Tag Archives: Induction

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

Characteristics Of A Successful Online Student

Infographic: Characteristics of a (successful) online student #ocTEL

What is at the core of an online course or a MOOC? You could argue it’s the academic integrity of the materials or learning. It could be the level of student engagement in required activities. I would argue that (even if not at the core, but very close to it) should be the expectations placed on the students both academically and technically!

There’s no point having a good (large, massive?) number of students enrolled on the course if you already know that a proportion of them are not technically or academically capable of engaging or completing the course. Is this one of the criticisms of MOOCs?

Characteristics Of A Successful Online Student
The Characteristics Of A Successful Online Student

What does this infographic say? Well:

  • Screen applicants before allowing them start study: Not always possible I would think. Continue reading
the grabbing hands

Week 1: Induction #ocTEL

So, we’re here! The ‘Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning’ started this week and we’re in for a fun and busy 10 weeks of MOOCing, hopefully.

  • Registration is still open so, if you’re not one of the 900+ soles already involved and engaged, why not pop along to octel.alt.ac.uk and join in?

What can we expect, now we have more details than were previously available? Weekly emails, weekly webinars (including archived recording as well), and an email providing an overview to the week ahead. This is exactly the kind of student engagement and signposting I’ve been highlighting and pushing through my work and writing before. It is nice to see that I am in tune with ALT and those who are creating/running this MOOC! Thank you.

“ocTEL aims to accommodate your communication preferences as far as possible, so wherever you feel most comfortable writing – as long as it is not behind a password login – we will do our best to collect it up and add it to the general mix.”

Well, the first extended week is set aside for an induction to this MOOC, MOOCs in general, and the platform itself – Continue reading

OCTEL: Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning

Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning #ocTEL

“Poor use of technology is a significant waster of time and money in the public sector. UK Higher Education is not exempt from this problem. This course will help those planning and delivering teaching in HE to make the best use of technology in their work and avoid pitfalls and hiccups.”

OCTEL: Open Course in Technology Enhanced LearningI’ve just signed up for yet another MOOC, this one provided by ALT (the Association for Learning Technology) called the “Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning”.

Starting in April 2013, and running for 10 weeks, the online course will “help those planning and delivering teaching in HE to make the best use of technology in their work and avoid pitfalls and hiccups”.

  • You can follow the course, and the run up to it, on Twitter with the hashtag #ocTEL and Twitter account @ALTocTEL

The course will cover aspects of (and is not limited to … nor is it finalised yet either):

  • Induction: how this course works, who can help
  • Openness and standards
  • Options for the material, sizing effort, lead times, hardware and software needs, costs
  • On line assessment
  • Accessibility
  • Students in transition between sectors
  • Environments and administration
  • Using social media and games
  • Continue reading

Fold along the dotted-line #edtech

How much emphasis or importance do you place on the set of instructions you provide when supporting colleagues, students, stakeholders, etc? Do you put thought and effort into creating them so they’re accessible and easy to understand at all levels of ability, produce them quickly with enough detail for most people to figure it out, or keep churning out the same old resources from years ago?

I don’t think anyone would own up to the latter (it doesn’t seem very helpful does it) and I would hope that we can strive to achieve the former.

In order to fully appreciate what is needed when developing support materials, I put myself in the shoes of a fresh student who knows nothing about the environment they’re about to be expected to use: turned to something I know absolutely nothing about – origami! How hard can it be, right?I deliberately searched for a website that had simple and advanced instructions so I could try one method (hard) while having the back-up of the other (easy). So I tried to make a paper crane (bird).

Fold along the dotted-line
Paper ‘fold-here’ instructions

Fold along the dotted-line
Video instructions showing intricacies of folding action

Not all websites with patterns for origami had both types of instructions, therefore allowing (or not) the ‘student’ to choose their own way to learn how to make the crane. If you’re interested, here’s one I made earlier … ! Not bad for a first attempt?


