Category Archives: #ocTEL

The end of #ocTel

OK, so real life intervened and for the final 2 weeks of ocTEL I wasn’t able to participate as fully as I wanted to. I managed to pull in the webinars and did do some reading and thinking, but not as much writing and reflecting as I wanted to. However, overall this has been an excellent experience and given me some great ideas about where to go next.

Immediate things on my radar are to start developing my portfolio for CMALT. I know I’ve got to get started on this, because life suddenly gets busier in September, having registered for an MSc as well as doing all my teaching (see separate blog post for more ramblings on this). I also came across some specific technologies that I want to start using this year, so I need to get those embedded into my plans over August. Lots to do, and never enough time to do it all!

Huge thanks to all of the team at ocTEL – it was an excellent course and one which I’d definitely recommend to people!

#ocTEL Week 4 – Supporting learners through assessment and feedback using TEL

This week’s “do one thing” is to discuss my experience or expectations of e-assessment and e-feedback to support student learning.

Despite some early exploration of computed-aided assessments (MCQ etc) a few years ago, I haven’t really continued using it for summative assessments. There were a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, our institution changed the software used for delivering these assessments. Whilst this is often a necessity, as software is revised, or licence agreements are changed, it does provide practical issues for the user. Personally, I found the software that we’ve moved to doesn’t allow me to catalogue or store the questions in a meaningful way, so keeping track of what questions are in the bank is quite difficult. This, coupled with the fact that the student numbers on the course are low anyway (MSc students, so small groups), meant I felt more comfortable going back to paper-based assessment. This felt like a step backwards to me (especially given my interest in all things techy!), but it was a step I felt at the time was best for my students. Obviously I think I’d feel differently if I was dealing with large undergraduate classes, and the software is being used very successfully with our medical course. It’s certainly on my list to explore again at some point, but as with many things, it’s finding the time to dedicate to it so I can do it properly.

However, having said all that, I do continue to use technology to provide formative assessment in my modules, one example of which I’ll cover here.

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.

The first module on the MSc contains a set of 3 short practical sessions. The students are given the notes in advance, and need to calculate the volumes of reagents needed for the experiment. When I first ran these sessions, much of the lab time was spent sorting out misunderstandings in these calculations. This in turn seemed to lead to a rushed atmosphere, where students appeared to feel that they didn’t have enough time to do the experiments (when in reality there was plenty), which in turn led to more mistakes. Something had to be done! So what did I introduce? Well, I’ve made much more use of Moodle over the past couple of years, providing resources to help them understand the lab sessions in advance. This includes 2 aspects where I think the technology has helped me address the issues I was seeing in the practical sessions.

  1. Short quizzes (MCQ, matching, true/false questions) – these have to be completed by the day before the lab session. They are purely formative and can be taken as many times as the student wants. Automatic feedback is provided for each question, with pointers to where the student can revisit information to help their understanding. This provides a quick way for students to check how much of the information they’ve understood, whilst also providing experience of the type of questions they’re likely to find in the final exam (always appreciated!).
  1. Submission of the answers to the calculations prior to the lab session. The worksheets that the students have already been given are provided in electronic format in Moodle – students complete these by the day before the lab session and submit them via Moodle. I can then review them, add feedback comments to the document and send it back to them. I currently do this via email, but also plan to explore whether providing feedback via Moodle would have any benefit.

I think this approach has several benefits, but the main one is that it allows the students to check their understanding before they’ve even set foot in the lab. Being able to correct any misunderstandings before the session makes it more relaxed, meaning students can then concentrate purely on the practical side of the session, obtaining a better understanding of the experiment rather than rushing through it. Common misunderstandings can also be revisited at the start of the session so that everyone is clear on where they occurred; I also think this helps reassure the students that everyone else was making similar mistakes as well!

In your experience, what type of approach creates an environment conducive to self-directed learning, peer support and collaborative learning? How might technology help?

With these courses I aim to foster an environment where students are comfortable helping each other and asking me for help or clarification when there’s something they don’t understand. This is obviously easier with low numbers compared to a large undergraduate class which presents different issues. For postgraduates we’re aiming to develop their independent study skills, but this doesn’t mean just letting them get on with it. Many need additional guidance on how to do this, especially students from overseas who may be used to a very different way of studying in their undergraduate degree. Some of these cultural issues also mean that students can be reluctant to ask me for help, preferring instead to approach their peers. This can be useful, but I also need to ensure that all of this support doesn’t land on the other students. Providing group tasks which I oversee, or online tasks such as the one described, seems to get over some of these hurdles as there’s an impression of being slightly removed – the students don’t actually have to admit face-to-face that they don’t understand. Obviously I’d like them to be able to do this, and this is something I work on developing as the course progresses. However, for the first module, this use of technology seems to work at addressing this issue, as well as improving the initial problems which were identified. There’s also some collaborative learning going on, as I know that students often work together on the calculations before submitting them to me. I do encourage this, as having to explain something to someone else often means a deeper understanding.

