Louise's eLearning Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Developing

The YouTube video ‘Online Student Experience’ (below) shows one of the biggest reasons why it is important to add context to resources within a VLE to provide learners with a valuable learning experience. My post (below the video) details how an online course can develop from a repository to an interactive site with some simple steps.

Encouraging lecturers and students to use online learning environments can be a challenge. With this in mind, I developed a five-step descriptive model (shown below) that provides manageable steps staff should be able to follow to gradually embed online elements into their courses through blending the use of online learning environments with traditional classroom delivery through to entirely online courses. The model was introduced and explored in the professional development section of my first (so far) book chapter (Jakobsen, 2008).

Embedding eLearning in Further Education - vle embedding 5-step model

Five steps to embedding online elements in courses (Jakobsen, 2008)

Step 1 The first step, of use, of an online environment, is the storing of basic course documentation, like the traditional ‘course handbook’ – often just uploaded as existing ‘print based’ files.

Step 2 A ‘learning’ / revision repository is developed with the addition of ‘learning’ resources that students can access at any time. Again it is often the case that these simply comprise of existing handouts / presentation files and links to websites, uploaded / added as a long list!

The first and second steps of use of an online environment are often the only steps evident in many Further Education (FE) organisations. Many teaching staff think that uploading lots of files makes an area where learning will happen, however without contextualisation and relevance they are often not even effective as a revision tool.

Step 3 Differentiation is possible through the third step, when additional materials, links, interactive resources, and quizzes are uploaded to stretch more able learners, and audiovisual, revision, and explanatory materials are provided for individuals who require additional support. Providing options for learning the same subject enables individuals to personalise their own journeys.

Step 4 The fourth step requires lecturers to become “communal architects” (Woods, 2003) as online communities are developed through the use of Web 2.0 social networking tools including blogs, discussion boards, and wikis to stimulate alternative communication, collaborative working, and reflective thinking. Essential to this step is the inclusion of a range of different feedback strategies to support learners and help them move forward.

Step 5 Assessment completes the steps in this model and includes a broad range of processes including gathering information in e-portfolios, providing opportunities for learners to check their own progress, accepting electronic submission of assignments, and testing online.

Final thoughts…The five-step model works effectively in FE colleges where it has been introduced to encourage and support tutors through gradual implementation of online technologies in courses. However the best courses, for effective learning, are developed when the following strategy is followed:

  • Steps 1 and 2 are used as a foundation to provide essential information to learners, however this is better if the content is converted into online web pages rather than static files, as they can be viewed on a wide range of devices and are easier to edit / update.
  • Steps 3, 4 and 5 are used in combination with each other to develop linked activities that build on and expand previous learning.

I would be interested to find out if this model would be received in other organisations as positively as tutors I have worked with have found it. It would also be great to see what readers of this blog think about the order / configuration of the stages in the model. Let me know if you use it within your organisations!

References:

Jakobsen, L. (2008) ‘Embedding eLearning in Further Education’ in Donnelly, R. and McSweeney, F. (eds) Applied E-Learning and E-Teaching in Higher Education, New York: Information Science Reference

Woods, R. (2003). “Communal architect” in online classroom: Integrating cognitive and affective learning for maximum effort in Web-based learning. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 6(1). Retrieved May 2007 from http://www.westga.edu/%7Edistance/ojdla/spring61/woods61.htm

I have just discovered a cute little tip for using Google Docs to create accessible learning resources!

Having collaborated with a colleague to create a how-to sheet, for a tutor wanting to know how to add a Hot Potatoes quiz with images to our VLE (Moodle), we discovered a good use for the alternative types of downloadable files.

Initially we were just going to save the file (which included screen grabs) as a PDF and upload to Moodle. However on noticing the “HTML (zipped)” option we decided to give that a try. It works really well!

The advantages in relation to accessibility are that the images are named so have alt text in the code generated (whatever they were named as individual files) which results in roll-over pop-ups. Also because it is HTML individuals viewing our VLE from a mobile device or games console for example will still be able to see the content, which would not be the case (generally) with PDF files.

Give it a try!

Why do teachers often struggle with contextualisation when developing their online courses?

Generally good teachers have no problem adding context to their delivery (though some presenters do struggle – see previous post), however many do not understand why it is important to put more than files into a VLE to make it a useful resource for learners.

Online Course showing just links

Online Course: Example showing just links to files and activities

Sukhwant Lota included the recommendation to add context to an online course in his blog ‘5 tips to enhance your Moodle course‘, but this doesn’t address how to do it or how to demonstrate / explain to teachers so they fully understand. Hopefully this post will address those issues.

