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 →
The goal of the JISC Report into the ’Challenge of eBooks in Academic Institutions’ project is to help “orientate senior institutional managers and to support institutions in the effective adoption and deployment of eBooks and eBook technology. As a consequence the project helps to support the wider ambition to enable improvements in the quality and impact of teaching, learning and research and meet rising staff and student expectations.”
“At present, for academic institutions, the ebook paradigm largely remains one of PDF format ebooks consumed using PCs. This is now dissolving. The ebook landscape is changing rapidly, driven to a large extent by developments in ebook readers and tablet devices which have enabled better ways to consume econtent.”
Lewis, B. and Rush, D. 2013. Experience of developing Twitter-based communities of practice in higher education. In Research in Learning Technology 2013, 21: 18598 – http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v21i0.18598
“This article presents the results of a case study of the use of a microblogging tool by a university academic to increase their knowledge and experience of social media for educational purposes. The academic had the role of digital steward in a university and attempted to use microblogging (Twitter) to increase professional contacts within the framework of a community of practice. Several types of data were collected and analysed. These included the structure of the network arising from the links formed with others by microblogging, the similarity of stated interests between the academic and others in the network, and the contents of postings such as their external references. It was found that a personal network had been established, with some of the characteristics of a community of practice. The activity demonstrated the utility of social media in supporting the professional development of academic staff using technology.”
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.
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.
I’ve been interested for quite a while now in the use of recorded ‘lectures’ (for want of a better word) in learning materials for distance learners. Do these kinds of recording help students ‘learn’? This paper, from the Research in Learning Technology journal should be of interest to anyone who is also looking into lecture capture.
The research that accompanies this is paper based on student surveys in two Universities in the Netherlands whose goal was to investigate and understand how the students used the recorded material (downloadable versions of the recordings were not available for consumption offline).
There is good data here from the students that ought to be considered by anyone contemplating the introduction of any system that would enable recording of lecture materials and it’s provision and supply to students. If anything, look at the data about why students did not watch or use them (figures from one of the participating University’s: Eindhoven University of Technology – TU/e):
Did not know they were available: 7.2%
Went to class (didn’t need the recording): 57%
Technical difficulties: 6.3%
Didn’t miss anything important enough to consider reviewing the recording: 21.7%
Didn’t have time for it: 19.3%
Do not like watching recorded lectures: 5.1%
Recording quality (which meant they must have tried it to know they didn’t want to watch it?): 6.5%
The paper acknowledges that the majority of the technical issues encountered (which is always an important consideration) were due to students accessing the resources off-site (home, work etc.) which is a shame as, for distance learners, this is an essential consideration. Perhaps this is a limitation of the specific systems or their implementation at these institutions rather than the general technology of ‘lecture capture’?
I do not agree with one aspect of the study though, that the students were given full-length (40-45 minute) recordings. While this may be the “most frequent” type of recordings (and easiest to capture) it is not the most effective or comfortable way to watch a lecture. I prefer smaller chunks, typically 10-15 minutes (according to the topic/subject structure), that are more easily digested either sat in front of a PC or on a mobile device (MP3 or other audiobook format). This is how I produced recorded material for the distance learning students at Bournemouth University and, where we only had the longer, fuller, recording, we received negative comments that were solely down to length of recording. Perhaps if they had not had or known the advantages of the shorter versions they would not have responded this way?
Here Stephen writes with his daughter Juliette Heppell, herself a teacher at Lampton Academy in London, and this short page outlines the main events on using Facebook with students, and the do/ don’t mentality we all ought to consider. Examples include:
Do … build a separate teacher page for your “teacher” presence.
Do … keep your teacher and personal page very separate
Do … post pictures of school/lessons/trips – even diagrams you put on the board (snap them with your phone and post them) – it reminds students that you are there, generates a pride in the school and reminds them that this is not a vaccuous space!
Don’t … ‘friend’ students yourself – not even as your “teacher” presence.
Don’t … accept complete ignorance of Facebook as an excuse for dangerous school policies like blanket bans – instead offer to be an action researcher, and try it out for a year.
