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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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Huuuuuge Imposter Syndrome

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So the presentation is tomorrow at 9.10. Slight hiccup in that my teenage children, who would usually be at school, won't be as their school was damaged by Storm Ciara. Suddenly the 9.10 feels like a blessing as they will most likely be in bed and not on the internet!

Suddenly my entire endeavour - the poster, abstract, project, presentation, script - feels like it was thrown together by an earnest and slightly geeky ten year old. Everyone else has much more impressive sounding project titles and (I fear) much more academically slanted projects to present in a much more academic style.

I am terrified. And I am first.

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Attention! Reflect and Collaborate!

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Now the TMA is done and the conference presentation scheduled it's time to do the actual project and write the actual paper!

I have a whole heap of 'data' now - most of it is essentially qualitative. To be honest I prefer quantitative data - I'm not a scientist but I find numbers easier to draw a conclusion from than words. This is especially true in this case where my quotes are often quite definite and strong and entirely contradictory to each other! The fact is I have not been able to get any firm numerical data from the OU. (I will keep trying - there are a few weeks to go) and my numerical data is based on a google search about the number of OU students and the number of blog posts which are visible.

My initial assessment is that the OU blog tool does not work well for collaboration. Unlike external blogs it is not really easy to subscribe or keep track of who commented on what. OU students have other tools within the VLE, and outside of it, where they can collaborate much more easily. This observation is supported by an analysis of a sample of OU blogs - comments are rare and long comment thread even rarer.

However - the OU blog tool can (and does) work well for reflection. Reflection need not have an audience (indeed many express a preference for their work to be private) but it seems not only possible to gain insight and understanding from other learner's reflections but it seems almost commonplace.

I'm hoping to collate key quotes from all of my research to date to, if not draw a firm conclusion then, offer insight into barriers which discourage effective blogging and keys which encourage it based on the testimony of OU blog users.and OU non-blog users.



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The Project (capital T, capital P)

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H818 is different to my previous modules. It requires the ongoing development of a single idea / project which is mooted in TMA01, developed in TMA02, presented in the conference and reflected on for the EMA.

The project must have something to do with Openness and also fall under one of the subject areas of inclusion, innovation of implementation.

I have two ideas - neither of which seem ideal but both of which kind of interest me. I am awaiting specific tutor feedback to see which one I should pursue:

1. OU Blogs - who uses them for what

The OU blog has been a revelation for me. I have found it exceptionally useful in a reflective capacity but also for expanding ideas which have piqued my interest and about which I have wanted to explore further. I didn't expect to gain a lot of traction but I have had over 30,000 views of this blog (although far fewer comments and interactions than you might expect). I am really interested to see if other students have found their blogs similarly, or differently, useful and whether the tool is working the way envisaged by the OU initially.

I can imagine getting data from my current and previous OU student groups but also being able to source further OU students through Twitter, Facebook and simply by searching existing blogs for comments and interactions.

I would speak to a small number first to develop good survey questions based on their experiences and comments. Once I had developed a good survey I would place this online and invite as many people as possible to respond. I would include an option to engage in a deeper email conversation for people willing and able to share their experiences more deeply.

Although the OU blogs are not entirely open unless the student allows this they are an example of students producing work which is available to others to reference, discuss and consider. The blog system can promote collaboration and networking as well as promoting reflective practice.

I think that the umbrella here would be implementation and that the presentation of a paper detailing research and findings would be most obvious.


2. Facebook Groups - who uses them for what

My employer administers a number of Facebook groups. A company page, a closed resource page and a private study group page. In total there are over 22,000 members (though obviously many individuals are part of more than one of the groups). The different pages operate slightly differently and garner different levels, and different kinds of engagement. I would be interested to analyse and measure this to see how the groups are being used to distribute educational resources, facilitate collaboration and encourage networking.

It would be difficult to gain consent to use individual's data in the specific report about these groups but as I will be mostly classifying and analysing posts (rather than the people who make those posts) I wonder if this is a less important consideration. I suspect there may be a fine line to tread here and the importance of developing a robust ethical position could not be overstated.

The advantage to this project is that it could enable my employer to better administer and utilise the groups to commercial and educational advantage. This may mean that I am free to use work time to do some of the research!

I think this also most comfortably sits within the 'implementation' area as it is a tool being used to implement many good learning habits and resources. This could be presented as a paper or possibly a workshop on how to best engage people using Facebook.

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