions are sorted for you and so build, without you needing to do so yourself, into a threaded line of thought - you can see how you are learning, how your knowledge improves and your ideas develop.

There are parameters

There is a word count for each posting. 1200 characters I think and a time frame during which you can edit (15 minutes). 

There is a modicum of overload

We, as students, are the masters of the time we have, or want to give to a thing. We are also the ones who know and control the pace. It is too simple to say that some people read faster than others, so can consume more. We approach text in very different ways. What is crucial and done in the FutureLearn module I'm doing on the 1919 First World War Paris Treaty is the amount of reading offered. It is more than enough, but not overwhelming. It takes itself and its students seriously by saying that 'we think you can read all of this and contribute to the discussions in the time allocated - five hours a week'.

Module teams get it wrong when content is sparse or when they overload the student with that laziest of get-outs 'the reading list'. Getting it right requires effort, confidence in the subject you are teaching and a belief and understanding of the way people learn and the platforms and tools now available and how their evolving use impacts on learning. I'm doing a couple of FutureLearn modules: 'Writing Applications' at two hours a week, compares to World War 1: Paris 1919 at five hours a week. The contrast couldn't be greater. 

It's like the first offers you a small cup of coffee: no refills. Instant. You get it with milk whether you like it or not. While the second gives you a rich cup of coffee and, if you want them, a couple of refills. No more. There are parameters. 

FutureLearn keeps it simple

What matters are the words people type. There are none of the mess of unnecessary buttons provided here. Honestly. Keep it simple OU. They just muddle things massively. Where used they invariably take away from the ability to communicate. It is enough of a challenge to type on a QWERTY keyboard. Plain text does the job. In the hands of the amateur (all of us), being able to add colour, change font size and a whole lot more serves no useful purpose. 

Content is self-moderated by the group

A simple alert button allows you to flag something to let moderators know that something inappropriate is going on: hateful language, foul language, 'drunken' rants ... 

Go see

'There's something for everyone'.

 

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Design Museum

B822 BK 2 C2 Problems and challenges

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 19 Aug 2012, 21:33

Problem, opportunity, challenge, issue, concern ...

I've been professionally lodged in calling everything a problem to be solved. I may think this through and stick to this concept. I was introduced to the Creative Brief at JWT, London in the mid 1980s. Through Design & Art Direction (D&AD) workshops, then a year, full-time at the School of Communication Arts the 'problem' as the preferred, indeed the only term, was reinforced.

The advertising Creative Brief goes:

What is the problem?

What is the opportunity?

Who are you speaking to?

What do you want to say?

How do you want them to react to this message?

What else do you need to know?

I have seen no reason to change this, indeed some 135+ video productions later, information films, training films, change management, product launch, lecture, you name it ... the same set of questions, answered on a SINGLE SIDE of A4 governs the initial client meetings. If we cannot get it onto a single sheet, then we haven't the focus to deliver a clear response. Back to the drawing board.

It works.

From the agreed Creative Brief I then write a synopsis or two, the ideas are shared and I go off and prepare a treatment or two; I offer alternatives. Then, with agreement on the treatment, based always on how well it lives up to the brief, I go off and write a script. Sometimes the script is visualisation and dialogue (voice over, interviews transcripts even dramatisation), usually very little needs to be changed at this stage; the script is a direct expression of what was agreed in the treatment. We then produce (shoot, post-produce) and review the end result. Once again, a fail-safe process that only sees the product improved upon at each stage.

It works.

So why is this page of this chapter an Epiphany?

I guess, because I know that some clients struggle with the term 'problem'. I stubbornly refuse to accept an alternative and argue my case. Yet apparently there is a case. Or is there? VanGundy (1988) rightly suggests that

p18 'Each of these different terms expresses its own metaphor for what is involved and suggests its own slightly different ways of working'. Henry et al. (2010:18)

To be a problem there needs to be a 'gap' between what is desired and the current position. VanGundy (1988:04)

Why would I change what has always worked?

When I bring with my argument decades of experience from the most successful, persuasive and memorable communicators of all? This 'Creative Brief is an industry standard.

My view is that if there isn't a problem, there is no need to do x, y or z. Anything less than 'problem' diminishes the nature and ambition of the communications challenge (here I argue that internal and external communications, PR, marketing and advertising, are all on the same spectrum: you are trying to persuade people).

Think of problems and solutions as part of an extended hierarchy.

We then get into 'Gap Analysis'

p19 'The imperative that drives creative people can transform the theoretical 'what could be' into a more powerfully motivating 'what should be'.

Then drift away from the challenge when the 'problem' is no longer (in my view of things) considered a communications issue.

p24 The problem exists in the overlap between ourselves and the situation ... this means that solutions can often be as much a mater of changing ourselves as changing the external situation'.

