Open Educational Resources

Salmon (2011) suggests that there has been an increase in availability of high quality open educational resources on the web support VLE’s in providing ‘content’ to learners (Salmon, 2011). In this project I intend to specifically address the issue of MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) in providing content to learners and explore the challenges they present in the education sector. In doing so I will review at how sector has responded to the presence of MOOCs and analyse the challenges to teaching and effectiveness in supporting learning.

For institutions wishing to create their own MOOCs teaching staff are challenged with developing a whole new set of skills. The successful MOOCs created at University of Stanford in 2011 were structured so that lectures were broken down from 2 or 3 slots of 45 minutes, into up to 20 short videos which used effective visual aids and embedded questions for comprehension checks (Martin, 2012). As the programme was written around one week ahead of delivery the teachers were able to respond to learners needs effectively and build in learners requirements to future sessions (Martin, 2012). This approach whilst experimental, given that the programme was not pre-planned or fixed, mirrors conventional style of teaching and on the surface appears to be learner focussed. However this presents challenges to teachers who use the existing material with a new group of students and Martin (2012) reflects on his approach to using the Stanford material with his own students at UMass Lowell, suggesting that classroom time was used to discuss the material and to clarify understanding in order to ensure learner focus (Martin, 2012).
Severance (2012) in his interview with Daphne Koller professor in the department of Computer Science at Stanford, illustrates the moment of realisation that the traditional approach to teaching could be effectively turned on its head where lectures are watched outside the classroom to free up the time for more effective classroom interaction,

All of a sudden it came to me that instead of delivering the same lecture I had been giving for 15 years, telling the same jokes at the same time, maybe we could flip the classroom. (Severance, 2012, p. 8)

Given the growth of informal learning through the web there are many advantages the MOOC presents to a learners and there has been much debate on how effectively these might prepare learners for higher education. If we examine the availability of MOOCs in the context of ‘learners as co-developers of learning resources’ (Collis & Moonen, 2006, p. 1) and Sfard’s pedagogical models of acquisition and participation, the MOOC fails to give learners sufficient opportunity to participate in learning ‘becoming a member of a community of practice, learning from the community and also contributing to it.’ (Collis & Moonen, 2006, p. 3). Collis and Moonen suggest that course management systems which limit learners in terms of ‘what and where they can make a contribution are not well designed for a contribution approach’ (Collis & Moonen, 2006, p. 11). The MOOCs developed at Stamford in 2011 and described by Martin (2012) in Will Massive Open Online Courses Change the Way We Teach?, illustrate very little participation or contribution by the learner. Martin (2012) goes on to suggest other limitations of the MOOC,
The MOOC concept does not even attempt to address the role of small, research-oriented project based course. (Martin, 2012, p. 28)

To suggest that the MOOC should be a panacea to online learning is unrealistic and given that it is such a recent phenomenon and in such early stages of development. On balance despite the need for teacher’s professional development, the birth of the MOOC heralds a new and exciting time in the development of e-learning, supporting how technology can enhance learning.

Collis, B., & Moonen, J. (2006). The Contributing Student: Learners as co-developers of learning resources for reuse in web environments. Retrieved 7 18, 2007, from http://www.e-learningplaza.nl/elp3/artikelen/.show_art.asp?
Martin, F. G. (2012). Education Will Massive Open Online Courses Change How We Teach? Communications of the ACM , 55 (8), 26-28.
Salmon, G. (2011). e moderating: The Key to Teaching and Learning Online. New York: Routledge.
Severance, C. (2012). Teaching the World: Daphne Koller and Coursera. Computing Conversations , 45 (8), 8-9.

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The future of Virtual Learning Environments

In this review on the future of VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) I intend to examine how the VLE has been used to support teaching and learning, the current drawbacks with their use in education and consider the role of VLE in the future and how these might develop to support the needs of learners. Weller (2006) in his conference paper VLE 2.0 and future directions in learning environments suggested that whilst many UK Higher Education Institutions had some form of VLE that it is restricted by a number of limitations and does not meet the needs of different subject areas and is fairly basic operating ‘a lowest common denominator approach’, that it is quite difficult to ‘exchange content despite its claims of interoperability’ (Weller, 2006, p. 1). This suggests that the VLE is somewhat inflexible and not meeting the needs of teaching, however Weller does not address the question of staff motivation in supporting its development. Ofsted (2009) suggests that staff motivation is a key factor,

The common factor in effective VLEs was the enthusiasm of the subject teacher; that is enthusiasm for the subject and teaching and learning as much as any competence in computing (Ofsted, 2009, p. 5).

