Archive for February, 2012

Using the VLE as a Trojan horse

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

trojan_horse.jpg

Picture from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sari-coche/4457749167/lightbox/

Heard yesterday that the abstract I submitted for the HE Academy conference was rejected… so thought I might at least blog it! Authors: me, Alex Moseley, Nichola Hayes, Denise Sweeney, Alejandro Armellini and Jon Gunnell

Abstract

The presentation aims to give an overview of an extensive survey being undertaken at the University of Leicester on the current uses and future plans for the use of our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) Blackboard, as part of our upgrade to Blackboard 9.1.

Outline

Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) are an established part of institutions’ core infrastructure. A number of benefits are evident: they offer a consistent/accessible environment for learners, they include tools to support communication and collaboration (such as forums, blogs and wikis), they provide a safe ‘nursery slope’ for academics to explore how they can use technologies to support their teaching, and they incorporate assessment and monitoring tools to enable them to evaluate learner progress. In addition, they can be used in conjunction with free Web tools to augment the core functionality offered by the VLE.

 

However, despite the evident benefits that VLEs offer, overall they are not being used to support learning extensively. Much use is little more than using the VLE as a content repository or what Oliver (2001) refers to as ‘Web page turning’. Academics lack the necessary digital literacy skills (Jenkins 2006) needed to make effective use of technologies, and see the VLE as additional work, rather than an integrated part of the learning experience. Furthermore, in research-intensive institutions there is a tension between teaching and research.

 

Leicester is currently in the process of upgrading to BlackBoard 9.1. We see this as an opportunity to help tackle the problems outlined above and as a mechanism for providing academics with the support they need to use the VLE more effectively. Essentially, we are using the VLE as a ‘Trojan horse’ to encourage staff to rethink their learning and teaching methods for the modern, online, student experience. As part of this work, we are undertaking an extensive survey of how academics and learners across the university are using the VLE. This will give us a rich picture of the ways in which it is being used (highlighting good practice), as well as insights into associated support issues. We are also finding out to what extent other technologies are being used by them. The survey consists of an online questionnaire, focus groups with both teachers and learners, and a series of interviews with key departmental pictures. We have the survey results and have started the process of carrying out the focus groups and interviews to be completed in Febuary 2012.

 

The presentation will report the findings and describe how we using these to improve support to academics in the run up to the roll out to 9.1. It relates to the ‘supporting staff to deliver student learning experiences of a lifetime’ theme.

Relevance to the audience

Effective use of technologies, and in particular VLEs, is a key concern for practitioners and policy makers in education. The presentation will be of interest to delegates as it articulates the strategy currently being adopted by the University of Leicester. The presentation will give a rich picture of the current use of the VLE, as well as a description of our future plans for increasing the use of technologies across the university.

Engaging the audience

The session will be a mixture of a presentation and audience participation. Delegates will be invited to share the approaches they are adopting to increase the use of technologies in their own institutions, as well as reflecting back on the findings and the approach Leicester is adopting.

How the paper links to HEA work

The paper relates strongly to the conference themes and also to the HEA’s work in terms of promoting the use of technologies more effectively. It is also a good example of adopting an empirically based approach to transforming practice, whereby the survey results are directly feeding into actual practice and promoting of the use of technologies across the university.

References

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide, NYU Press.

           

Oliver, R. and J. Herrington (2001). Teaching and learning online: a beginners guide to e-learning and e-teaching in Higher Education. Perth, Edith Cowan University.

           

 

 

Masters in Learning Innovation

Friday, February 10th, 2012

We are currently developing a new Masters in Learning Innovation, which we hope to launch in September 2012. Here is a brief overview of it.

Students taking the Masters in Learning Innovation will obtain a thorough critical overview of the use of technologies to support learning across formal and informal learning contexts. The programme will be designed to enable the students to be critically reflective of their readings, communication and collaboration online, as well as provide practical experience in the use of a range of technologies. It will provide ample opportunities for them to apply the knowledge gained from the programme to their own professional practice and environment.  Students will examine case studies of learning innovation to help them to situate and contexualise the use of technologies in their own setting. The programme will take students through the full spectrum of technology-enhanced learning. The modules included are:

 

  • Technology-Enhanced Learning – which will provide an overview of new technologies and how they can be used to support different pedagogical approaches. This will include social and participatory media, Open Educational Resources, learning spaces, use of virtual worlds, and mobile learning,
  • Learning Design – which will provide an overview of the state of the art in learning design research, including a review of learning design tools and resources.
  • Research methodologies – this will provide students with a good grounding in relevant qualitative and quantitative research methods, as well as commonly used methodological approaches adopted.
  • Case studies of innovation – this will enable the students to explore the use of technologies in different contexts, including different disciplines and sectors.
  • Dissertation module - students will carry out and write up a project in learning innovation.

