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Facts in an essays are like pepper in soup

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:23
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Facts in an essays are like pepper in soup

How do you compare and mark a variety of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)?

We need to treat them like one of those challenges they do on Top Gear, where Jeremy Clarkson - ‎Richard Hammond - ‎James May set off to Lapland in a Reliant Robin or some such and then get marks across six or so criteria. Hardly scientific, but it splits the pack.

So, let's say we take THREE MOOCs, what criteria should there be? 

  • Commitment. What percentage of participants signing up complete the course?
  • Comments. I use the word 'vibrancy' to judge the amount and nature of activity in the MOOC, so this is crudely reduced to the number of comments left. 
  • Likes. Another form of vibrancy where comments left by the team and by participants are 'liked'. It has to be a measure of participation, engagement and even enjoyment
  • Correct answers. Assuming, without any means to verify this, that participants don't cheat, when tested are they getting the answers right. This is tricky as there ought to be a before and after test. Tricky to as how one is tested should relate directly to how one is taught. However, few MOOCs if any are designed as rote learning. 

You could still end up, potentially, comparing a leaflet with an Encyclopaedia. Or as the Senior Tutor on something I have been on, a rhinoceros with a giraffe.

It helps to know your audience and play to a niche.

It helps to concentrate on the quality of content too, rather than more obviously pushing your faculty and university. Enthusiasm, desire to impart and share knowledge, wit, intelligence ... And followers with many points of view, ideally from around the globe I've found as this will 'keep the kettle bowling'. There is never a quiet moment, is there?

I did badly on a quiz in a FutureLearn Free Online Course (FOC). World War 1. Paris 1919. A new world order ... 

I think I got half right. I chose not to cheat, not to go back or to do a Google search; what's the point in that. I haven't taken notes. I wanted to get a handle on how much is going in ... or not. Actually, in this context, the quiz isn't surely a test of what has been learnt, but a bit of fun. Learning facts and dates is, or used to be, what you did in formal education at 15 or 16. This course is about issues and ideas. A 'test' therefore, would be to respond to an essay title. And the only way to grade that, which I've seen successfully achieved in MOOCs, is for us lot to mark each others' work. Just thinking out loud. In this instance the course team, understandably could not, nor did they try, to respond to some 7,000 comments. They could never read, assess, grade and give feedback to a thousand 4,000 word essays. Unless, as I have experienced, you pay a fee. I did a MOOC with Oxford Brookes and paid a fee, achieved a distinction and have a certificate on 'First Steps in Teaching in Higher Education'.

As facts are like pins that secure larger chunks of knowledge I ought to study such a FutureLearn FOC with a notepad; just a few notes on salient facts would help so that's what I'll do next week and see how I get on. Not slavishly. I'll use a pack of old envelopes or some such smile For facts to stick, rather than ideas to develop, the platform would have needed to have had a lot of repetition built into it. Facts in an essays are like pepper in soup.

Armed with an entire module on research techniques for studying e-learning - H809: Practice-based research in educational technology - I ought to be able to go about this in a more academic, and less flippant fashion. 

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H810 - Evaluating accessibility : e-learning scrutinised

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 19 Nov 2012, 12:34

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Fig. 1. Evaluating accessibility - H810

All of this can be multi-layered, more like petals of a rose that a poster-sized mind-map.

It is of course an iterative process too - things get shifted about all the time. Exported as a TEXT document it becomes the first draft of an assignment. At a glance I can see there are 6 or 7 main themes here, though a substantial part of my thinking will be around the ideas of usabilty and accessibility and whether universal design is more appropriate than highly focused user centred design.

I thought I could offer a PDF version here - apparently not. Clicking on it will allow a download that can then been zoomed and should remain legible.

Not an assignment, but can something like this work in a piece of work for evaluation?

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Learning in extremis

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 25 Jul 2012, 18:13
My wife went into labour at 2.30am, we'd planned a home birth (this is her second) however our hospital was some 37 miles away and our allocated Midwife was another 20 miles beyond that. SHe spoke to my wife betweenp contractions – she wouldn't make it. Call an ambulance and she'd be over in due course.

