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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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Is Big Brother Listening? Social Learning Analytics

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The opening paragraph of this paper by Dawson et al. neatly summarises a major weakness with learning analytics - that the data gathered is gathered incidentally rather than with pedagogical intent.

The obvious question to ask is 'what data would be more useful?' and then 'how can we collect that data?'

Social Learning Analytics is based on the premise that the answer to the first question is 'information about the interactions between learners' based on the observation that knowledge is increasingly distributed and learning has become less about learning knowledge from a 'wise sage' and more about connections and collectively held knowledge.

The second question - how can we collect that data? - presents a problem. It is not difficult to track forum contributions or similar within an institutions VLE. The interactions can be automatically tracked and the length, time of and words within those posts can be classified and codified but the assessing the quality of engagement requires human input. This is merely the first issue: most interactions between students don't happen within the VLE. However slick an institutions VLE is it is unlikely to be as intuitive, familiar and easy as platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp. Students will opt for easy for them over helpful for the institution.

The idea of any institution monitoring and analysing my Facebook and WhatsApp conversations is creepy!




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The Return of the (Dreaded) TMA02

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Saturday, 25 May 2019, 18:57

I was actually at a National Trust tea room when my WhatsApp started to buzz with the news of the TMA02 results being out. This could have gone either way - I could reward myself with a lovely cream tea if I did well, or I could console myself with a lovely cream tea if I didn't do well!

I couldn't get my feedback on my mobile phone but I could log in and get my score..... and I did well! So much better than I was expected - a full 20% higher than I was braced for. Celebratory cream tea it was!

I'd found TMA02 hard work - I had a good idea but I found it hard to demonstrate a good theoretical grounding for it and had struggled a LOT with the word count. I understand that the OU don't want to make their tutors mark 10,000 word essays but sometimes the word limit is so restrictive that keeping within in is only possible at the cost of good examples, ideas and quotes.

I got home and immediately got my feedback. In light of the word count issue I was someone bemused to find many suggestions for extra things I should have discussed or points I could have developed further! Absolutely no comments to indicate which bits were superfluous! OU marking protocols are clearly devoid of irony!

But either way it's been good. I calculated that I now have 17.64% of the 40% I need to pass H817 and 35.28% of the 40% I need to pass the OCAS. That is not a bad place to be in when I have only completed 21% of the overall work and 42% of the OCAS marks available. 

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The first rule of asynchronous and distributed group work

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Group work is often tricky - getting everyone to agree to something is never easy and getting a majority which is palatable to those being overruled can be even harder!

In Block 3 were are collaborating on a group project which is, by design, both distributed and asynchronous. I feel much better prepared now we have a group WhatsApp and a Slack account (is account even the right word?). It feels like communication is underway and I can already see how some of the tools will be really useful.

One of our first activities is to identify potential problems and potential solutions and I have gone all badass! I have proposed that any idea or suggestion get a shelf life. If - after a defined amount of time - no one has objected or offered and alternative then consent is presumed. I realise this sounds pretty hardcore but the only way to make good progress on this project and get to all of our milestones en route to the final assignment is to keep moving. Waiting for someone to log in and make a comment is polite but it wastes the time of those waiting.It's true that someone may be ill, have a family crisis or even a weekend away - the reason people fail to participate may be entirely valid - but with six team members we may easily lose a couple of weeks if we wait for all of these events to resolve.

So

RULE 1: Assent is presumed if no indicative (an objection or an alternative) comment is made within 24 (or 36?) hours of a suggestion being made

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Progress?!

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Monday, 13 May 2019, 22:59

We got a somewhat panicky (or at least a panic inducing) message from our tutor today warning us that falling behind at this stage could be very problematic further on in the course. Although I had started on the activities for the week I was painfully aware of my inadequacy in some areas of technology and was waiting for someone more competent in my group to take the lead.

We have a nice WhatsApp group and a Slack... account? page? thing?! as well.

Anyway - I thought I would have a go with the 'create a site' activity - not with a view to being in charge of the site but so I could have a bit of a go before everyone else arrived! Had a huge panic when the OU instructions took us to an OU Google Docs page which is no longer active. I knew I *had* an OU Google Docs account because my laptop was keen to default there yesterday but I couldn't find out how to access it.

Then, after a few frantic messages on WhatsApp, I read the 'introduction to Block 3' and this was all explained.

However - I thought I would have a go at building a simple website anyway! And I did it! It's not flashy or exciting but it is a thing!

It's a small victory but conquering my fear of the technology is surely a key part of MAODE!

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Second Guessing

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I handed my TMA in two days early. I wasn't happy with the final section but I didn't have any ideas on making it better and  was reasonably happy with the rest of it. I weighed up the choices of having a weekend or battling for two more days and probably only being marginally more happy by the end of it and chose the former.

I relaxed for a few hours!

Then my H817 colleagues started chatting on WhatsApp and I started second guessing myself. Had I misinterpreted one of the questions quite significantly? Had I missed out a few major points? Had my desire (need) for a weekend without TMA pressure become the death knell of my Masters dreams?

I opted to leave it. I reviewed the question. It's possible I misinterpreted the question but, upon reviewing it, I am confident that the interpretation I went with is entirely valid. I may have missed a few major points but I used every single word available and I made lots of edits to be as succinct as possible. I did need a weekend without TMA pressure and, whatever happens, my Masters Degree dreams do not rest on this single assignment!