The first technique I usually use when training teachers how to create and develop their online presence is to get them to talk through the ‘normal’ classroom delivery of a session from a lesson plan. Then I introduce the scenario that there is no tutor in the classroom when the students arrive, just a pile of handouts and resources on a table. Then question:

How would the students know what to do with the bits and pieces on the table?
Would they be able to learn effectively or at all?

This usually results in individuals realising how much and what type of input, linkage and contextualisation, both planned and incidental, a teacher integrates into a session to help shape and ensure the success of a formal learning opportunity. Once teachers realise that, they begin to look at online learning (designing) in the same way as classroom delivery planning. It is usually at this point that teachers acknowledge that they need to replicate / reproduce their own input so that the online learning becomes more relevant and effective.

Key elements that could / should be embedded in and around files, resources and/or activities, to improve the quality / ease of use of a course, include:

  • Section Headings – to clearly separate each element / unit of learning
  • Introductory Statements – to set the scene at the beginning of a section, task or activity
  • Navigation Text – to help individuals find their way around the site before and/or after completing activities / tasks. (i.e. Use the breadcrumb trail to return to this page after completing X.)
  • Instructional Text – to help individuals understand how to complete something (i.e. Watch the video clip and then add your thoughts to the forum.)
  • Motivational Text – to encourage engagement, participation and/or continuation.
  • Feedback Comments – to keep learners on task and motivated. To confirm where participation / engagement has been positive / correct and/or needs additional work. (The different types of feedback that can be used in different situations will be detailed in a separate post)
  • Concluding / Summary Statements – to clarify / recap what has just been covered (or should have been), usually with information that details how this links to the next / future sections, units, activities and/or tasks.

Finally the image below shows how much better an online course looks with the addition of both text that adds context / direction and images that improve the visual appearance of the course.

Online course with additional text and images

Online course: with additional text and images to enhance the course

Leeds City College recently selected Moodle as their VLE after the merger of 3 colleges (full press release), however the real challenge is what to do now!

Two of the three colleges used Moodle prior to the merger, however it is important to ensure that all staff feel comfortable (and happy!) with the decision – especially those who previously used Blackboard, who will perceive that they have the biggest challenge / task ahead of them.

In reality all staff will need to change to a ‘new’ VLE because the best elements / working practices from each of the platforms should be integrated into the single one. Therefore I have drafted the following message to go out to all staff, along with the questions I will be posing to gather information to shape the new Moodle installation and hopefully also make sure that most staff feel valued and take some ownership in the new system, which ‘should’ result in them ‘wanting’ to use it!

Shape your new Virtual Learning Environment!

As some of you may already be aware the college executive team (CET) recently selected Moodle as the Leeds City College Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). This decision, based on a recommendation from the eLearning workstream group, will result in a brand new VLE for the whole college – encompassing the best bits from all the existing systems.

This is where we need you!

Tell us what you like and don’t like about your current VLE (Moodle or Blackboard). How do you want it to look? What functionality and/or tools would you like it to have? Use this opportunity to think about how you will engage your learners. How will you make your courses interactive? How can we make this new VLE really enhance the learners experience? You can help shape the new platform.

Simple questionnaires will be made available on your current VLE for comments and opinions to be voiced. Screen grabs / dumps are also welcome (from existing, internal or external, VLEs, platforms, websites, software etc.) to highlight / show specific layout, design and functionality, which can be sent by email to …@…

A small working group is likely to be formed as developments progress so please also take this opportunity to express your interest in being directly involved in the development of the new VLE.

Thanks,
Louise Jakobsen – eLearning Curriculum Manager: Park Lane Campus

————————————–
Questionnaire
What would make you use the new VLE? (Please add comments)

How, do you think, learners will want to use the new VLE? (Please add comments)

What tools would make it easier for you to create/adapt, develop and maintain a dynamic, interactive course? (Please add comments)

What do you like about your current VLE? (Please add comments relating to the 4 sections)
* Layout/design
* Usability
* Functionality
* Tools

What would you like to change / improve about your current VLE? (Please add comments relating to the 4 sections)
* Layout/design
* Usability
* Functionality
* Tools

Would you be willing to share your resources with other teachers via a central repository?
* Yes
* No
* Additional Comments?

Would you be interested in being part of a working group as development progresses?
* Yes
* No

The results and engagement will be interesting to watch, but I hope that by encouraging staff to focus on the learners’ online experience, more effective and interactive content will be developed making the online environment much more than a simple repository – though it is important to remember that is a valid first step to using a VLE.