Tag Archives: Discussion Board

Anonymous Discusison Board Activity

Reading: Identified vs Anonymous Participation in Student Discussion Boards

Online discussion boards, and associated activities that use them, can get a bit of a bad name sometimes either through inacitivty or lack of quality posts to abusive or bullying. I admit these are extremes of activity, but none the less still valid concerns for academics who want to try something new or different.

I’ve always tried to advocate the approach of ‘design an activity and then see which tools fits’ rather than ‘an activity written around a discussion board’. The latter implies it’s the tool driving the activity, the former implies the activity or learning outcome is matched to the most appropriate tool.

When setting discussion boards up I’ve always favoured posts being attributed to and identifiable to the person posting it – this helps to build personal relationships based on content and opinions, it also helps to encourage ownership and a responsible online etiquette (netiquette). But what about the option of allowing posts to be anonymous? Does this stop the discussion taking shape or progressing?

The paper, by Roberts and Rajah-Kanagasabai (2013) looks at the anonymity of posts and the ‘comfort’ of students to participate in anonymous discussions over those where they are identified. Continue reading

Lurker or Listener

Listener or Lurker? #edchat

Lurker or ListenerI have always felt a little uncomfortable with the term ‘lurker’ when talking about users who are in the background on online discussions or social networks.

My first thought when someone is described as a ‘lurker’ is:

“someone that would hide in concealment, often for an evil purpose.” Wikipedia

which is what some people used to do in Internet chat rooms when the Internet was in it’s infancy. The term has taken on a less ‘evil’ undertone in recent years, and now ‘to lurk’ is:

“to learn the conventions of an online community before they actively participate, improving their socialization when they eventually de-lurk.” Wikipedia

But I can’t help think of it’s previous definition and use, where someone hides in the shadows for unscrupulous activity (you could argue the same is still going on today). This above new definition is also based on the premise that the ‘lurker’ will eventually be an active participant.

What if they don’t want to? What if the ‘lurker’ is happy being in the background and only offering something when the need arises? Nothing wrong with that.

This is why I would rather use the term ‘listener’ as it seems closer to the truth – they are online and in the online environment with their peers, but they choose to ‘listen’ rather then participate (for many different reasons). They are thinking about and taking notes about what is being said, adding their own voice when they feel the need, but for the most part they stay quiet.

Think about it – when you meet your friends and chat over coffee or a beer – do you ‘lurk’ in the conversation when you say nothing, or do you ‘listen’?

Image: Lurktastic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

PS. I resisted using a cat image for this post, it was too predictable (just search ‘pounce‘ and you’ll see what I mean!).

EDCMOOC

Reflection on the ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’ MOOC, Wk.3 #edcmooc

EDCMOOCWeek three and into ‘block 2′ of the five week Coursera / University of Edinburgh MOOC: ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’. Are we leaving the bliss of utopia behind, or will be building on the fear of a controlling and dystopian ‘master’ as we become ‘human’?

“What does it mean to be human within a digital culture, and what does that mean for education?”

This week is introduced from the perspective that “we tend not to question, in our everyday lives, where the boundaries of ‘the human’ lie”.  As with previous weeks we have a few videos to watch and criticise analyse as well as a few papers and web resources to read in order to define or answer what it means to be human in the future.

  • The advert from Toyota has had a lot of discussion in the Coursera forum but I have a more cynical approach to it – stop trying to intellectualise something that is pure marketing. Do you really think Toyota is trying to make some kind of moral message on the future of technology, or just trying to replicate other successful advertising or cinematic sequences? The end of the advert is very reminiscent of the end of The Truman Show, where Truman (aka Jim Carrey) has a choice to stay in the world he now knows is fake, yet safe, or leave to an unknown but world that allows freedom of choice and experience. Isn’t this also what education is becoming … isn’t this why we’re also doing this MOOC, for the freedom of choice?
  • The second advert, this time one of the adverts in the series from BT (UK) which is supposed to represent “authentic” human contact, taking a cheap shot at the Instant Messaging and Facebook generation in an effort to show how a simple phone call is the real thing. No, a conversation in person is the real thing, a phone call is the next best thing. If we take this scenario into the real world, into my day to day work, then I would rather walk along the corridor to someone’s office and talk to them properly than a phone call or email. In an online learning environment this is obviously not possible, and neither is a phone call (one tutor to ‘x’ number of students, that could be a lot of calls) – this is why Instant Messaging or discussion boards and/or conference calls (Skype?) are popular, and will remain so.