"Emergency Home Birth!" my wife exclaimed pointing at a book on pregnancy and childbirth.

Chapter six looked like it needed half an hour to read and the same again to digest; there wasn't time. Thankfully om the facing page of Chapter six the editor had laid out the essentials in clear bullet points – towels, scissors and string are the ones I remember, probably because I required all three, these and the reminder that the umbiliacal cord can get caught around the baby's throat.

And so it was, at around 3.20am, my wife on all fours at the end of the bed, towels in place that our son was born. First his head, the umbiliacal chord wrapped tightly around his throat. I eased this over his chin and around his head, surprised at how thick and tough it was – then one,the both shoulders and he feel into my arms like a muddy rugby ball out of a scrum. My wife rolled around and sitting at the end of the bed she took him into her arms.

A few minutes later the midwife arrived, thought everything was going well and went to run a bath. In due course she showed me how to cut the umbilliacal cord then took my wife to the bathroom.

Learning in extremis? I didn't need a book, or a training video and given this was 1996 I wasn't going to have Google, Quora or YouTube offer some advice.

I've had no further need for these particular parenting skills, though it's been an adventure following two infants through childhood into their early teens.

Learning works best when it is pished, when there is a challenge of time and circumstances, where it can be applied and seen to work.

How do we apply this to formal education, to stuyding for exams through secondary and tertiary education? What is the difference with learning in the workforce, between physical actions on a factory floor, in a mine, power station or warehouse, out on a civil engineering building site or in an office or boardroom?

There need to be exams – from mocks to annual exams and finals.

Essays and regualr assignments are part of this best practice. And how about tests, even the surprise test, not so much for the result, but for the pressure that ought to help fix some learning in our plastic, fickle minds?

In advertising we often spoke of 'testing to destruction' that nothing beats a clear demonstration of the products power, staying power or effectiveness in memorably extreme conditions.

I like the idea of working Against the clock, of competition too, even learning taken place, as I have heard, as someone cycles around Europe, or drives a Russian Jeep from Kazikstan back to Britain.

I believe in the view that 'it'll be alright on the night' – that you can galvanise a group to rally round when needed and those new to this game will pick up a great deal in the process; personally I loved the all nighters we did in our teens breaking one set then building another in the Newcastle Playhouse, some sense of which I repeated professionally on latae night and all night shoots, often in 'extreme' places.


Then there's another kind of learning extreme - pscking it in - QA on 240 links or proofing eight 40 frame PowerPoint e-learning wireframes.

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Testing and proof reading

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 24 Jul 2012, 05:55
I find it remarkable to be in such a valued and valuable role for e-learning. Testing might be a nearly finished or finished e-learning product, but proof reading can start with the initial proposal document and the first plans, or blue prints or wireframes for the course itself. I am therefore being a second pair of eyes to support sales, project management, learning design, build and graphics. I am looking to support, comment on or correct grammar and spelling, but also thinking about how well something communicates, whether it works or not - anything to ease the user experience, while adhering to appropriate style guides of course. Along the way I am having my own usage and abusage of English fixed, so at last I can correct who to whom, while deleting commas, and reducing the use of parentheses to aid clarity of communication.
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Another First and once again gobsmacked - by the OU interface and the performance of the iPhone

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 7 Sep 2011, 11:16

 

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My first smartphone is an iPhone.

As I am writing about mobile learning for an EMA I needed one didn't I ? In any case it's my birthday in three weeks time. Without the kit to test it for yourself you remain a second hand learner.

I am gobsmacked at how dinky it all is after the iPad.

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Some Apps work even better in miniature, for example the spaced learning aide-memoir site Spaced-Ed saw me signing up for further micro-courses.

 

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I am into Linkedin, Wordpress and Twitter too; each of these offers a simplified variation of its larger sibling.

This tiny keyboard defies its ability to type at all defies logic, I feel as if I am trying to play a harp wearing gardening gloves.

In relation to where else I can take all that this device offers my immediate thought was confined to a coffin, or under the bed if you'd prefer or perhaps on a bunk in a small yacht.