So I spent a couple of hours this afternoon starting TMA 3! It's a group project so I couldn't do anything substantive but I did an initial library search. I wrestled with Google Docs and Slack (man - if anyone needs tutoring on learning technology I will be first in line - my grasp of the theory is much better than my competency with the actual software!) and I did the first block 3 activity. 


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Cut and paste

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Wednesday, 8 May 2019, 19:31

Word processing is a technological enhancement to learning right?? It's certainly a technological enhancement to assignment writing. 

Writing an assignment in report form is a new skill for me and something I didn't have to do in H800. Post graduate study was challenging, even daunting, but I did feel confident that I knew how to write an essay. Writing a report is something I have not done before except for TMA01!

Today I actually reached the word count and have something I could submit. It wouldn't be my highest scoring assignment but I think it would comfortably pass. I won't submit it right now. I will spend a bit of time every day reading, re-reading, polishing, editing, reconsidering and rewriting but essentially I am on to the accessories rather than the outfit. 

I was struggling a lot over the bank holiday weekend because my report was so unbalanced. I worked out an approximate word count for each section based on the percentage each section would count towards the final mark and endeavored to keep the ratio approximately the same. One section which should have accounted for 20% was taking 30% of my word count and another which accounts for 30% of the mark was only using up 20% of the words. And then I realized than a few key points were simply in the wrong section. Cutting and pasting a few paragraphs between them rectified this main problem almost immediately. 

The final three sections are extremely context specific and I was struggling to find a way to include references to justify my position and suggestions. I queried this on the group WhatsApp then went to bed. Upon waking this morning it occurred to me that I could just google the section question and search within the OU library. I opened WhatsApp and discovered that my colleagues had suggested I do just that (and had kindly omitted the 'duh!' I so clearly deserved!)

Anyway - here's to a few days of reading the same 3000 words over and over in an attempt to ensure I neither repeat myself (repetition), omit key facts (hesitation), or go off subject (deviation)! If only I were playing 'Just a Minute' - the whole process would be a lot less time consuming!



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Asynchronous Collaboration

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Wednesday, 15 Jan 2020, 13:11

Not going to lie - I am finding this hard. 

I see no reason to assume that the other four people in my group are slacking off - after all I disappeared for a week to go on holiday, there are days I don't do any OU work at all due to other commitments and sometimes my dipping into H817 is unfocused and little more than a passing glance. (Although one of them has been AWOL all week!)

That said - I am frustrated that we haven't really completed what we were supposed to. There was a flurry of urgency in the week - an online poll, a WhatsApp conversation, a Padlet was set up, emails were sent and then not much has happened collaboratively since then. I have done some things, including a Wiki document which could morph into the final project; but I am painfully aware that I can't do this alone and that I might be getting it all wrong! I'm even paranoid enough to have wondered if the others have set up a separate group from which I am excluded due to my evident ineptitude! 

Collaboration is clearly a good thing. I don't think there is any real argument about that. But collaboration between people who are complete strangers, living in different times zones to one another, all collaborating in their spare time and with a ague brief as to what they're aiming to achieve is, let me assure you, hard work! 

So here's my check list of what would make this task easier!

1. Everyone participating from the beginning. At first there was a lot of waiting around for all of the group to join in. In hindsight this wasted the first half of the week. Whilst it's very democratic to want input from everyone before getting started it's impractical when you are unsure that everyone will give any input. 

2. Clearly designed brief with examples. We are all new to H817 and (I guess) many people are also new to the Open University, Post Graduate Studies and MAODE too. The brief we had was hard to pin down. It would have been better if it had been more 'essay' structured - 'outline the strengths and weaknesses of a chosen technology and evaluate how said technology has encouraged innovation or represented innovation in e-learning. Use examples from your own and / or other contexts'. Having to create a scenario and agree on it took ages. If a scenario is what is needed for later than give us one! 

3. Accept that contribution will be uneven and sporadic. Different people will be able to contribute to any project differently. One of our group set up a Padlet - great idea in theory but it was not immediately editable. I set up what I thought was a Wiki page which everyone could edit but it turns out to have been as secure as a bankers vault and I had to copy and paste it in an email to someone else to publish properly! I am most free on Tuesdays and at weekends. I usually cannot manage any study on Fridays. I imagine my group mates have similarly complicated schedules. 

4. Use WhatsApp, Messenger or some other proprietary platform to communicate. Exchange email addresses. If I were to make one recommendation to the OU it would be to make the forums a lot more like a Facebook comments thread. I am literally on Facebook for my entire waking life. My phone is rarely more than a foot away from me and any and all Facebook notifications are seen within minutes. Ditto WhatsApp, Messenger, email. I open my OU page maybe once or twice a day. It's rare that an OU forum post needs my immediate attention but  I could answer a query more immediately or ask a question and get a quicker response if it were more like Facebook. Our group WhatsApp group has been the place where most of our informal discussion has happened and from which we have directed one another to the work we've begun.

5. Try and replicate the situated group experience by exchanging the odd joke! A shared love of Red Dwarf (and red wine) led to a short but fun exchange. As a consequence I feel more connected to one of my group mates and therefore more able to effectively work with them. 

6. Don't expect the situated group experience to be very similar to the distributed group experience I have concluded that asynchronicity is the key issue. We are working on the same thing but not at the same time. We cannot, therefore, be certain that we are sharing fully the aims, objectives, vocabulary and understanding necessary to produce effective work. There will be misunderstandings and there will have to be compromise. 

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