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EDCMOOC

Reflection on the ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’ MOOC, Wk.1 #edcmooc

EDCMOOCHere are some notes, links, conversations, thoughts, and reflections on the first week of the University of Edinburgh / Cousera ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’ MOOC. This reflection will form part of the work required by the MOOC as well as reflections on the processes and Coursera system itself.

Initial thoughts on the course and/or platform (supplemental to my earlier post):

  • Agree to abide by an ‘honour code’ – much like a learning contract that some places use with students, does anyone have any indication that this works (or not)?
  • There is so much hype around this MOOC, why? Is it because it’s the first in the UK by Coursera AND a UK HEI?
  • There is so much going on, on all the platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Coursera discuss boards, etc.) that, even day after the official start, it’s very overwhelming and I am thinking “what have I let myself in for?” Is this why so many people don’t finish (or even start)?
  • So far I’ve done the whole MOOC on the iPad, including this post using the WordPress app. It’s not easy as the formatting in the post needs fine tuning and this can really only be done (still on the iPad: links, image alignment, etc.) through the admin web interface.
  • One discussion board per week/topic … for up to 40,000 students? I think this needs further management to make it something that can work with and for the students. Even after the first day the number of posts was intimidating, who knows what it’ll be like in a week or so.
  • Don’t confuse the learners with inappropriate or unnecessary language or jargon. This will only make them feel even more alienated and removed from the objectives of the course and cause unnecessary worry and stress. If you want us to produce a blog post, video, presentation, etc. then ask us to do this .. I have never used the term ‘digital artifact’ and probably wont start now either.

Now for my reflection on week one of the course itself:

  • Thankfully the terms ‘utopian’ and ‘dystopian’ are explained – this was causing me concern as I had no idea what I supposed to understand by this until now, in relation to education and technology: ‘utopian’ (creating highly desirable social, educational, or cultural effects) or ‘dystopian’ (creating extremely negative effects for society, education or culture).
  • Continue reading

Workplace Learning

Reading: “Online learning in the workplace”

Workplace Learning

Like many of my peers I read around my ‘subject’ a lot. Sometimes I print copies out and store them, other times I save to favourites (on Twitter mainly, very rarely to a browser), or to Delicious (when I remember to use it). The Australasian Journal of Educational Technology is always worth looking at as the papers are interesting and varied.

“Online learning in the workplace: A hybrid model of participation in networked, professional learning” from Mary Thorpe and Jean Gordon covers different aspects of ‘work-based’, or rather ‘work-related’ learning, with a need to understand online participation as a “hybrid concept” that is a “reflection of offline roles, opportunities and pressures, as well as the usefulness, usability and relevance of what is online.”

Do those who develop online materials for online students fully understand the importance of support, guidance, design, engagement, collaboration, assessment, timetable, social or professional pressures? Have they ever been on the receiving  end of an expected 10-15 hours per week of study, on top of their already busy life? From my own experience it wasn’t until I took an online course in 2008 that I realised the difficulty in balancing work, home, and study – once I fell behind it was near impossible to catch-up, all due to the fast-paced activities that allowed little or no time for reflection or breathing space.

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7 Student Myths of the Online Classroom

7 Myths in the Online Classroom

7 Student Myths of the Online Classroom

Photo credit: Lincolnian (Brian) via Photopin / CC

Online learning, or distance learning, or eLearning (or even e-learning) has been around now in various guises for quite some time.