Unlike the iPad I am could take this for a run or under-dressed spring skiing.

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Getting all my Kindle books here with the reader could allow me to cycle the South Downs while listening to a book, not that the Kindle is so hard to have in a jacket pocket.

Much more to discover; my 45 words per minute typing down to 60 characters a minute may render my stream of consciousness less steam and more substance.

On Verra

P.S. I need them for nothing else but had to resort to reading glasses; I dare say there will be yet smaller devices such as a voice-activated iBadge?

P.P.S. No spellchecker and it irritates me that its is automatically miscorrected to it's.

P.P.S. 12 hours later I find myself at a desk with a large screen editing this (spacing mostly), the iPad on my knees like a figure from a book I have reviewed her ... but the figure is an image in Picasa Web. I started on the iPhone (using it as an iTouch at the moment, wifi only) running through 8 items: colleague blog update, Linkedin Group updates, shared doc on Social Media 'Must do' list with links, and while the kettle boiled a few stabs at basic French from an App which I'll ditch as it is too basic and the next step requires payment).

ON REFLECTION

Not only managing the distractions, but the ease at which the Apps can extract payment through the likes of iTunes.

iTunes U is another matter -free learning, on the go wherever you go (and even when you need to go).

 

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Where old meets new: paper and handwriting vs e-learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 11 Nov 2014, 06:53

Paper Assignments

I have in-front of me an Amateur Swimming Associations (ASA) paper for the Level III Senior Club Coach certificate. There are 12 sheets, facing side only. The paper is waxed, copyrighted and stamped with the ASA logo. Having attended a day long workshop on the topic, done some reading and from my own experience I complete these assignment and submit. It ought to be submitted as is; this is in part a test of authenticity. I have handwritten my responses. My habit and way of doing things is to have it in a word document, so I load the text and tables, complete the required questions/tasks, print off and submit both parts. Invariably I get a note about the typed up/printed off version being so much better ... it takes skills that even I lack to write something in some of the minuscule boxes.

I was discussing on Monday with the ASA how to avoid plagiarism with e-assessments.

I mentioned Nottingham University medical students attening a computer-based assessment. I mentioned software that can spot plagiarism. I struggled however with the kind of forms the ASA uses as these tests seem to be have written with the EXAMINER in mind ... i.e. to make them easy to mark. Which also makes it easy to cheat. The answer is the same, not open to interpretation. More or less. This isn't strictly fair ... papers are returned covered in red ink - I have redone one paper.

There has to be a sign in process that is used to identify a person.

How many people cheat? Is it such a problem?

Apparently so. Even with certificates and qualifications it appears easy to falsify documents. And often, these determined people are excellent teachers/coaches who have learn their trade as competitive swimmers and/or on the job, so they know what they are doing, they simply don't have the piece of paper.

Memory Cards

I also have in front of me a set of handwritten cards given to me by a colleague who has just taken her Level II Coaching certificate. She failed the written paper. She used these cards to test herself. My intention is to put these into Spaced-Ed, as an exercise, possibly to create or to begin to create a useful learning tool.

I like the way Space-Ed prompts you over the week, tests you on a few things, then leaves you alone. You have time to assimilate the information. Is it easy learning? It is easier learning ... nothing beats a period of concerted effort and self-testing to verify that you know something or not.

Whether electronic, or paper ... or the spoken word, there is always a bridge to gap, a translation, as it were, of the information a person wants or needs to assimilate and this assimilation process.

Common to all is EFFORT.

Do you work hard at it for longer periods of time ... or divide the task up into smaller chunks? Which works best? For you, or anyone? Is there a definitive answer? No. It will vary for you, as with anyone else. It will vary by motivation, inclination, time available, the nature and importance of the topic, the degree to which this topic is covered in print or online, or in workshops and in the workplace. In deed, my contention, would be that the greater the variety of ways to engage with the information the better it will be retained and the more useful it will be when required in a myriad of ways to be applied or is called upon.