What opportunities and challenges does this approach present to tutors?

I think this approach has provided a great opportunity for me to address common misunderstandings and problems prior to the lab sessions, which can be intimidating for those with limited practical experience when they start the course. It also encourages students to self-assess right from the start of the course, which is something I wanted to instill.

There aren’t too many challenges now, certainly not big ones. Obviously there was some setting up in the beginning (eg writing the quiz questions and appropriate feedback) and I’d like to add to these in the future. There is a commitment every week for me to assess the worksheets which are submitted, but this isn’t huge with the small numbers on an MSc course. If numbers increased, I’d probably look at some form of auto-marking for this (numerical questions are fairly easy to mark automatically), which would then allow me to highlight the wrong answers and provide specific feedback for these areas. I guess a challenge for rolling this out further (as with so many things) is getting other staff to see the benefits. For now, I’m happy that I’m helping my students and I’ll continue to explore ways that I can build on what I’ve already done.

#ocTEL Activity 3.1: Creating your own materials

For this activity I chose to look at the TouchCast app for iPad. The main reason for choosing this one was that all our distance-learning students have iPads, so I’m always on the lookout for new tools we can use with them and I hadn’t come across this one before. It was also free, which is always a bonus! I’d like to find ways of encouraging them to use the iPads for more than just watching the video lectures we provide; I’d love to make the learning much more interactive. The app provides a way to create interactive videos, which can include twitter feeds, internet sites, polls, images and much, much more. I started off being quite dismissive of the app at first glance, but now I’m really quite excited by it!

How easy was it to understand how this tool worked?

To start off with, I was ready to write this one off as a bit of a novelty app. It probably didn’t help that I was doing this at the end of the day! However, watching some of the recordings that have been produced with the app was quite interesting – there are certainly a wide variety out there! Some are more interactive than others, so I was quite glad I’d had a look a the promotional information on their website first, which gave quite a good overview of what can be done. My main stumbling block at the start was that I was coming at this from the technology aspect, without a clear idea of what I wanted to use it for. Remember, pedagogy first! (A recurrent message throughout ocTEL!) However, sometimes I think you need to have a look at technology so that you know what’s available, then think about how this can help you solve a pedagogical issue. Once I’d got that into my head, thoughts and ideas about what this could be used for (in very rough format) started to form.

How quickly and easily would you find it to use?

Initially I was getting quite frustrated, but that was because I’d just jumped in at the deep end and tried to do stuff without any thought or planning. However, I then found the tutorials. I haven’t watched them all yet, but the first ones are short and snappy, providing an instant overview to the basic features of the app. The others also look interesting and I’ll definitely be looking at them later. Once I’d watched the initial tutorials, the app was much easier to use. As I tell my students, read the instructions and all should become clear… (do as I say, not as I do…) To be honest, I reckon with a couple of hours playing around I’d be happy about using this to produce material.

How could you apply this tool in your own teaching?

My first thoughts were how I could use this for the distance-learning students, but we also have a small pool of departmental iPads which our campus-based students could use. I teach on MSc programmes, so the student numbers are small enough to put them into pairs, loan them an iPad for a short amount of time and give them an assignment to complete using this app.

The recording time appears to be limited to 5 minutes, which I think is an advantage – let’s teach them to be concise and selective! My first thoughts about what we could use this for include the following:

  • Videoing techniques which may be done slightly differently in different labs – use this to prompt discussion about benefits/advantages/disadvantages of each approach.
  • Video showing the interpretation of some laboratory results – including polls for viewers to decide what they think the final result is.
  • Video presentations of a journal article.
  • Creating a news report about topical science story.

I’m sure there are many more – I’ve just got to sort out all the ideas in my head! I’ve also just found a pdf for educators on the TouchCast website, so I’ll definitely be having a look at this one too.

What does this tool offer that has advantages over your current practice?

This would make far better use of the iPads than we do currently, using the interactive nature of the technology to aid learning. It would also increase the digital literacy and competencies of our students, but it’s also something that I think they’d enjoy doing. Whilst the iPads can be used to record video anyway, this app provides much more of an interactive experience, easily enabling authors to add polls, websites etc into their recording.

#ocTEL Week 3 Webinar – OERs and Creative Commons

We’re obviously all getting used to these webinars now – there seem to be many fewer complications and everyone seems much happier with the environment. It’s taken a couple of sessions to get to this stage – this is definitely something I need to remember when arranging webinars with my students. The value of having a couple of familiarisation sessions shouldn’t be underestimated or neglected.

