Resource evaluation

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So it’s the end of week 3 of OCTEL and its time to go exploring! I have chosen to review resources based on the topic of Veterinary Ethics, using the Higher Education Academy – Resources Centre (HEA) and TED sites.

Of these, one is more traditional and the other new and “open” in nature. So what did I find, when typing the phrase “ethics” into both?
HEA, returned over 500 top phrase results and TED 1260, now that was ok, but in reality I would choose to drill down as I may be after a certain topic and not just a resource where the word “ethics” was mentioned.

I altered the phrase to “veterinary ethics”, HEA provided over 500 results, but I wanted to “filter” the results and was able to by choosing a “discipline” filter. This then “refined” the results for me leading to a mere 15 pages of results or roughly 150 topics.

TED on the other hand only provided 1 result. The lack of information provided by TED comes as no real surprise, due to the resource being newer and there being only conference video style sessions.

So what conclusions can be drawn, at present the “traditional” sites, HEA in the example above provide more stable solid results to text based documents for research, if there were a specific conference that I had been made aware of I would point users in the direction of TED. Provided that copyright and licencing / accessibility were allowed.

Traditionally within UK Universities, I have found copyright of “resources” has limited options top specific sites, although licencing exists, the “copyright” of resources can quickly become a mine-field. Likewise in my experience the use of resources without the “home” university y logo emblazoned onto them is frowned or not allowed.

What does open mean to you?

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Pedagogical Approaches & Platforms

I think that the technology and platforms that are being used for MOOCS like that on this OCTEL course are so new that the pedagogical approaches are still developing, and may always continue to do so due to their scale and flexibility in design.

I do feel though that the “open-ness” the amount of resources and the numbers of participants can offer both benefits, due to the collaborative nature of online working, meeting and airing views with like-minded folk, but also draw backs, due to the feelings of too much information, and the “where do I start” this week swamped feeling that a user of a MOOC may face.

If the platforms and content were “open” source, then their materials audience would grow, be it through the original point of publication, or due to their “mashed-up” nature within their new homes, on blogs and other learning information sites.

Past learning initiatives, of ITUNESU for example, have relied on either audio and or video content, and have been informal in their recognition of achievement, offering almost a “self-help” approach to learning, you would scroll through a list and find a piece of content that interests, learn it and go on your way.

The new initiatives are becoming closer to traditional institutional learning, with providers aligning their courses in topics and subjects, mixing resource content, and expecting users to do more than just watch or listen, but commiting their time in blocks, be it in a for a semester or weekly.

This new style of online course, comes with a more solid educational background, provides flexible access universally and for free.

Comments welcome…

Technology Selection

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To me as a learning technologist the biggest driver towards my choice of technology has to be “Participation”, it is my job to make sure that the resources are displayed online in an environment that supports and offers functionality for participants.

Every time that a course runs, or refreshes, an evaluation procedure picks up on issues or concerns raised, this allows the planning process to restart, and build in flexibility, recognise changes in scale, location, duration, participant experience and support pedagogical improvement.

During activity 1.2 I identified the following as key drivers when choosing a “learning platform”:
• A sense of community
• Ease of access (Must work on various types of computing device)
• Flexible platform for learning
• Allow themed content
• Be easily supported and supportive.

I feel that the “sense of community” identified, fits within the “participation” dimension outlined. My reasoning for this is that for a participant to participate in an online learning course effectively a sense of community should be fostered, and nurtured.

I have supported learners using Moodle, SharePoint, Blackboard, Google Sites and other learning technologies, all of which can be made participant friendly driving a sense of online community, be it through in built or bolted on features, my advice to fellow practitioners is choose a few course development platforms, compare them and practice, exploring their feature set. There is no one ideal learning platform, but with a bit of creative development any of the main platforms can support your learner’s needs.

Touchcast

Video

There’s almost an app for everything, and today I used a new one to me called Touchcast.

What’s it for?
Touchcast is downloaded onto IPad, and can be used to record and view video clips quickly.

Is it easy to understand how this tool works?
The app is very easy to use, as it has onscreen floating text guides to help you orientate yourself and like the IPad is intuitive in its use mimicking some IPad features such as swipe to reveal.

How quickly and easily would you find it to use?
I found using Touchcast was a quick process, I normally give an app a few clicks and if I don’t like the feel or interface I give up and delete it, this didn’t happen with Touchcast, I used it to record a 10 sec video clip, and although some features are bit awkward, such as having to set everything up before you record, and then having no way of going back and re-editing text for titles, for the on the go, once only clip this technology is fine. I also found the upload feature useful, although you do have to set an account up first.

