Monthly Archives: May 2014

Week 2 TEL One Approaches to Learning

  • Have you seen any evidence of these different approaches in online contexts, e.g. in technology-enhanced courses you teach? How did these differences manifest themselves in terms of online learning behaviour?

I have seen all 3 approaches being used by subsets of students on the same course. Some will actively engage with the course in order to gain the most from the course i.e. the Strategic approach. A few will also take the Deep approach and will reflect on the ideas covered in the course.  There will inevitable be some students who will take the Surface approach. In terms of online learning behaviour, the behaviour is demonstrated through engagement with optional activities like webinars, engagement on discussion forums and on social media and in blogs etc. But, a student can quite easily move through the 3 different approaches over the course of the learning. This change in behaviour can be influenced either by external factors (things that may be happening in the student’s life at that point in time) or by the student’s attitude to the course changing (due to staff/delivery/content of course).

  • Are you leaning towards one approach in particular on ocTEL, and if so why might that be? Perhaps you are employing strategies from more than one approach?

I have adopted all 3 strategies thus far in the course although less of the Surface approach (hopefully). Time has been a big factor in determining which approach I take and when. I would ideally like to follow the Strategic/Deep approaches at all times. But this requires many things – self motivation, determination, organisational skills, the ability to learn and engage and above all TIME! Leading a very busy life and working a job where I am away for at least 1 night every week means that time is precious. I do reflect and relate to past experience/ideas especially after engaging activities like the webinar (Deep). On Sundays (which I have now set aside for ocTEL for these few weeks), I do try and do as much as I can in terms of activities and get badges etc. (a bit of the Deep/Strategic approaches). I try to avoid the Surface approach as much as I can but I did find myself making 3 posts (very quickly) recently just to get a badge. A bit of the Surface approach?

  • Are learners who tend to take a ‘surface’ approach likely to learn more or less effectively online versus face-to-face?

I think the Surface approach as described in the question (i.e. no reflection, memorising facts and difficulty making sense of new ideas) is counterproductive ANYWHERE! I personally don’t see how an online or a face to face approach could help produce a different outcome with the Surface approach. Learning in my opinion is about gaining new knowledge, challenging existing ideas, developing new concepts and adopting the knowledge into practice where possible. So, by simply memorising facts and having difficulty making sense of new ideas, how can learning be effective? Is that even real learning? This is just my opinion by the way.

  • How might we encourage ‘deep learning’ in online contexts?

In my opinion, deep learning can be facilitated to a great extent by having the right environment and giving learnings the right conditions. This means providing suitable technologies, providing ample opportunities to engage, discuss, challenge and reflect. Whilst a lot of the responsibility for the technology and for the providing the opportunities to learn, lies with the course organiser, designers and the staff, the learner also needs to take responsibility. The learner must ensure that they are actually committed to the course and are undertaking the learning for the right reasons. If the learning exercise doesnt appeal to the learner, there is no motivation to reflect and to undertake Deep learning in my opinion.

Week 1 Activity 1.2 Reflecting on strategies for Learning Technology

A couple of years ago, I help incorporate learning technology into the delivery of training for the student record system in a university. I was responsible for training staff (within the university) in the use of the university’s student record system. When I took up the post, all training was face to face. But the university was keen to adopt a blended learning approach for the training of staff in this particular area as other areas of staff training were based on the blended learning model. I deployed new learning technologies, developed online courses and ultimately launched a introduction course for beginners that staff could do at their own desk.

Did you contribute to the strategy, if so, in what capacity?

I help develop the new LT strategy with other colleagues from the Registry (who were the team responsible for running the student record system within the university). As this student record system was an off the shelf product used across several other UK universities, I began by looking to other universities to see what approaches they had taken in training their staff internally. I visited 3 other universities (including 1 university where the student record system was still being implemented). So, at this university there was a big focus on getting the training right and they had lots of great ideas for the use of eLearning.

I collated all this information and presented it to my colleagues at the Registry including costs for the deployment of new tools and technologies. The strategy was born from this.

Is the main focus of the strategy on Learning Technology, or if not, what is its main focus?

Yes, the main focus was on technology. The university already had a well established training programme based on face to face delivery and were looking to incorporate technology into the delivery of training.

How often is it reviewed and is it flexible enough to adapt as things change?

The strategy was designed to be flexible and was introduced at a pace so as to not overwhelm staff. Feedback was actively sought and this feedback was reviewed by a “project board” with the view of recommending changes as and when needed.

Does the strategy impact on your practice and if so, how? If not, why?

I think it certainly did. Whilst not everyone was keen on the new blended learning approach, there was active engagement from a lot of staff. Because of the varied uptake, I was able to tailor my approach to the delivery of face-to-face training and focus on the faculties of the university where uptake was limited. Where the uptake was high, I ultimately spent less time on those faculties and this was compensated by the online resources.

I also spent a lot of time initially “spreading the word” about the new technologies, resources and tools.

Finally, if you were to provide input to a new version, what, if any, changes would you make to it?

Largely, the strategy would remain unchanged. However, I would have taken more time to review some of the technologies before they were implemented as some minor flaws were found in the technology after implementation.

Week 1 Activity 1.1 Reflecting on my Practice

The first activity for this week is to reflect and think about how activities can be adapted to incorporate new approaches.

The matrix below outlines various quadrants that all activities fall in to:

Learning Matrix

I am approaching this activity from the perspective of a learner who recently undertook an online eLearning course. The course was about a concept that I knew very little about (Sales) as I work in IT. The course was well structured and I was allowed to progress through the course at my own pace.

The course had several online assignments and they were all designed to lie within the individual/autonomous quadrant. I was expected to work though the learning material first and then complete the assignments in my own time. There were assigned deadlines for the assignments but the course admins were quite flexible with these.

Though I found the course enjoyable and eventually passed the course to achieve a qualification, I felt quite isolated and alone most of the time. I had exchanged emails with the course tutor and I was told that I could email him whenever I needed help. But, since I had very little interaction with the tutor (other than a few emails) and because I was confident that I could work through the material in my own time, I never built up any rapport with the tutor. I only needed the tutor’s help a few times in the end.

There were certainly no interaction between me and the other people on the course. There simply wasn’t a forum or any such mechanism available to interact with others on the course. This meant that I couldn’t get any sense of other people’s experiences or find out about how others planned to apply the knowledge they had gained from the course.

Changing the course to make it more compatible with the social/autonomous quadrant of the matrix would be hugely beneficial in my opinion. Allowing social interaction will motivate learners and will provide them with incentives to engage more with the course. This will enhance the overall learning experience and allow people to develop/build new friendships and relationships. Group work could have also made some of the assignments more interesting (as some of the tasks were a bit boring).

However, there could be a potential downside – social interaction (either through forums/chat rooms or even face to face contact) requires time. That would mean me spending more time (that I originally did on the course) if there had been a social element to the course. Group work only works when all the members of the group equally engage with the rest of the group and contribute. Having personally experienced situations in the past with members “not pulling their weight”, I am not entirely convinced that group work is a good idea in every situation. However, in this situation I am convinced that group work and social interaction would have only served to enhance the course.

The autonomous element of the course was quite good in my opinion. But, things could have been better and a social element would have been an asset to the course.