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H819 begins...

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H819 has begun with a big reunion! So many familiar names and faces!

Even the first readings have got my mind abuzz so I'll go on the first of many mental journeys right here, right now.

Measuring 'success' in education is more or less impossible.

As this module is about research we are all being encouraged to think of an area of our practice, or of our interest, which we could plan some research to assess impact and success. I immediately felt cynical. There are so many problems.

  1. What is 'success'? Is it engagement? Enjoyment? Outputs? Application? Over what timescale?
  2. How do you control for ALL the variables? I mean every learner whether they're aged 1 or 100 is subject to an almost infinite and definitely unique combination of external variables. How can you possibly attribute any output (or whatever) to whatever educational input you're trying to evaluate?
  3. How do you control for the learning specific variables? Unless you're able to design a learning program with only one style of input (or whatever) then how will you know which activity led to which output (or engagement, enjoyment, application etc!)
  4. Ethics -  is it fair to experiment by trialing unknown and untested activities? The best way to get good (or usable?) data would be to isolate a single group and activity and use it in contrast to a control group.
  5. Time scale - at what point is it reasonable to declare an activity a success or failure? It goes back to defining success or failure. 
Throughout my MAODE studies I have found an internal conflict between thinking of learning as a sacred and lifelong human experience (as well as an endeavor), and the more pragmatic reality in which learning is a means to an end and we (as practitioners) are aiming to make the means as effective as possible and the ends as valuable as possible.
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Presenting the "Paper"

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My paper about the OU blog tool specifically, and the use of blogs in education and learning more generally is far from written. In fact - I have a whole heap of data and a lot of ideas but only the faintest of conclusions and nothing like a logical narrative in my internal thinking about it all. This does not bode well for presenting the 'paper' which has not only remained unwritten but is still, as I write, unplanned.

I have decided to make my presentation mostly narrative in style. I cannot be alone in finding academic and statistical presentations somewhat difficult to concentrate on and enjoy! I want to use the words people said to me (actually wrote to me) above to demonstrate some of the statistics I have gleaned from my post analysis.  

That said - I have hit a bit of a wall. I have created a presentation which is okay but I am not convinced it is as good as I can make it. I have to submit it on Tuesday so I don't have a lot of time to play with but I'm going to have a go at sketching out my paper in my detail so I can make sure I can do as I have been asked - present my paper. As things stand I am more likely to find myself writing a paper to expand my presentation! Less than ideal!

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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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