How could you apply this tool in your own teaching?
For me, to have the use of a “quick” video technology to replace a thousand words on a page, is interesting, in the past I have made use of Camtasia, Touchcast would have its place alongside Camtasia, but the latter is better for on-screen recordings.

Touchcast is better in the “real world”

What does this tool offer that has advantages over your current practice?
I can now use this software to enhance my current practice and have access to a quick easy way to show end users “how to do”, without having to employ a Hollywood film crew!

The proof is in the 12 second pudding here:

http://www.touchcast.com/examples/identify_the_bird

Don’t worry no animals where harmed in the filming!

Materials & Platforms

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So it’s week three, were half way through the online OCTEL course and the first task has me globetrotting, learning about mathematics in America, polishing up on my construction site awareness in Australia and zooming back to London to review a patient’s healthcare, all from the comfort of my computer chair.

I chose to review the following resources:

Khan Academy’s YouTube video:
Expected profit from lottery ticket
http://youtu.be/6vlBOHckmzU

ElearningExamples:
Hazard a Guesshow
http://elearningexamples.com/hazard-a-guess/

iEthiCS simulation:
Introduction to the Andy Dufrayne Case
http://labyrinth.sgul.ac.uk/openlabyrinth/mnode.asp?id=qwnw2gcwnw2gcgxlrdbqajxhqwnw2gc

What would appeal to different learners?
The three examples appeal to auditory and visual learners in different ways, Khans mathematics academy, is an amazing resource with mathematical problems explained in as fun a way as is possible with mathematical formulae, I especially liked the onscreen calculator! This approach helps break the mathematics down, and with the ability to pause, rewind and review, I feel it would help learners who stuck working maths problems out.

For those with little or no interest in maths then they may want to pass the resource by, instead they can learn about Australia’s construction industry and the types of hazard that are best avoided. The gamey style of the cartoon interface would, I imaging appeal to the desired “younger” audience, although they would need an up to date broadband connection and a flash enabled device, no iPad’s allowed!

For those interested in healthcare, learning about a patients care needs, and enabling “you” to choose the path that care takes is appealing whist reviewing the outcomes on screen rather than in real-life-or-death situations. Yes the interface isn’t as glossy as the previous e-learning examples but the content is key here, it’s a bit like sticking a 4L engine in a mini, it’s what’s driving the car that really matters. In this instance that applies to both the resources and the quality of them, along with the person making the decisions “you”.

What learners, if any, would they be inappropriate for and why?
As touched on briefly, I feel those with little or no interest in any of the topics would find the subject matter of all three examples difficult to follow, those with limited time may also find it frustrating to use some of the examples, as in the case of the e-learning “hazard” game, it could be slow to load, I feel it’s also not easy to reset or create a learning path-way.

How do each of these resources differ from that of the resources we’re using in ocTEL? Do they promote social learning, re-use of their materials, or open access?
The resources in OCTEL are similar, we have touched on game style resources please see my previous blog entry, and videos be it live in the case of the webinar’s or recorded. These do help promote learning, recorded video I feel is less social unless used as part of a wider task, where everyone posts a clip of a topic or in response to a problem. All of the reviewed resources are re-useable this being of appeal to courseware developers and tutors, with a little tweaking could be slotted into place quite easily on a different site or in a different course if required and if the subject matter is consistent.

What ways can you see to improve the effectiveness or potential reach of these resources? Effectiveness can be considered as allowing students to work at their own pace and review areas they need to, providing a richer learning experience by expanding the range of expertise which students will confront, or providing a range of materials in different media formats to suit students’ different learning preferences.

A “common” limiting theme of the resources that I have reviewed is time, they would all take time to consume and process, in the case of the YouTube video and the iEthiCS simulation, this is less of an issue, as the resources can be stopped, re-started and re-visited, The e-learning example was less likely to be re-visited as easily as users would “loose” their learning path, and have to either start again or sit the quiz in one sitting, which may have been the original intention.

Device accessibility should never be overlooked either, and in the case of the e-learning examples site, lots of the resources are made using flash, which won’t work or display on the iPad or other mobile devices easily.