What I learned from this, for this very visual activity, is that I needed both types of fold-instructions to fully understand the techniques and the fact that I needed to turn the paper over and do some more on the other side. I started with the paper-based set as I was too impatient to wait for the video to get started, then turned to the video when the paper version didn’t have enough detail or didn’t explain itself properly.

Student inductions are always a time when we need more time and more opportunity to show the students the tools they have at their disposal, and how to use them properly. If we’re lucky we get a 60 minute slot in their busy first week: usually nestled between the first talk from their School’s Dean or programme team and a lunch … and in some instances actually in place of a break for lunch!

Using a PowerPoint presentation to highlight the different elements of a student (IT/VLE/Library) induction is only going to go so far before the students switch off … and you know that in 11 weeks you’ll get the “how do I submit an assignment?” or “how do I download the eBook?” questions several hundred times over. Why not do something during this 60 minute session to give the students a hands-on approach to a task, and therefore a learn-by-doing approach which they are more likely to remember?

Can inductions be ‘flipped’ so students have activities and reading before they arrive to maximise the time you have with them? Will students engage with a set of instructions pre-induction (probably sent with the welcome letter) for logging in and/or registering with services (VLE, email, Library, etc)? Will it be enough so that you don’t spend a lot of the face-to-face time with the students going over the materials they should have done on their own? The problem with flipping the induction is that students are likely to be using systems they are unfamiliar with: remember to take student profile into account as well – mature or part-time students may want more hand-holding and detailed guidance than others, and pre-induction activities may backfire if they go wrong.

What do you do, and how do you do it? How do you manage to get everything you and the students need into a short time slot? Is it possible to develop a repeatable and reusable set of resources and activities for student IT/VLE induction that are not just ‘watch-this’ videos?

Local Knowledge

Don’t underestimate local knowledge


There’s nothing quite like a new job or a new town (or both) to make you realise you know so little, or that you are out of your ‘comfort zone’! Take an average journey as an example … go to a specific shop for a specific item:

  • By Foot – choose the store you want to go to based on distance, availability, or opening times.
  • By Car – Drive the known-route to the known-car park for the desired shop or shopping centre and item. Use alternative routes depending on the traffic, use alternative car park if original is full.
  • By Bus – Choose the shop or shopping district based on closest, easiest, quickest, or cheapest bus route.
  • By Taxi – It doesn’t matter which shop or shopping district you go to, you don’t have to worry about parking or waiting for the bus either?

Now try this without the knowledge you’ve learned over the years you’ve lived in the area you’re in. You don’t know which is the best shop or shopping district to go to. You don’t know the best route to take to get there. You don’t know where the car park is or which is the best, cheapest, or most secure. You’d take the bus but you don’t know where the bus stops are, which is the best ticket to get, how often the buses come, etc. You could ask someone but feel a fool asking such a basic question. This is even worse if you try it in bad weather or when you’re in a rush – you soon feel very uncomfortable and begin to question whether the journey is worth it.

Local knowledge is essential to living in your area, getting around, finding quick routes or avoiding congestion, getting the best deals, or just making the most of the area. When you move somewhere new you ask a colleague, a neighbour, a friend, or even a stranger on the street. You can of course make this easier by planning ahead (if possible) and working out as much of the route as you can (thank you Google Maps and Twitter!).

Now transplant this situation to a new student starting an new (online?) course. Unless the signposts are there for them, unless the route is explained, unless they can see or find their way clearly, they will be lost. Many distant learning students do not know where or who to when they need help, many will not ask for fear of looking silly. Those who do ask are quite often asking the same questions that were asked by a previous cohort (so why haven’t you updated the student guides?).

Make sure the path to learning is not obscured by the difficult navigation or less than simple structure to the information you are providing. Make sure the students find a system or a structure to the resources that is intuitive and/or simple to navigate. Make sure the relevance of the information is made clear – is this a resource they will need every day or once a year? Make sure the important stuff (contact details, timetables, templates, assignments, etc) are easy to find and that each Unit uses the same structure so the students find familiarity in their studies as they progress through your course. Can you give them a ‘map’ – if so then what’s the best format to put it in (downloadable file, online video, describe the ‘journey’ they’re taking, etc).

