Reading: "Learning from the Learners' Experience"

Whilst at the “Make it Personal” Conference this week at the University of Greenwich, I picked up the ‘post-conference reflections’ from the 2008 conference: “Learning from the Learners’ Experience” (PDF)

A 2 hour train journey home gave me plenty of time to read through it, and I wanted to share the following with you;

Chapter 6: Multiple Perspectives on using Blackboard

  • “As the development of the use of Blackboard becomes more sophisticated, lecturers need to learn to be more flexible in the way they ‘deliver’ their courses, and be open to a wider variety of teaching methods that they may not have used before. They will need to develop their IT skills to become more familiar with the technology. They will also need to change the way they ‘interact’ with their students. Out of sight does not mean out of mind!”

Good points are made throughout Monica Or’s presentation. By moving the resources into the fully-online arena there is the expectation (from staff and students) that it will be easier. Not so, and it is this misconception that is often the stumbling block in making sure the right materials are delivered in the right way; you cannot transfer material for face-to-face delivery to online by copy-and-paste methods, you must re-evaluate and re-develop as you go.

Chapter 8: Learning from Discussion

  • “Discussion boards have provided me with unexpected insights into the processes students use to complete assignments and into their needs in terms of tuition and learning opportunities. The ability to ask questions anonymously in a non-threatening environment has opened up ways of listening to the student experience that I had not foreseen. It may be that when students are under pressure, trying to complete a task, they are better able to express their views, make explicit what they think about a course, and what a lecturer can do to assist them.”

As coordinator of an LLB course, Sandra Clarke is using WebCT (Blackboard as it now is) to it’s potential; wiki, blogs, and discussion forums (DFs). Changing the settings on a DFs so posts are made anonymously increased their use, whilst she make sure her posts/replies were easily identifiable by ‘signing’ them. Using a Wiki as the assignment highlighted the differnce between the technically-capable and technically-incapable students, but appropriate and detailed instructions would help these problems, if provided at the start.

Using DFs has helped Sandra understand the opportunites open to her and the students; what they think and how they learn.

Chapter 14: Is Podcasting an Effective Component of Online Learning?

  • “The two key questions asked by this study were: Do the students like learning from podcasts? and: Do they learn effectively from them? Both these questions were answered in the affirmative for this small scale study. The research was stimulated by the belief that podcasts were of limited value in learning due to their delivery supporting an outmoded, didactic approach to teaching and learning. However, this study has shown that podcasts can be used as part of a set of activities that can draw students into a dialogue about their learning, thus supporting a social constructivist pedagogical approach (Brown, Collins and Duguid 1989).”

Liz Bennett and Cheryl Reynolds used the podcasts to support delivery of a Unit on Web 2.0 technologies in Education. This is a good example of how a new technology can be incorporated into the current delivery pattern, and can actually enhance the learning experience. Outcomes from the project came in the form of ‘guidelines’ for using podcasts, namely;

  1. less than 15 minutes long,
  2. logically sequenced recordings,
  3. incluide music/background track,
  4. 143 words per minute (BBC News speed)

There are other chapters and presentations that I am like and would have liked to include here, but there are the ones most relevant to my work and my interests.

Please feel free to comment on the above, or any other aspect of the post-conference reflections.