Based on the experience in the Further Education College in which I work there are opportunities to develop the VLE (Moodle) to enhance teaching and learning. Use of the VLE across Curriculum areas appears to vary depending on the teacher with many staff using this as a repository for course materials rather than for teaching, although this may be due to their competence as much as motivation.
Sharpe et al (2010) acknowledges that rapid changes in technology where the role of the learner’s voice in designing learning is stronger and there is greater emphasis on the social dimensions of learning between peers. Learners are ‘venturing into places that formal educators may never go, absorbing new kinds of knowledge, creating their own interacting learning arenas’ or spaces where they learn (Sharpe, Beetham, & De Freitas, 2010, p. 214). The VLE has a key role to play the development of students skills, the JISC funded Elisa (e-Learning Independent Study Award) explored the potential for Moodle and LAMS e-learning systems to deliver study skills and this and the follow on project ELIDACAMEL found that ‘learning activities mediated through these systems did enhance learner participation, performance and motivation’ confirming that students skills are enhance through VLE use (Sharpe, Beetham, & De Freitas, 2010, p. 215) .
Ofsted (2009) suggest some key recommendations for the future use of the VLE in teaching learning and ‘a good quality induction and early use of the system were essential in ensuring a positive attitude’ (Ofsted, 2009, p. 4) of learners in using the platform. Specific VLE strategies developed by senior management and ensuring that the VLE is used to ‘enhance learning’ rather than as a ‘storage facility’ with systems to monitor its use and impact on learning are key in ensuring success (Ofsted, 2009, p. 7).

Current projects in relation to VLE development indicate that VLE will not continue in their current form but will be extended, through the use of plug-ins, to support teaching and learning. The JISC (2010) Distributed VLE Programme recognises the changing use of the VLE in education and there are a number of projects which are looking at extending the function of the traditional VLE to incorporate administrative functions, links to library and social networking. At Teesside University the VLE is being used to incorporate a specially designed widget which extends the functionalist and flexibility of the VLE to meet the needs of learners with disabilities who may require the VLE to be adapted to meet their own learning needs, which is supporting an inclusive learning environment (JISC, 2010).

The need for the VLE to become more focussed on meeting the learner needs is apparent from the response of the education sector, at The University of Reading the DEVELOP (Developing and Enhancing VLE’s and E-Learning Options) project is developing the VLE (Blackboard) system to support student centred learning and allow content and resources held outside the VLE to be held within it. There are a number of projects which reflect the move towards developing more bespoke systems for academic institutions, at The University of Southampton the SLEP project ‘will integrate data from a range of sources, and will provide an intelligently, personalized view to the user (learner/teacher)’ (JISC, 2010, p. 1). This move towards an individualised approach is echoed by Shape et al (2010) who suggests that the vision is that technologies can now provide a more personalised learning model, based around the learners needs and desires (Sharpe, Beetham, & De Freitas, 2010).

In summary the VLE will develop in the future to better meet the needs of individual learners, the use of plug ins to support this will become more widespread. A clear strategy at senior management level and better support for academic staff and students in the use of the VLE are recommended.
JISC. (2010). Projects, Prorgammes and Services. Retrieved December 30, 2012, from JISC: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearning/distributedvle.aspx
Ofsted. (2009). Virtual Learning Environments: an evaluation of their development in a sample of eduational settings. London: Crown.
Sharpe, R., Beetham, H., & De Freitas, S. (2010). Rethinking Learning for a Digital Aga. New York: Routledge.
Weller, M. (2006). VLE 2.0 and future directions in learning environments. In R. Philip, A. Voerman, & J. Dalziel (Ed.), Proceedings of The First International LAMS Conference 2006: desgining the future of learning (pp. 99-106). Sydney: Lams Foundation.

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Supporting Learners in a Digital Age

The JISC (2011) Briefing Paper describes the outcomes of the funded project ‘Supporting Learners in a Digital Age SLiDA’ and reflects on how different institutions are preparing students for the future (JISC, 2011). In this project I intend to explore and critically evaluate the impact of the findings and specifically focus on the aspect of skills, knowledge and motivation associated with the greater use of technology in supporting teaching and learning.

The JISC briefing paper suggests that whilst students have their own laptop, tablet or smart phone many do not know how optimise its full potential and apply the technology to support learning (JISC, 2011). Whilst the JISC report acknowledges that ‘students arrive with very different experiences of using technology’ (JISC, 2011, p. 1) and these experiences may affect learner’s level of confidence for using technology, it fails to address how technology can support differentiation of students in teaching and learning. Eyal (2012) in Digital Assessment Literacy – The Core Role of the Teacher, explores advanced assessment methods in a digital environment and suggests that ‘A digital environment can be better to support the diversity of learners as they can work at their own pace’ (Eyal, 2012, p. 4).

The JISC paper suggests that technology changes quickly in response to commercial and social developments and therefore “It’s almost impossible for busy academic staff to stay up to date with the latest developments” (JISC, 2011, p. 2).
Salmon (2003) confirms the issue with staff development required to support learners in the use of technology in her keynote speech at University of Innsbruck,
Although the ideas of increasing access, participation, skills and competencies for the new forms of societies of the 21st Century are at the heart of many intentions, the investment in the role of human intervention and support to harness technology into the service of teaching and learning has been meagre by comparison (Salmon, 2003).