This kind of approach should not only be for your learning materials but also for the information points and information resources developed to support the students in their studies (non-Unit based), the pastoral care and support (admin, policies, timetables, options choices, etc).

Where are your bus stops and car parks in your materials, and how do the students find them (easily)? Do you give them a map or explain the structure or just expect them to figure it out for themselves? Do you monitor feedback or support queries and revisit the guides to update them if something crops up regularly?

Building Educational Confidence and Affinity Through Online Induction Activities

Poster: Building Educational Confidence and Affinity Through Online Induction Activities

Today I am presenting the following poster at the Bournemouth University Enhancing Education 2011 Conference “Excellent education: the heart of the student experience” with two colleagues from the Business School, and wanted to share our work.

The poster, titled “Building Educational Confidence and Affinity Through Online Induction Activities” builds on previous work by the team to introduce and encourage our online an distant learners to engage with their studies, with us, and with each other.

The poster;

“… demonstrates the development and support taken throughout a week-long online Induction for geographically-disparate Business School students studying the fully-online BA (Hons) International Business & Management degree.

“From application through to enrolment and becoming an online student our students are likely to experience many emotions over this period. We recognise the different key foundation areas required to strengthen personal confidence and determination as an individual remote student. The intention is to help students overcome their initial personal apprehension by building intrinsic trust in the capabilities of the Business School from all standpoints including technical, educational and pastoral.

“By the end of this induction week students have the opportunity to formulate a clear picture of the environment in which they will be learning, establish an initial impression of degree level study, recognise the levels of support available to them, and begin to identify their own personal resolve and how to make this work for them whilst studying from a remote location.

“Through the induction programme we firmly believe that building strong roots empowers students to maximise their potential during the full course of their study.”

You can view and download the poster, in full, from SlideShare: Building Educational Confidence and Affinity Through Online Induction Activities.

If you are going to quote or cite this in any work please use the following details (in the style of Harvard Referencing):

Hopkins, D., Wincott, M. and Hutchings, L., 2011. Building educational confidence and affinity through Online Induction Activities. In: Bournemouth University Education Enhancement Conference 2011, 4 May 2011, Bournemouth University, Poole, England. Available from: http://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/17715/

Induction Activities: Some good examples using video …

As some of you may know I am working towards a post-graduate certificate qualification in Education Practice at Bournemouth University. I’ve spent most of my Christmas break (when the family and kids allowed) working on my first assignment for the ‘Introduction to Education Practice’ unit. I am basing this on my work in developing and delivering the Induction Programme for the fully-online International Business and Management under-graduate degree, and how it can be improved/updated to suit the possible changing student profile in the anticipated future economic climate.

While searching and researching the various methods of induction for students I cam across these videos and explanations on the IMU eLearning blog, a few I’ll show here, but please view the original post to view them all.

  • What happens next?

Ask the students to watch the video below and be prepared to discuss a ‘what happens next’ situation. Play the video and pause it when the cat reaches the fishbowl, then ask your students to discuss what happens next. Most likely you will stimulate their minds to think creatively about what happens next in a competitive but enjoyable way. Did you guess what happened next … ?

  • Awareness test

Tell the students you are looking for them to be observant, and to count how many passes of the ball the White team makes. Play the video below and pause it when the teams have stopped passing the ball between them. Ask for the answers … and then ask them if anyone saw the moonwalking bear? When they’ve stopped gasping or laughing continue the video.

  • Language Skills

This is a good example of the importance of language skills, which can often be a sensitive subject for some students who have poor english – use this light-hearted example to break the barrier and raise a laugh or two.

Do you use any video clips in your induction? If so please share with us all and leave a comment.

PS. I used the Smart YouTube WordPress plugin to embed these YouTube videos, try it out on your own WordPress blog too, it’s so very easy!

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.

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?

Online Induction: What happened?

Online Induction ActivitiesI wrote the post “Online Induction: What can possibly go wrong?” as I was getting myself and the materials ready for a week of induction activities for new students to the online degree programme at Bournemouth University.