This article from eLearn Magazine “7 Student Myths of the Online Classroom” highlights some of the more popular myths surrounding the student’s perspective of online learning. Please read the full article using the link above as the below is only my interpretation of them:

  1. I can log into the class any time I want.

Yes, you can, but obviously the materials, resources, activities are (or rather should be) designed to encourage interaction, collaboration, and engagement with your fellow students. While you may not be scheduled to be online at 8PM every Thursday evening (remember any differences in time-zones) it is likely you ought to try and work out when others will be online so you can coordinate responses and make the most of your time together.

  1. Instructors are available 24/7.

Don’t be silly. No one person, while at work, is available 24/7 (and if you are please stop it!). Even if the customer service of your supermarket or bank is available 24/7 you can be sure that it is staffed by a rotating shift pattern to rest the individual. We live in an always-connected world but we still need to disconnect and do something else. Online/distance learners do need support and guidance and, if their study pattern is in the evening and at weekend ‘should’ the Institution put something in place to support them during those hours? Discuss … !
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Blackboard Essentials for Teachers

Book Review: “Blackboard Essentials for Teachers”

Blackboard Essentials for TeachersBlackboard Essentials for Teachers” is new book written by William Rice for teachers and educators who use Blackboard. By following the examples in the book you will be guided through the process of creating your own Blackboard course, adding static material for students to view (such as pages, links, and media), adding interaction to your courses (discussion boards, blogs,  wikis, etc) and using interactions to engage students in the course through the communication channels.

Scroll down to find out how you can win a complementary copy of the paper or eBook edition of the book from the publishers …

What the book hopes to do is to get a novice or first-time Blackboard user familiar with the interface and features in a manner that they can (a) understand, and (b) use in relation to a taught course site. With the help of the book the reader should be able to:

  • create web pages using Blackboard’s test editor (note: the new content editor is not featured, therefore the book is already a little out of date),
  • organise courses using pages and modules,
  • upload files and learning materials
  • set up discussion boards, blogs, and wikis for student engagement and interaction
  • build and administer online tests
  • online assignment submission
  • manage groups
  • use announcements effectively for student information

I was one of the technical reviewers of the book while it was being written by the author, and provided feedback on the content as well as the presentation style. I’ll say now that I received a complimentary copy of the book for my time and trouble in reviewing the submitted chapters, but received no other payment for my work on the book (i.e. I don’t have to do this review, I wanted to). There, now that’s out of the way.

This review is as much about the book as the process of being involved in the reviewing process, one that I enjoyed and would happily be involved in again (given the chance).

What do I think of the book?
It’s a basic introduction to Blackboard that non-Blackboard users will welcome. There is enough here for more advanced users too but it lacks explanation (for my liking) of the more pedagogical implications and applications of the tools and features of Blackboard. I do, however, agree that the approach used in the book is appropriate for the target audience. The book is effective in its approach and the way it introduces the various features and tools, and goes further than other guides I have read on the administration tools that can help academic and support staff engage the students online.

The downside of the paper book is, as ever, the black-and-white images. I am a very visual learner and like to see examples of what the author was trying to explain – so why not put more images in? Trying to describe a web page is best done with an image of the web page (in colour)! This kind of book subject would do well in an expanded eBook format with more dynamic images (video even) showing in much more detail the process or pages in question. Even if the paper copy is black and white, could they not have created the eBook with colour images?

How is the book structured?
Each chapter is well structured and written from the authors experience, but is based on the open CourseSites and may be subject to discrepancies if the Blackboard installation you have is set up differently from the one described in the book.

With different elements of Blackboard highlighted in the book it’s easy to find your way around the often complicated processes for creating materials or assessments, bold text boxes break the content up and bring new terms, features, or ‘quick tips’ to the fore make it a good reference book.

The structure is good, starting with the basics of organising your Blackboard course and setting up/loading materials before getting into the newer tools like wikis or blogs. My personal preference would have been to leave these kinds of tools until later (after handling the assignments, tests, groups, and Grade Centre) as wikis and blogs are good collaborative and reflective tools that are underpinned from concepts dealt with in those (earlier) chapters. Putting the Announcements and communication chapter so late in the book is a mistake, and I would have this nearer the front and this is still the more underutilised area of Blackboard I see on a regular basis.

