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Anna Greathead

RIDE 2020 - part 1

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Yesterday I attended the RIDE 2020 conference (Research and Innovation in Distance Education) at the University of London. I had fully expected the event to be cancelled as the nation is in the grip of (or on the cusp of) the Covid19 epidemic but the organisers decided to go ahead - albeit with a few precautions.

I was so happy to have gone to the event. I met three people who had been fellow MAODE students on various modules. 

Before it even began I found myself in conversation with a few people (networking!). Most attendees were academics and educators so attending as a student made me something of a novelty. One man (I later identified him as David Baume (@David_Baume) asked for my impressions of online learning (as this Masters Degree has been) in comparison with face to face learning (as my Bachelors Degree was). I have a lot to say about online vs face to face learning but I don't feel my own experience is a valid place to begin. I feel my main challenges in studying MAODE have been that it's at a Masters level rather than a Bachelors. Add into the mix the fact that the two a separated by over twenty years and I don't think my impressions are of much value! I later realised that one of the men in this conversation was Alan Tait (@AlanTaite) who was the chair of the whole event.

I took notes - old school - throughout the day and will post the stuff I wrote down! It's not a precis of the day but merely the nuggets which caught my attention!

The opening session was a panel in which three people gave ten minute presentations and then, after all three presentations had been given, the panel took questions. I didn't take copious notes but here's what I wrote:

Dil Sidhu - Coursera

Coursera is a technical platform - NOT a content creator. The intellectual property rights to the content remains with the creator / writer / original institution. (I didn't know this. I wondered if some of the programs we use at work could be added to their suite.)

They have a lot of data - millions of data points - and they use this to 'nudge' people with messages such as '80% of people who complete this activity will go on to complete the programme'. (These nudges are just the sort of thing I enjoy but my friend and colleague said she found them a bit patronising but I can absolutely appreciate)

Allison Littlejohn - UCL

I only made one note about Allison's talk but it was a powerful one - she explained that so often technology enhanced learning had been 'the classroom replicated'. She showed a powerful image of a teacher in a traditional classroom in which every student was represented by a laptop. The message of technology being used to maintain and perpetuate the traditional classroom model was powerful. Surely technology should do more than enable learners to attend class from a remote location?

Neil Morris - Leeds University

The phrase which Neil emphasised was 'unbundled higher education'. Instead of offering a complete degree program universities can now offer all of the elements of this program individually. The learner could theoretically build the degree step by step, or they could extract the learning they needed. This can be 'sold' as a great thing as it offers extended flexibility for the learner but Neil was honest in acknowledging that this system could actually extend inequality as learners might become tiered into those who gained their qualification bit by bit and those who got it all in the 'traditional way.' He also explained the academic concern that fragmentation of the curriculum had far reaching implications and that educators had legitimate concerns as to how this might present issues.

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Anna Greathead

Sustained or Scattergun?

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If I could go back to October 2019 I would tell past-Anna this one thing about H818 - I'd say identify a couple of people who engage a lot with the course and comment on every single thing they post. Search out their blogs, twitter accounts and any other platform they frequent and comment there too! Don't stop doing this after TMA02 is done and dusted. If they stop posting stuff then hound them until they do!

My issue with part 2 of the EMA is that it requires 'sustained' engagement with two other projects. I have made dozens and dozens of comments in Open Studio and have generally been in the upper quartile of 'engagers' with H818 (I think) but I am struggling to find anyone who I would class as having been the recipient of my sustained involvement in their project as it developed.

I emailed Simon (the tutor!) in the hope that he might have an innovative and inclusive definition of 'sustained' which I could implement (see what I did!) but sadly his bar is even higher than my own. He says that even if I have only commented a couple of times on the poster development, and a couple of times on the abstract development, and a couple of times on the conference development, and a couple of other occasions then that would be fine! So - as long as I have engaged 8 times.... hmmmm.

And even the people with whom I have engaged the most - (typically 4 or 5 comments) - there is a problem. A lot of my 'engagement' is little more than 'I really like this' or 'you spelled survey wrong in paragraph 2'.