On reflection

I learn from writing somethign out by hand. I learn again when I type it up. I may not be engaging with it 'in the workpale;' but there is engagement non the less through my eyes, hands and fingers. Similarly the person who wrote out this pack of 71 cards (both sides written up) was preparng themselves, afterall, for a written exam. She knows her stuff poolside, her struggle (as I know is the case for many) is translating this into exam-like responses in a highly false setting, away from a pool, from swimmers, having to read words to respond in text, rather than reading an athlete (observation) and responding with a fixing drill or exercise.

 

 

 

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Sunday 12th September 2010

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 14 Sep 2010, 14:54

Some of the software I am trying to get my head around:

  • Outllook
  • Zoho
  • Compendium
  • Learning Clubs
  • Word (2002-2010)
  • Skype
  • Google Docs
  • Mahara
  • Peeblepad

COMPENDIUM 09.15 12th SEPT 2010

Having created the contents for a map inside my home page I cannot figure out how to save it or to create another map. Listing through the movie, or screencast, or animation, or whatever you want to call it, I pick up, at last on the concept of a map being like a folder so by typing M I get a map (or folder) in which to build my content. Of course at first I do not simply type m, I type CTRL 'm' as I expect it to function in this way. Wrong, just type the letter 'm'. So, one step forward, three steps back, four steps forward and I get theresad

With a Map open, it being a folder, I hazzard a guess that my first experimental Knowledge Map can, through drop and drag go into this Mapfolder. Wrong. No probs. I spent 30 mins thinking it through, I can delete it all and start afresh and do a better job of it second time round. Just as well this isn't a real job.

Things need to be called what they do or are. When is a folder not a folder? When its a map. But it isn't a map, it's an electronic flip chart, or organiser, or plannogramme. It isn't a map in the Ordance Survey sense of the word. Though is it a Mind Map. (Didn't someone try to trademark the term?)

I press on.

I do expect this. Learn a bit. Have a bit of a go. Delete. Try again.

I take the project I developed in H807 and type in the 'Learning Problem' and put this at the core of building a response, not the assignment, but the way forward to seek financing, assemble a team, budget, schedule and then produce a piece of e-learning.

I rock 'n roll between the Knowledge Map I am constructing and the instruction in the Screencast Movie. I have seen that there are several of these, so will inch forward taking instruction, giving it a go, and hopefully producing something of use by the end of it. The test will be to send it to a.n.other for their input.

Making a Start. The second time.

  • Type M to start a folder/file thingey
  • Stuff includes:
  • Pro Nodes and Con Nodes
  • 'Populating' nodes with uploads, links and type notes/lists.
  • Questions
  • Ideas
  • Arguments
  • Linking ideas
  • Connecting up 'fragments' or 'ideas' (stuff, or assets, or nuggets)
  • Bringing in ideas (from folder and files, various types/formats)

 (As I'm in the process of migrating folder from my ancient iBook to a second hand PC laptop the 'assets' I might attach/enclose at this time aren't available. This 'dual existance' on MAC and PC can be resolve by using another e-learning tool - clouds. These assets, strategically chosen and appropriately protected, out to be online. Like I guess several hundred photographs that are currently 'shared' between Kodak Eashare (new version) and Flickr ... as well as Face Book.)

COMPENDIUM 11.45 12th SEPT 2010

Already feel I am creating a Map in Compendium that collates my thinking to date in a single page of links rather than a 2,000 proposal or a Power Point Presentation.

My immediate dilemma is starting to realise how Compendium could be used for several other projects that became hopeless tangled over the last decade. These are speculative writing and TV or film production projects. For instance, 'The Watersprites' is a photojournal that in part tells the story as well as identifying intended locations for shooting. It is also a shortfilm on YouTube. It is also a synopsis, more than one treatment, a handful of characters and a few too many scripts that would benefit greatly from this approach. I can see that by being reminded visually of where a project is going, parameters are set and a logical outcome is more likely.

Knowledge Mapping contains the fireworks and permits them.

  • Assigning tags
  • 'Harvesting' tags from one map or many
  • with a nod to Mac users (probably the presenters prefered platform)
  • But how to save? Can I assume this map will still be there when I come back?