The uniqueness of the Masters is that it is underpinned by a state of the art learning design methodology and the adoption of open practices to address the key challenges of 21st Century learning, harnessing the potential of new technologies. This builds on the strong track record of the course team in these research areas. Completion of the programme will equip the students with mechanisms to enable changes in their own practices and those of their colleagues. They will have had the opportunity to explore how they can act as change agents, as well as supporting radical innovation in the design and the delivery of programmes.

We think this is going to be a really exciting course, giving students lots of hands on exposure to different technologies, enabling them to reflect on the relevance to their own practice. So if this is something you are interested in get in touch with us and we can tell you more!

 

Webinars for Open Education Week

Friday, February 10th, 2012

On the 6th and 7th March 2012, the University of Leicester will be running a series of webinars entitled ‘Enabling universal access to higher education via openness and collaboration?’ to celebrate Open Education week. Gabi Witthaus in our team is leading on this and is doing a great job of lining up some fantastic speakers for the events!

Confirmed speakers include Jim Taylor (University of Southern Queensland), George Siemens (Athabasca University), Martin Weller and Patrick McAndrew (The Open University, UK), Sandra Wills (Wollongong University) and Casi Doncheva (Northtec Polytechnic). Oh and me ;-)

The series is hosted by us at the Beyond Distance Research Alliance at Leicester, as part of the TOUCANS and ELKS projects, in partnership with the Open University’s SCORE programme and HEFCE. More information and registration details can be found here.


A template for design

Friday, February 10th, 2012

We are currently in the process of upgrading to BlackBoard 9.1. As part of this we would like to create a VLE template for incorporation in the new version. We think this has a number of benefits:

  1. It will provide designers with a set of guidelines and learning design tools to support the design and delivery of  a course online.
  2. It will provide links to examples of good practice on the use of different technologies, these will be searchable by pedagogy, tool, and discipline.
  3. It will enable us to have a more consistent look and feel to courses created in the VLE.

The following six categories are available in the new VLE template. These directly map to six of the seven categories in the 7Cs design and delivery framework described in the previous post. The first one, conceptualise, is not applicable. They provide the designer with guidance on the key stages of the design and delivery of a course, as well as learning design tools and resources.

  1.  Capture/Search – which covers the ways in which search engines, OER repositories and social bookmarking can be used to find and collate relevant resources and activities.
  2. Create/Design – which covers both the creation of content and activities. Includes links to conceptual design tools, examples of good practice, OER, pedagogical and learning design templates. Includes links to learning resources, activities and file upload.
  3.  Communicate – which covers how to moderate asynchronous and synchronous forums. Includes links to notifications, forum, wiki, blog, google docs, and audio and video conferencing tools.
  4. Collaborate – which considers how tools like wikis, voicethread, pirate pad can be used to foster collaboration and how to work in virtual teams.
  5. Consider/Assess – which covers the ways in which tools such as blogs, e-portfolios and Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) can be used to promote reflection and different forms of assessment. Includes links to diagnostic, formative and summative assessment and course marks.
  6. Consolidate/Plan – which covers the ways in which the learner can be supported in their learning, a schedule of activities and deadlines and mechanisms to guide their learning. Includes links to the course calendar and study guide.

The 7Cs of design and delivery

Monday, February 6th, 2012

We are doing a small project at Leicester as part of the JISC-funded OULDI project. Essentially it is to do an audit of the OULDI tools and the Carpe Diem material developed at Leicester to create a new learning design offering that will be trialed and evaluated over the coming months at Leicester. I had a great meeting today with Gabi Witthaus and Ale Armellini to take stock of where we are. Gabi has been exploring the OULDI resources and has come up with a conceptual map of what we might include in the new offering and how they will relate to the Carpe Diem activities.  We brainstormed around Gabi’s initial audit and then came up with a holistic conceptual framework, the 7Cs of design and delivery.

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Essentially this consists of 7 modules covering design, delivery and evaluation. We aim to try some of the modules over the coming months; the whole framework will form the basis of our module on learning design in a new masters we are developing in Learning Innovation, which will be launched in September 2012. The seven modules are:

  1. Conceptualise – which initiates the design process and consists of imagine, design and prepare.
  2. Capture – which covers the ways in which search engines, OER repositories and social bookmarking can be used to find and collate relevant resources and activities.
  3. Create – which covers both the creation of content and activities.
  4. Communicate – which covers how to moderate asynchronous and synchronous forums
  5. Collaborate – which considers how tools like wikis, voicethread, pirate pad can be used to foster collaboration and how to work in virtual teams.
  6. Consider – which covers the ways in which tools such as blogs, e-portfolios and Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) can be used to promote reflection and different forms of assessment.
  7. Consolidate - where the participants take stock of what they have learnt and create an action plan for taking things forward.

Would welcome thoughts on this and will blog again when we have more developed.