This, in itself, was a follow up to the “Online Induction: Icebreaker Activities“, where I was working through some ideas on what I would deploy for the students.

So, with a week to recover, reflect, and collect the stragglers, how did it go?

With one week set aside for their Online Induction, the students were asked to do the following (this was based on instructions given in a letter and a supporting website, with an introduction to the VLE / Blackboard):

NB: these are mature students, often in full-time employment, and with family and social commitments.

  1. Introduce Yourself: Using a wiki, the students created a page and placed a bi0 (about 200 words) about themselves and why they have just started an under-graduate degree in International Business & Management. They then linked this page to the wiki home page, so other students could find and leave a comment on it.
    [Wiki support video]
  2. Send an email: In order that we can confirm the students have successfully accessed the University webmail system and their account, they send me an email. This also means we will stop using their private email; we cannot manage mail lists of some uni, some private emails; they must all use their uni email address and account for communication.
  3. Point of Contact: Online test (Blackboard) with about 6-8 questions where we outline a typical question – the answer being “who do you go to in the following situation?”. This introduces them to the team and the type of problem each of us can help with (mitigating circumstances, technical, library, etc).
    [Test/MCQ support video]
  4. Spending Spree: What would you spend $50,000 on, guilt free? Enter response in a blog, and comments on another students idea.
    [Blog support video]
  5. Lonely Hearts column: Some fictitious lonely hearts adverts are discussed in a discussion board. Which one (3 male, 3 female) would make you find out more, and which one makes you crawl?
    [Discussion Forum support video]

What else did we do during the Induction week, beside guide/follow them through the activities:

  • Announcements: important announcements about their studies, the programme, the Library, the University, the first Unit of study, Technical support, etc.
  • Introductions: emails from the programme and administrative team (as well as participating in the first activity).
  • Support Website: In case they were unable to access the VLE, we had a set of flat HTML files that replicated the instructions for the activities, but not the activities themselves. This is really just so they have something to read until we can sort their access issues!

So, these were the activities. How did they do? Well, firstly, what was the engagement like?

  • One or two students did everything on the first day, never to be seen or heard of again.
  • One or two students appeared on day 7, right at the last possible moment and did the absolute minimum.
  • The majority of students dipped in and out during the week, completing the first 2 or 3 activities, but not the last one.
  • A few questions about how they would complete the wiki / blog activities. The students were directed to the already advertised support videos for each tool, where the tool was demonstrated in a real-world example.
  • Those that were active at the beginning of the week missed out on the ‘community feel’ at the end of the week.
  • Those who were active at the end of the week were more likely to just read what other students said than to enter in to the activity.
  • Activity from students who logged on a few times during the week was better; they made more comments and generally acted like they were in 2-way community instead of just ‘publishing’ to the community.

So, the activities:

  1. Introduce Yourself: 80% of the students completed this; the other 20% did not do this, but they also didn’t do any of the other activities either! One the whole they all were able to create the page and enter their details (some with pictures and links), but not all were able (or remembered) to create the link off the home page.
  2. Email: All but one student could access their email account, and that one student was easily sorted (password typo?).
  3. Point of Contact: A simple multiple-choice test (MCQ), most student completed it. What we now need to do is go back and report on the results.
  4. Spending Spree: All those who have completed other activities completed this too. The results are more indicative of the times we live in; most would spend some or all on the mortgage, holiday, or car (in that order).
  5. Lonely Hearts: As the last activity, this was predictably the one with the least number of students active, whether it was the subject matter, the tool (DF), or just they felt they’d already done enough.

How do you measure the success? I prefer looking at the number of students (or lack of) who had issues and needed to contact me (as the Learning Technologist) to find solutions rather than measure the success by the activities completed. This year was good; few students having more than the basic “forgotten password” issues, and only one with broadband/connection problems (out of my control).

I’m already planning next year, so between now and then I’ll be hunting around for some new and exciting ways to get them working together online. Any suggestions welcome, please let me know by commenting below …