I know that we were told this nearer the start but I content we were told and not told! I am going to search out new H818 starters in April to give them the heads up I needed and didn't get! How's that for good networking practice?!

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Anna Greathead

EMA - a game of three halves!

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Now the H818 conference is done and dusted it's time to turn our attentions to the EMA. Unlike my previous MAODE modules this counts for 60% - not 50% - of the final grade of the module.

It's an unusual EMA because it's far more reflective than academic. This is not in my comfort zone even though it should, in theory, be no harder.

  • Part 1: I must evaluate my own project from a critically reflective perspective. Manageable...
  • Part 2: I must evaluate my own project in comparison to the projects of two of my course mates and demonstrate sustained engagement with the development of their artefacts and presentation. More or less impossible.....
  • Part 3: I must evaluate my own journey as a networked practitioner referring to relevant theory. Manageable...

My problem with part two is that I have commented widely - but not deeply. I have breadth rather than depth.

That said - I am not sure any of us can demonstrate 'sustained engagement' with the projects of other students. What exactly is 'sustained engagement'?

My plan at the moment is to get great marks on parts 1 and 3! Based on my module averages I can get 60% without even doing part 2!

So - what could I have done differently or, maybe more pertinently, what could have been done differently?

I could have been more engaged. But - I was pretty engaged. I probably wasn't the top engager but I think I was in the top quartile. I could have been more strategic and decided early on which projects would be my 'top two' and consciously engaged with those students about those projects. This would, however, have been to the detriment of my networking with the other students and possibly to their projects.

Or - the university could have grouped us into smaller groups of 5 or so students. The module Open Studio page quickly became very crowded and hard to navigate. Had we been in smaller groups we would have been able to keep track of a smaller number of projects and been able to see them progress and make meaningful suggestions and comments. This was achieved to some extent by the fact that a smaller group of us have an active WhatsApp group. I felt more inclined to see how Anna, or Bindi, or Allyson, or Robert's projects were progressing because we had a relationship through this group. (There are other members too!), Had this smaller group been slight facilitated by the OU (maybe based on project type?) then maybe this could have been more easily achieved within the VLE as well as outside of it.

Anyway - I am sure you all recognise procrastination when you see it....

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Anna Greathead

The Redemption of Twitter

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I have a love hate relationship with Twitter. On the one hand I have found myself embroiled in a lot of nasty arguments (mostly with Brexiters, Tories, Trump supporters and so on) but today Twitter, and WhatsApp were wonderful examples of 'backchannels' where conference observers discussed and commented and sometimes giggled a bit!

So here's some Twitter screenshots! They made me smile and, I think, demonstrate the softer side of networking. And by soft I mean 'hard to define' rather than 'unimportant'. The soft stuff is VERY important.

Twitter screen shot

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Anna Greathead


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Edited by Anna Greathead, Tuesday, 31 Dec 2019, 18:24

I have been listening to a Tutorial I missed in chunks. I perceived that the first bit was about the poster so I listened to that twice while I was tweaking the poster. I have, once I decided on a format, made steady progress on the poster and it's been the nuts and bolts of actually making it rather than indecisiveness or prevarication about content which has taken the time.

The next step is an accessibility statement to show I have appreciated and made allowances for the needs of people with various disabilities in the creation of the poster. This means I included an audio track, clear graphics and text. The need to think about, and write, this also acted as a catalyst to upload the presentation as a YouTube video (something I have never done before) as I could tell that my iPhone wouldn't play a PowerPoint presentation and assumed that other people's mobile devices may not either. A series of slide images was not what I created and not what I wanted any viewers to see.

Then came the abstract (in progress.... very early progress) and then I listened on the the tutorial. Simon emphasized the importance of networking and how we had to demonstrate that this skill was one we had significantly developed during H818. I panicked a little! Had I done any networking?

So here is my list of 'networking' activities which I think (hope) may count!

  • Created a survey, asked existing contacts to complete it and used Twitter and Facebook to disseminate it further
  • Directly approached some blog users on the OU Blog tool to ask for their insight
  • Exchanged emails with some survey respondents which indicated they'd be willing to discuss further and gave me their email addresses
Now what else could I do?
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