The full list covers much more than this, and has a ‘healthy’ caveat of “don’t ever think you can refine and evolve these simple notes without talking to your students – they will know of problems and dangers you are unaware of, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t model safe behavior for them.” A great resource and one you should be mindful of.
While this article is a good summary of art and design use of ‘studio space’ and how Facebook is a better medium than most traditional VLEs, it highlights the basic conflict of internal (owned) vs. external (unregulated) tools while offering a brief insight into how other disciplines ‘could’ use the social network (not for networking purposes). The study found that “the interviewees in this investigation perceive educational benefits based on the communicative potential of Facebook. The diversity in the form and pattern of use posses less of a challenge for not all Facebook activities promote communication and it would be possible to focus on those that do.”
It continues by saying that “in addition, it may not be possible to convince all students who perceive Facebook only as a social space, that there are educational benefits in exploring what this SNS [Social Networking Site] offers in terms of interests groups and other useful information” and that a dedicated student induction (oh, another one?) would help address concerns over how it should be used on a granular level.
Official citation for this article is:
Souleles, N. 2012. Perceptions of undergraduate Graphic Design students on the educational potential of Facebook. Research in Learning Technology20: 17490. http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v20i0.17490
This article is published in the AJET (Australasian Journal of Educational Technology) and has a good amount of data to support the assumption that students would use Facebook as part of their learning:
93% of surveyed students had an active Facebook account.
78% anticipated that a Facebook page would facilitate their learning by increased interaction with students and instructors.
81% engaged with the Facebook page at some stage during their studies.
76% would recommend Facebook for future cohorts courses while only 51% thought that it was effective (effective at what though?).
The question I have is how are the learning materials structured to students who did not have a Facebook account (those who did not want one for various personal reasons) were not unduly restricted in their learning?
The article states that Facebook as a “learning aid suggests that it has the potential to promote collaborative and cooperative learning” but further study is required to investigate how it can enhance the learning outcome.
Official citation for this article is:
Irwin, C., Ball, L., Desbrow, B. & Leveritt, M. (2012). Students’ perceptions of using Facebook as an interactive learning resource at university. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 28(7), 1221-1232. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet28/irwin.html
Another good academic journal article on a study into the “effects of teacher self-disclosure via Facebook on anticipated college student motivation, affective learning, and classroom climate”. The study concludes that “certain forms of face-to-face self-disclosure can have disastrous effects on teacher credibility” (i.e. personal details, photos, etc) and that “teachers can strategically reveal pictures, quotes, and personal information that present them as competent and trustworthy instructors who have the students’ best interests in mind”.
Of course, this isn’t news to most of us – apart from keeping the student-teacher relationship purely professional in a classroom and teaching/learning environment we must replicate this in any online environment, social network, email exchange, IM chat, etc). In saying that some forms of self-disclosure by the teacher could help foster a closer professional relationship it must be argued that some forms of disclosure (the paper does not give examples here but I assume to mean some personal details that students to not need to know as opposed to overtly personal details, bordering on the kind of things that constitutes an employer disciplinary hearing) could harm the relationship: “students reported that teachers should self-disclose appropriate information.”
Official citation for this article is:
Joseph P. Mazer, Richard E. Murphy & Cheri J. Simonds (2007): I’ll See You On “Facebook”: The Effects of Computer-Mediated Teacher Self-Disclosure on Student Motivation, Affective Learning, and Classroom Climate, Communication Education, 56:1, 1-17. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03634520601009710
This post is summed up nicely in this quote (but please read the whole post as there is much more here):
“In the main, the Facebook page, which is run by and for the students without tutor involvement, is centred on support for learning and skills development and in every case I saw, answers to problems that emerged from discussions were factually correct. In addition, the students offer one another impressive levels of support and encouragement. From the evidence of their own Facebook group, then, students are not unwilling to work and learn collaboratively.”
But what of the etiquette and/or training the student were given to using these systems? Are they instructed or left to their own devices? Are they given an outline of how it should be used, and when and for what purpose? This then raises the question, for me anyway, should we use Facebook at all, but if we do how at do we go to prescribe what & ow I is used.