I think one overall criticism of YouTube video resources in general is that, there is for me too much choice, unless “some-one” whoever that someone may be, be it tutor, cohort or learning designer, presents the resources based on theme, topic or subject, I feel that users could be overwhelmed with choice and become easily distracted. Let’s face it the Internet is full enough of distractions as it is, and without the guidance of direction, the mind and mouse will wander!

Comments welcome….

Be a TEL Explorer

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So for my “Explorer” response I began working on designing a learning activity 2.4, this activity was to be an “ice breaker” or first task for a new collaborative cohort, using an online system or platform that had a “board” style posting feature. A discussion board, wiki, grouped twitter (http://www.grouptweet.com/examples#Private_Groups) or Facebook.

The cohort would be given a word or phrase depending on number of participants. For example “learning” for an 8 participant group, their task would be for each member of the cohort to decide on a letter from the original word or phrase. This would be chosen via a discussion board, twitter or Facebook during a group introduction session. They would then take a picture of their chosen letter in their day to day “normal world” activities. This picture would then be uploaded onto the learning platform, along with an explanation of why they chose this letter and where the image was taken. This “use” of image and discussion technology helps introduce an online cohort to each other, and to the technologies that would be used on their course.

As I progressed this idea I wasn’t sure if it fitted correctly so looking again at the activities I settled on activity 2.5, “Active play” and time being against me for the latter part of this week, along with Sky’s broadband shield which wouldn’t initially allow me access to “games” based sites, how boring! I decided to review two of the games instead.

Now before you continue to read on I’m not normally one for online games so I apologise in advance to gamer lovers, but I decided to give it a go, as I’ve written up a few posts this week, and thought that I may enjoy the “gaming” aspect and it would be a bit of “fun”.
After sitting for 15 minutes playing Lost in city (LIC), and Westward (W) for what seemed an even longer 15 minutes, I thought I’d post my findings.

What do you think you could learn playing this game?

(LIC) Basics of reading, language, hand eye coordination, strategy, how things work (possibly due to placing batteries in radio etc.). Role play and time management.

(W) Hand eye coordination, role play, patience, mouse skills, and financial skills.

What (if anything) did you find engaging?

I didn’t like anything about Westward it just wasn’t a game for me.

Lost in City was challenging and kept my interest levels active for longer, as I was almost in an online episode of Diagnosis Murder or Jessica’s Murder she Wrote. Piecing bits of a puzzle together.

What (if anything) did you find de-motivational?

Westwards, interface, characters and platform didn’t agree with me, maybe I hadn’t had enough coffee when I tried it or maybe I’d had too much, but something just didn’t gel. I found it slow to work on my PC.

I found Lost in City to be better, but even this after 15 minutes was enough and I needed a break.

So after reviewing the two online games, has my stance on online gaming changed?

Not yet, based upon these two games, I think I’ll stick with designing learning activities in future, at least until “It came from the desert” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_Came_from_the_Desert) appears as an online game, mind you I’m probably remembering that with my rose tinted Commodore Amiga glasses on.

Activity 2.3 Theories of active learning: Collaboration

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I have chosen the collaborative learning theory, collaborative learning is learning based around a cohort of at least two students, or greater. This cohort work together sharing information, practice and ideas on solving one or multiple problems that have been tasked to them with a nod to Knowles guidance on “making things happen by releasing the energy of others

I have worked with students cohorts collaboratively both as trainer and in support roles. I find this “style” of learning fosters greater cohort cohesion and can offer a supportive style of learning experience that cannot be found in a traditional face to face learning environment. Participants work differently based around cohort prior experience and the need to achieve a set goal. In my experience I find participants are less likely to be afraid to ask questions, provided that they are made to feel included and part of the group from the outset.

To design collaborative learning, I would aim to set each participant of a cohort at least one individual task that tests their “intention to understand”, one task that “relates and reflects on their prior knowledge” and have this information fit into the collaborative jigsaw, with the cohort finding the answer collectively to one or more larger overall group activities. Almost like a treasure hunt of information that is to be found out, investigated then pieced together, using online and offline media (library based) and prior experience. Such an activity would take time to plan, but once correctly planned and tested this framework could be re-used with adaptions as required.

The process would be supportive of participant needs, through the use of webinar sessions with course leader and the rest of cohort. Prior questioning of users skills and expectations through use of the “Am I ready” questionnaires would help aid this process.

Whilst planning and implementing the “learning design” I would make use ADDIE model.

Web links:

Addie Model:
http://www.learning-theories.com/addie-model.html

Collaborative learning:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collaborative_learning