One aspect of Blackboard that the book did not cover in enough detail for me is a ‘good’ structure for a Blackboard course site – I know this will always be subjective to the individual or Institution where we/you work but a demonstration of a good structure (and why it’s good) could have made it easier to explain why some of the other features are used, when, and where (contextual).

Did my revisions/suggestions make the final edition?
I think there are a few instances where I can see my comments had an influence on the final edit, but it could easily have been a comment made by the other reviewers too. The difficulty when reviewing a book (I have done a couple now) is that I only see one-chapter-at-a-time, and not always in the order they appear in the final edition. I also had no knowledge of the chapter list so therefore no knowledge of where the chapter I was reading would appear, and what came before or was to come after it. This made it difficult to review as much of what I wanted to know in each chapter may be dealt with later, or not, I didn’t know.

What would I include that the author didn’t?
I have already said, for me, it’s the presentation of the book that is mainly at fault, and to this I can’t blame the author – he’s only working according to the publisher guidelines and requirements. When dealing with a visual topic and/or software that needs explaining and demonstrating why try and describe or explain it in words when an image or video is far easier to understand?

The use of links (even QR Codes?) could have directed the reader off to a YouTube channel with supporting screencasts of some of the more trickier set up tools ro techniques, which would have helped with explanations.

Would I buy the book?
The book is impressive and a comprehensive guide to using Blackboard, and there is something for everyone here, even advanced users.

I can see there will need to be some fairly( major?) revisions in future, or indeed another book, when Blackboard has another update or new release, but the majority of the elementary features (Announcements, Groups, etc) have not changed over the last release or so, much!

Book Review: Blackboard Essentials for Teachers

The book is available in either paper or eBook format, ‘Blackboard Essentials for Teachers’ is available online from PacktPub.


Book Give Away!

The publishers are kind enough to let me copies of the book to give away – two paper and two electronic editions. All you have to do is leave a comment below about how the book will change how you work with Blackboard (and your preference of paper or eBook).

Only comments made to this blog – www.dontwasteyourtime.co.uk – will count as an entry to the raffle and my decision on the winners is final. I will contact the winners and get the required details from you and pass these across to PacktPub where you receive your prize. Please note that paper copies can only be sent to UK, US, and European addresses.

INFOGRAPHIC: The Growth of Distance Learning

The Growth of Distance Learning #eLearning

Distance Learning is growing, in part helped by the 2012 UK fees situation. The below infographic (click to view full version) is worth a look:

INFOGRAPHIC: The Growth of Distance Learning
Click to view full Infographic

Benefits of Distant Learning (DL) programmes, as described by the infographic (and analysed by me below):
  • Mobility: “Students who have family and career obligations no longer have to worry about commuting to a campus. With online courses, and place with an Internet connection becomes a functional classroom.”

It is not just those with family or work commitments now that makes DL or eLearning attractive, it is those who can’t or don’t want to pay for the full UK degree education and would rather take longer to get it AND earn at the same time.

  • Affordability: “Online courses reduce costs associated with maintaining classrooms and holding lectures. These savings are passed on in the form of lower prices per online class.”

I don’ agree with this: administration of online courses can sometimes be more than for campus-based ones: DL students often need more contact detailed and personal contact time (phone, email, discussion boards, etc). I also find it very worrying when someone says things like “savings are passed on” like this, it implies that you can run the course with fewer staff, or even that the academic who created the course is not required to run the course and engage with it and the students.

  • Flexibility: “Online learning enables students to review lecture materials and core reading assignments at their own pace, rather than just during the length of a lecture.”

This is not the flexibility I attribute to a DL programme: I consider DL flexible as the student is able to assign time to the course and their study so it fits around their current available time and family/work/social commitments. The flexible described on the infographic is available to all students, as they, on-campus or off-campus students, are all encouraged to view and review their learning materials “at their own pace”?

