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Week 5 TEL One Planning

In my previous role at a university, I managed a project to deploy new e-learning tools to make training in the university’s student record system more efficient. Thinking about that project….

Who were your stakeholders?

I was part of the Student Registry who were responsible for managing the university’s student record system and also had overall responsibility for training staff in the use of the system. So, the Registry staff along with staff users of the system across the university were stakeholders in the project. Managers who would provide the funding for the new e-learning tools would also be stakeholders.

What resources were used?

Microsoft Project was used to allocate tasks, manage timescales and it seemed to work very well.

How clear/achievable was the project plan?

The project plan was fairly clear and included a stage for evaluation of various e-learning tools including seeking advice from other HE institutions using e-learning for similar staff training.

What fallback position, if any, did you build into your plan in the event of full or partial project failure?

There was no fallback position as such. Though the use of e-learning tools for staff training would make training more efficient, not having e-learning tools to support training wouldn’t stop the delivery of training.

What methods did you use to evaluate your project?

Though no formal evaluation methods were used, the project progress was monitored on a regular basis through meetings with line managers. Colleagues in other teams and departments were kept up-to-date through team, inter-departmental meetings.

How did you measure project success?

Feedback was a major factor in measuring project success. A university wide survey about staff training (in general) was used to measure success. Past results from the survey about Registry offered training courses were compared with results from surveys after the new tools were introduced. There was a significant improvement in areas like how the training was delivered, how accessible the material was offsite/offline and engagement with the training courses.

Did you celebrate your success and did this encourage further developments?

The project success was celebrated as a big achievement for the Registry. The project helped to modernise an area of the university’s staff training provision which had not kept up with changing times & technologies. In order to help encourage further developments (within my institution and in others), I was encouraged to join a HE “trainers network” to learn/share techniques about delivering his type of training to staff.


Week 4 TEL One e-Assessments

I have fairly limited experience of e-Assessments (and all of it from the learner perspective). So, here are my thoughts on the following questions….

  • Why did/would you choose a particular type of e-assessment? Describe why you think it is effective and how it can help deepen knowledge and understanding.
  • In your experience, what type of approach creates an environment conducive to self-directed learning, peer support and collaborative learning? How might technology help?
  • What opportunities and challenges does this approach present to tutors?

The best types of e-Assessments are probably MCQs or quiz type assessments which provide learners with the correct answer after the response is typed in. These types of assessments provide the learners with explanations about the correct answers and enable learners to really learn.

The 2 types of e-Assessment approaches suited for self-directed learning are MCQs and/or quiz type assessments. I experienced both these types of assessments in an online course that I did over 6 months. The feedback mechanism in this course was excellent. There was the opportunity for staff to post feedback on the assessment as a whole. This was an overview of the whole assessment. But then staff could also feedback on individual questions (that made up the assessment) and questions that weren’t answered adequately could be marked for resubmission. The learner could then read the feedback and resubmit only “marked” questions for re-assessment.

I have also seen “Who wants to be a millionaire” style clickers used in a large lecture room setting where the lecturer shows the question on a OHP and the learners then choose the correct answer using their personal clicker. The percentage of answers (both correct and incorrect) is immediately displayed on screen and the lecturer provides the rationale for the correct answer where appropriate. This type of e-Assessment is suited for individual and collaborative learning as groups could use one clicker between them.

Technology can play a big part in making assessments/feedback mechanisms more efficient and more engaging to learners. To make assessments more fun, lecturers should consider using personal response clickers and other similar techniques as much as possible. I have first-hand experience of how interest and engagement in lecturers goes up when such technology is used. Using technology for feedback is also very crucial as it’s recorded and can be typed in directly without having to be written on paper first. Email/SMS can then be used to encourage learners to view feedback once the feedback becomes available online.

E-Assessments are a great opportunity for lecturers to provide quick and immediate feedback. They are especially useful in online courses where (as described above) the tutor can provide feedback on individual questions and on assessments as a whole. Tutors can also track whether the feedback has been viewed by the learner or not (as access to course materials on the course I took was tracked to ensure learners actually read the materials). The biggest challenges with using technology are the availability of technological solutions, adequate training for staff in the use of these technologies and the support mechanisms to maintain/further develop the technology once implemented.

Week 3 TEL One Perspective of a learner

After the bank holiday weekend, I am in catch up mode this week (as its “reading week”). So, apologies for the late post. I reviewed the following…..

Khan Academy’s YouTube video:

ElearningExamples:Candidate Match Game II  mainly

iEthiCS simulation: Introduction to the Andy Dufrayne Case

1) What elements of these do you think are appealing to different learners?

The YouTube videos appear to be designed for a younger audience with the use of simplistic examples and characters/voices that younger audiences are likely to relate to. I only watched a couple of videos (incl. but I certainly got the impression that the target audience was definitely a younger audience. The videos would appeal to learners who are patient and are willing to spare the required time. However, the videos are of high quality and are very well put together with good onscreen explanations and audio. Learners would require good internet connections and also possibly headphones for the audio (depending on where the learner is). This means these videos are probably not accessible to everyone – although I have not tried the videos on a phone.

The ELearningExamples games were very interactive and were again of a very high quality. They were designed to be informative (especially the Candidate Match Game). The game gave learners the opportunity to find out about where both candidates in the last US presidential election stood on various policies. This would ultimately help people choose which candidate to vote for (I am guessing). Users had a choice of simply getting a snapshot of where each candidate stood on a particular issue or the user could read more about what the candidate said/why/where/when etc. This kind of learning would suite someone who had a bit of a background about the subject area and were looking to learn more and thus make informed choices.

iEthiCS: This resource was very interesting especially since it allowed laymen (like me) to get a bit of a glimpse into the medical world. However from a technical standpoint, I thought the resource could have been better. Though videos are used, the material didn’t seem to flow in a logical manner. However, the way that the outcomes of various actions were explained through text and the use of scenarios would certainly benefit medical professionals in my opinion.

2) What learners, if any, would they be inappropriate for and why?

These materials may not work for learners who don’t have access to good computing power because almost all the resources use videos, animation and audio. The learner also needs to pay attention, engage with and spend time on the resources in order to get the most of the resources. So, the learners have to be really interested in the subject matter. Otherwise, they may not gain anything from the resources as the subject matter is almost always very specific.

3) 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?

These resources are similar to the ones being used in OCTEL. Some of the resources do encourage social learning (like the YouTube videos) and there is no reason the materials cannot be re-used.

4) 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.

Making the materials compatible with mobile devices would make the resources accessible to more people. Organising the resources better (like maybe sub categorising the Youtube videos) and creating a better flow like with the iEthiCS resource will help enhance of the effectiveness of the materials in my opinion.


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.