“I am left wondering therefore if there is an unspoken etiquette at play here – a set of norms which, in attempting to use social networks for tutor:cohort interaction, we as educators are somehow transgressing?”
This paper is an “attempt to use a Facebook group as a course website, serving as a platform for delivering content and maintaining interactions among the students and between the students and the lecturer.” The paper deals quite strongly in the student experience and student satisfaction of the use of Facebook, but this does not mean that it is an academic success, it just means they liked it. You can’t even look at results from class tests or end of course assessment to see if it’s a success either, there are too many variables to be included to know whether it was a good cohort or the technology applied that made the difference.
The Facebook Groups was “designed in a way that encourages participation and interaction on every single post uploaded to the group” but this in itself does not mean learning has been achieved, does it? The paper does conclude that the learning “environment itself is not solely responsible for the creation of learning dynamics”.
“Despite the effectiveness of e-learning, online learners remain notorious for losing focus, getting bored, checking email, chatting, texting, sorting through piles of neglected mail, or tuning out altogether. It’s not their fault.”
Please read the full articles, it is very good and you’ll love the “eLearners Bill of Rights”!
So, what does Susan suggest? Exactly what myself and so many have been trying to get the reluctant educators to do ..
“Using what we know about the importance of setting a lively, stress-free, learning-friendly classroom environment, take steps to make e-learning environments similarly engaging, so that we can maximize the effectiveness of online and blended learning.”
I joined ALT (Association for Learning Technology) about 2 years ago, and at the beginning of last year I attended a workshop on the benefits and processed involved in becoming a Chartered Member, CMALT.
Worryingly, I’ve been so busy since then I overlooked CMALT and it wasn’t until a recent post by a fellow Twitter-er, @jonnycrook, that I remembered it and decided to dust off the forms and information, and do something about it.
So, here I am, doing something about it.
I’ve set up a new category on my Blog for CMALT posts. I’ve set up my profile on the CMALT Community website (please click link to visit; all comments welcome here or there, especially if you have already succeeded where I plan to go), I’ve added my Twitter and Blog feeds into the profile, and I’ve added the CMALT process into my staff appraisal (on-going since May; very busy).
… so, where now? I have to re-read all the documentation on what is needed, how, and when. Once I have this understood I will be in touch with CMALT again to get the necessary paperwork sorted and mentors assigned. Watch this space?
I’ve just finished reading ‘An Informal History of eLearning‘ by Jay Cross, and can’t believe I didn’t find and read this sooner. I’ve only found it available as a paper in the eJournal ‘On the Horizon’ via Emerald Insight, and even then I can only get access to it on campus.
For those who don’t, or can’t, access it Jay outlines his own journey through various industries to 2004 (when it was written) as well as explaining what was going on around him and the ever changing world of ‘learning’.
What has prompted me to write here is that there are a few choice quotes I’d like to share with you, that struck a chord or nerve with me, from my own approach to learning and eLearning;
“Learning happens outside one’s comfort zone. Exposed to new things. Incorporating them into one’s experience. Taking life’s lessons and adapting them to make the world a better place, and to lead a happier life. Challenge yourself and your brain gets heavier with new neurons.”
“I’m always ready to learn but there are many times I don’t want to be trained. Training is something someone does to me; learning is what I do for myself.”
“(when talking about vendors at the 1999 ASTD Int. Conference) … the most tenuous connection to the Internet was defined as eLearning. Some vendors sent email notifications to people taking CD-based training and called it eLearning. Others offered a simple discussion board, called it mentoring, and stuck on the eLearning label.”
“Many of those who did register (for compulsory eLearning) dropped out early on. eLearning left a bas taste in their mouths. it was boring. Many people have told me, ‘I tried eLearning, I didn’t like it.’ They’re assuming that all eLearning is the same. This makes no more sense than if I’d said ‘I read a book once, I didn’t like it. I don’t intend to read any others.”
I hope you can see why these passages jumped out of the page/screen (I had it loaded to the Sony Reader and sat in the garden with a beer and read it) at me. It made me realise that, as someone who aids the development of eLearning materials for academic students, we mustn’t overlook the actual intended ‘people’ on the other end of the line; those who are relying on us to perform our job to the best of ‘their’ ability.