I like the way a problem or tentative proposal can be thought through and shared without it needing to become what may on appearanve read like or look like a finished document.

COMPENDIUM 15.30 12th SEPT 2010 Part Two

I needed the break. The fact that I am playing more with the Knowledge Map I have created rather that listening to more 'how to movies ...' is a positive sign. The fact that I have pulled out a set of A1 card and laminated overlays of a presentation I gave a fw weeks ago ... is a positive step. I think I can create electronic, digitally enhanced versions of these on Compendium, the 'retro-fit' part of the learning process, but the end result something I can then share with colleagues.

I think with these A1 sheets I will photgraph them (far too large to scan) then create an overlay in Adobe Photoshop which in turn will be one of a series of slides in Power Point.

These in turn will be linked and expanded with Compendium so that at each step furthe information can be drawn upon. This is a five year/six year plan so we'll be coming back to it repeatedly using it to guide decissions as well as to provide evidence. (This is swimming, our National Governing Body, the ASA want all clubs to achieve then retain a national standard for best practice. We hold three accreditations and are aspiring to a fourth).

Tidying up a Knowledge Map with an 'arrange.'

With my example 'control R' turned an organic, flowing chart of links into a hideous 1960s string art thing that didn't read well at all. In other cases it doe work well, it depends rather on how well developed your thinking is. 

Organising the world the way you think about it

I like the sound of this ... which is good if you want to create something original (which I do), but is somewhat harder if you are trying to conform, i.e. to follow a pattern expected by others (for examples in an assessment). Even a Hollywood Movie ... there are certain prescribed patterns and expectations.

 

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Oxbridge History Exam 1980

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 5 May 2014, 07:03

The journey I set out on to get to Oxford or Cambridge took two years.

Not getting along with Economics I switched to History after a term in the Lower Sixth. (Not getting on with Sedbergh School, Cumbria, I left smile !)

My essays, though long (always, my habit, then, as now - why say something in six words when eighteen will do?) Tell Proust to write in sentences of less than six words, in paragraphs that don't flow from one page to the next (ditto Henry Miller).

Where was I?

See how a stream of consciousness turns into a cascade?

I digress.

My essays (I still have them. Sad. Very sad). Were on the whole terrible. A 'C' grade is typical, a 'D' not unknown. So what happened to get me to straight As, an Oxbridge exam and a place to study Modern History at Balliol College, Oxford?

Composting

I was bedding down. Putting things in a stack. And working my pile. Perhaps my history tutors detailed notes and bullet points fed on my poor essays? Perhaps the seeds that took root were carefully tendered?

Repeated testing (my self) and learning how to retain then regurgitate great long lists of pertinent facts helped.

Having an essay style I could visualise courtesy of my Geography Teacher helped. (Think of a flower with six or so petals. Each petal is a theme. The stamen is the essay title, the step the introduction and conclusion).

Writing essays over and over again helped. Eventually I got the idea.

Try doing this for an Assignment. You can't. Yet this process, that took 24+ months to complete can be achieved over a few weeks. Perhaps a blank sheet of paper and exam conditions would be one way of treating it, instead I've coming to think of these as an 'open book' assessment. There is a deadline, and a time limit, though you're going to get far longer than the 45 minutes per essay (or was it 23 minutes) while sitting an exam.

Personally, I have to get my head to the stage where I've done the e, d, c, and b grade stuff. When I've had a chance to sieve and grade and filter and shake ... until, perhaps, I reach the stage where if called to do so I could sit this as an exam - or at least take it as a viva.

Not a convert to online learning as an exclusive platform though.

Passion for your tutor, your fellow students ... as well as the subject, is better catered for in the flesh.

The way ahead is for 'traditional' universities to buy big time into blended learning, double their intake and have a single year group rotating in and out during a SIX term year (three on campus, three on holiday or working online.)

P.S. Did I mention teachers?

Have a very good teacher, it helps. The Royal Grammar School, Newcastle where I transferred to take A' Levels delivers.

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