More recently Salmon (2011) suggests institutions and organisations have invested heavily in technological systems thus creating conditions in which networked learning can be widely available” (Salmon G. , 2011, p. 10). This apparent change in the views of Salmon since 2003, represents the pace of change in technological development and the response by institutions and teaching, reflecting this pace of change. Salmon (2011) believes there is no issue with staff motivation for harnessing new technology and that she has met many ‘academics and trainers who are very keen indeed to adopt these new ways to enliven teaching and learning in their subjects’ (Salmon G. , 2011, p. 10).

A key finding of the JISC report is that digital literacy should be embedded in to the curriculum in order for it to be successful, although one SLiDA institution, Abingdon and Witney College approaches skills development through the use of ‘a universal e-learning induction programme which mixes in class activities with anytime access to multimedia resources (JISC, 2011, p. 2). But where do teachers begin in integrating digital literacy into the curriculum as JISC (2011) suggests, the JISC briefing indicates that local interventions in curriculum areas have worked well at London Metropolitan University. However other Institutions such as University of Salford exemplify a more centralised approach through the development of core graduate attributes that support digital literacy’ (JISC, 2011).
The SLiDA institutions who participated in the project miss an opportunity in exploring the role of standards and functional skills curriculum in supporting learning. Ofqual sets out criteria used at the basis for functional skills development and the subject matter of functional skills includes ‘information and communication technology (ICT) which help people gain the most from life, learning and work’ (Ofqual, 2012, p. 3).

This suggests that further research is required to provide clearer definition of the digital literacy skill required and determine the effectiveness of ICT standards and curriculum in developing digital literacy skills for learning and work in the future.

Eyal, L. (2012). Digial Assessment Literacy – the Core Role of the Teacher in a Digital Environment. Educational Technology & Society , 15 (2), 37-49.
JISC. (2011, September). JISC Publications Supporting Leaners in a Digital Age SLIDA. Retrieved from JISC: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/briefingpapers/
Ofqual. (2012, January). Functional Skills Qualification Criteria. Retrieved November 2, 2012, from Ofqual: http://www2.ofqual.gov.uk/downloads/category/67-functional-skills-qualification-criteria?download=1338%3Acriteria-for-functional-skills-qualifications
Salmon, G. (2011). e moderating: The Key to Teaching and Learning Online. New York: Routledge.
Salmon, G. (2003). Reaching for Online Stars. Keynote Speech at the University of Innsbruck . Innsbruck: Open University Business School.

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Mini Projects

I finally put pen to paper on the first of six mini projects, exploring aspects of e-learning and started with a focus MOOCs as Open Educational Resources.

When we finished the teaching session at Huddersfield last Saturday I was feeling highly motivated and wanted to capitalise on the discussions and activities as quickly as I could. I find the flexibility of the programme to select mini projects and determine what to tackle first is quite informal and this adds to the appeal. It’s not a case of do as you like, but take the nuggets of learning and apply them where and how you like.

The webinar on Tuesday 23rd October was useful in reviewing theory and cemented reading from the course reader. It was interesting to observe as a teacher and participate as a student in the use of Adobe Connect software. The technical difficulties were instrumental in understanding mastery of the technology.

I guess that leads me to the next challenge ‘Supporting Learners in a digital age’…

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My skills

Puzzled and wondering where this discussion might lead me and feeling slightly uncomfortable at posting my skills…how very British!!!

Where do I start on a my skills question.  If I need to comment on my ICT skills well I may as well give up and go home early, early signs from the MSc in Multimedia and e-learning tell me that I am behind the group in this area.

My skills and experience in teaching and learning are classroom based, in particular I am effective at communicating and developing a high quality dialogue with learners, providing developmental feedback which supports learning.  My biggest challenge is reflecting this in an e-learning and m-learning environment.    I am an advocate of collaboration and skilled in using collaboration to support teaching and learning but again through classroom based activities.

I am interested in Mini Project 4 Design of e-learning as this will develop my knowledge of relevant theory in the design of elearning and knowledge in this area.  A mini project on theory doesn’t really excite me and I keep telling myself its only 500 words!!

I am skilled in management of teams and projects and this supports learning in Institute of Leadership and Management qualifications on which I teach.  I have just taken on a Workplace Learning Project in partnership with Calderdale College and funded by ESF, which is designed to develop low level skills in employment.  I am responsible for the design, management and some delivery of this programme and this will use my project management skills.  I would be interested to see if I can incorporate e learning, as this would both impress the Calderdale and give me a vehicle for practicing some new skills.

I think I’ll leave it there on the skills front.  I could mention my cooking and golf swing but for fear of over egging it……

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This is me!

This is me!

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On Fire in 2013 – What’s going to be hot in e-learning

On Fire in 2013 – What’s going to be hot in e-learning.

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