  • Acceptance: Research performed by the Society for Human Resources Management in 2010 finds that 87 percent of employers agree that online degrees are viewed more favourably then five years ago.”

OK, but research in 2010 is not necessarily applicable to today’s students, or to today’s market for University students.

I believe the “earn while you learn” approach by students will take off – students wont pay the increased fees for 2012 (applications down 8%), but may be willing to pay lower fees for the same  or similar course but on a part-time online format and delivery.

What are your views on distance learning, eLearning, etc, and where the UK market is heading?

David Hopkins

What is a Learning Technologist (part 5)?

David HopkinsDepending on where you work you might use the title Learning Technologist, Education Technologist, Instructional Designer, or something else, but essentially these roles are the same.

  • See the ‘related posts’ section below for links to the previous 4 posts in this series.

Here are a few excerpts from job descriptions for these roles that I found with a quick Google search, see for yourself:

While reading this post last night - Learning Technology Trends To Watch In 2012 – I found the section on “Expanded Instructional Designer’s Role” quite interesting, not least as the expanded role sounded an awful lot like the work I am already engaged in?

“Captured in Clive Shepherd’s book, The New Learning Architect, the idea that an instructional designer has one only one function – course creation – seems outdated. Although many will continue to develop courses, instructional designers will need to think in broad terms about how to close learning gaps. This means understanding the strategies that underlie diverse possibilities for learning, both formal and informal, traditional and nontraditional, online and print and face-to-face and virtual.”

Many of the people I converse with on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, at work, at conferences, etc, are also of this opinion: that it is more than just the final result that the LT (Learning Technologist) is interested in, that the LT can be a vital part of the whole process in getting the learning materials researched, set up, assessed, etc. Convincing others of this is not always easy.

“For example, instructional designers are managing communities of practice, curating content, facilitating online discussion groups, organizing events and supporting of social media for learning. Instructional designers are often the proponents of innovation and the persuaders who convince upper management that interaction and collaboration will make for a smarter organization. As more instructional designers and educators see themselves as learning architects, the world will become a smarter place.”

Wow, this is me, am I now a Learning Architect?

Do you have a view or comment on this, or any other aspect of the role or industry you work in? If so then please leave a comment and open the discussion.

Induction Activity

Induction Activity – “in 100 words or less …”

Induction week, for campus-based students is all about getting to know each other, getting to know the programme team, and socialising. This is also true for online students, although it is not always easy to forge the same kind of understanding, relationships and outcome; but it’s not impossible.

Working online is not often a natural feeling for students, whatever their age. To this end we, the facilitators, need to carefully design the Induction programme and activities to make the students feel at home, comfortable in the online environment, and able to comment in a risk- and blame-free environment.

This makes it all the more important to carefully design and implement the introduction, the learning environment, and the online activities you expect them to participate in. Last year I wrote about five such activities in my post Online Induction: Icebreaker Activities.

Here is another one, modified from  Ryan Watkins’ book “75 eLearning Activities – making online learning interactive” (Amazon link);

Objective: This gives the students the opportunity to share their thoughts on a  topic (decided by the activity moderator) in the VLE to encourage a reflective process about themselves and their colleagues.

Delivery:
This can be used with either a Discussion Board or a Blog, depending on the preference and confidence of the moderator and expected technical competencies of the student cohort.

Process: The moderator provides the topic, usually something topical to current news, the programme content or learning style (eLearning), and encourages the students to initially post their responses (100 words or less). Once all students have responded the moderator encourages further posts replying to at least 3 entries made by their colleagues, also in 100 words or less.

Additional Information: If students are new to the technology (blog, discussion board) then appropriate training material is needed.

Ideally the kind of Induction Activity you use ought to be a mixture of reflective and collaborative styles in order to get the students engaged and comfortable with each other, with you (the moderator), and in working online in what many may find a new and alien environment.

What kind of activity do you use, is it specifically designed for online students or one that can be used for campus-based as well as online students?