  1. Change the situation
  2. Change yourself
  3. Get out
  4. Learn to live with it

As an external supplier, a communications problem fixer, then only point 1 can apply, which becomes an argument for the extensive use of external suppliers. Think about it, do you want someone to address the problem/challenge you take to them, or shilly-shally about, making do, dodging it or making themselves absent?

p26 'Play' - the dynamic gap between vision and reality.

Activity 2.1 (p16)

Frustration over having an audio-cassette to listen to. By sharing the problems it was resolved.

Cause: keeping up with the technology

Ans: A problem shared is a problem halved. Ease of relationships.

p17 'A densely interconnected part of a huge web of issues and concerns that change and develop over time and may transform radically in appearance depending on your viewpoint'.

Spend a few minutes identifying some of the features of this story that might perhaps generalise to other situations and that:

  • helped to generate the challenge
  • helped to overcome it.

Solving 'problems' however, is not as clear-cut as a specific problem relate to communications.

I need more of VanGundy. Is he free from the OU Library? Or even an not too expensive download as an eBook to the Kindle and iPad. Despite admonitions to spend less time reading and more time addressing the practical side of Block 2, I feel I have to read on, to investigate an issue (oops, problem, I mean) that has bugged me for more than 25 years.

REFERENCE

Henry, J., Mayle, D., Bell, R., Carlisle, Y. Managing Problems Creatively (3rd edn) 2010. The Open University.

VanGundy, A.B. (1988) Techniques of structured problem solving (2nd edn), New York: Van Nostran Reinhold.

 

 


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Some struggle to create a social business, others go viral. What does it take?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 9 Sep 2011, 13:01

Having followed Dion Hinchcliffe for a couple of years I'd now happily shadow him. A combination of sonud thinking, a business background (IT), a polished and dense writer with authority who tops it all off with one-stop graphics like this.

Dion%252520Hinchcliffes%252520Social%252520Viral%252520CHART%252520%252520%2525282011%252529.JPG

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Spreading the word through multiple links in social media

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 13 May 2011, 15:44

A week ago I was clearing out the shed and came across a Diablo ... a Bowtie-like shape. It struck me that this could be a way to represent the traditional relationship between an organisation and the public, the messages are funnelled through a spot.

I've done various drawings on this theme

Each stage represents the spreading of the 'word' at and from a variety of 'touch points' in an organisation, gradually increasing so that dialogue between people inside and outside an organisation have increased greatly to their mutual benefit.

DSC01718.JPG

Then I say this, the light from a small vase on a table.

If I could visually double this up as a mirror image then I'd be getting some sense of the dynamism that is still a vital part of communications, as inventive as always, and usually all the IT tools at its disposal to create, share and respond,

DSC01725.JPG

Social Media isn't replacement anything ... it is easy, convenient and of the age. It suits and comes out of the direct way we've learnt to communicate through email and messaging.

All I visualise are these lines of 'activity' spreading between an institution and its public to create something that might resemble a funnel.

The same thinking applies to education, that the realtionship used to be funnel through a teacher to a student in a classroom who belong to a cohort, or through a lecturer into a lecture hall. The opportunity to create (or the necessity to permit) a broader breadth and depth of two way communication is permitted by social media.

These lines of communication are personal, and one to one.

They are forged through links in websites, links in print and from TV, links offered up through Twitter and blogs. They are conversations that are picked up in Linkedin or Facebook.

The expression 'old news keeps like fish' can no longer apply ... far from going off, the write message, insight or assistance is kept alive and made even more meaningful as it is shared and stored and linked to.

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Collaboration in most things

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 21 Nov 2011, 08:18

Experiences here, lessons learnt and studied, has me now appealing to friends and colleagues to collaborate on all kinds of things.

What strikes me, having spent a few years buried in my writing and alone with the task, is how I have always worked best in a team, if only in a team of two. I do well as number two, I like to have someone working to, for or with me, I like constructing larger teams.

The intention therefore is to throw several balls into the air, but rather than juggling alone there will be a troupe. These will be formed into formal teams (businesses, projects) and less formal ones (writing, thinking teams and partnerships).

The outcomes?

  • Results
  • Credits
  • Reputation
  • Income
  • Contentment
  • Pride

Whilst supported online I know too that for the sake of cohesion and commitment there will need to be face-to-face meetings and shared offices. As soon as I can get an office in town, I will do so. I am looking for a space at the University Innovation Centre and for the first time in a decade will get an address in the West End, back to Newburgh Street or Newman Street, or in Covent Garden.

Ask me in 12 months time how 2011 has been.

Either way I'll keep you posted here.

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