This was a really engaging webinar by Cable Green from Creative Commons. He started off by providing a link to the information about the creative commons licenses, which described the basis and origin of these licenses.

Taken from
Taken from


Material needs to have the following 2 characteristics to be an OER:

  • Freely available
  • Legal rights to follow the 5 Rs
    • Reuse – take the item and use as it is
    • Revise – take the item and modify it with your own work
    • Remix – take the item and mix it with other open resources to create something new
    • Redistribute – take the revision/remix and share it with others
    • Retain – keep a copy

So this means the CC-BY-ND license isn’t compatible with being OER as the non-derivative aspect prevents revisions. CC-SA (share-alike; refers to the licence conditions rather than the material itself) may also be a problem if you’re combining 2 items with different licenses, if they both have SA as part of their licence. CC-BY is the most flexible licence as it simply requires attribution.

The discussion about the various CC licences was really informative, and cleared up quite a few misunderstandings which seemed to be quite common.

I think something many of us found useful was the fact that CC-NC (non commercial) licenced work can be used in education as the tuition fees aren’t just for the actual content – it’s for other aspects of providing the education. It would not be acceptable to sell the actual resource itself, but doesn’t prevent its use as part of a course or module.

Another concern was that if you used material covered by a CC licence in the creation of your own work, would you have to keep going back to the original material to check that the licence still enabled you to use it for your purposes. Happily, the answer to this was no – CC licence status is valid at the point it’s taken for use in something else, so if features are revoked in the future it doesn’t matter. So if you’re using a resource for your course, there’s no obligation to keep checking whether the licence has changed or not.

There were many useful links provided, some of which I’ve included here so I can go back and look at them in the future.

Sources of OERs

Of course finding the works you would like to reuse isn’t the end of it, we also have to ensure that they are attributed correctly. I think the danger is that if someone finds a work which is licenced for reuse without really understanding the CC licences, they may reuse it without correct attribution. To be honest, I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this in the past, but I’m trying to rectify my mistakes as I learn more!

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou.

More details about attribution can be found on the CC website.

Guidance for choosing a licence and marking your work can also be found on the CC website , which provides options for choosing the correct licence as well as providing you the HTML code for the licence text. Having this embedded will allow the Google filter to pick up the work in the appropriate category.

This was one of the most helpful webinars for me, probably because it focused on something very practical, and this is what I  find useful. Now I’ve just got to put it all into practise…

#ocTEL Week 3 – Materials & Platforms for Learning Technology

This week’s “do one thing” task was to review at least one of the learning resources provided, and reflect on the process as a learner.

I chose to look at the iEthiCS simulation from St. George’s. This is a collection of cases designed to provide virtual patient interactions with a view to developing medical ethics teaching at a variety of educational levels. I chose to look at this one as much of the teaching I do is to individuals involved in healthcare and we’re looking at expanding some of the teaching we do which involves patient engagement.

There are two types of presentation within this collection. The most recent cases use video clips at each stage of the case, which are acted out according to a script. At the end of each brief video clip the student is presented with a series of choices to make, assuming that they are taking the place of one of the actors in the scenario. The second type of case is purely text based, with a description of each stage of the case being presented in text format rather than video. At the end of each case there is the option to restart and complete the case again, as well as an option to review the case pathway which outlines the decisions you made at each checkpoint. I thought this was a really useful feature; I could see a benefit in getting individual students to complete a case on their own, then discuss their pathways with each other to explore why people may have made different decisions at each stage. This could either be done in a face-to-face situation, or online (possibly following a poll to see what the common decisions were).

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

I preferred the cases which contained the video clips, as I found it held my attention a lot more than just reading the case descriptions. I know I skim-read things very quickly, and having to watch the videos really slowed me down! However, if this was the only format provided, then it would also be appropriate to consider including a transcript or captions to the video for those individuals who may have difficulty following this format. Some cases were provided in both formats, so students would be able to choose. From a teacher’s point of view, I can see that asking for cases to be produced in two formats may be off-putting for some contributors! Although I haven’t yet got experience of adding captions to videos, I would think this would be reasonably straightforward for short videos, but more time consuming for other, much longer screen-capture lecture-type videos.

I also liked the fact that the student had to choose a course of action at the end of each clip, rather than just a more traditional case-study with a “next” button.

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

Without captions or transcripts, learners with hearing impairment may have some trouble. However, the provision of some cases in both formats would get around this, or with the addition of captions/transcripts (which would be my preferred option rather than duplicating material). The ability to review the videos and repeat the entire cases would suit a variety of learners, so I thought this was a really good aspect of these productions.

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?

Whilst these cases are open for anyone to access, it doesn’t appear as though they’re encouraging the sharing or reuse of the material on other sites. They do provide an option for training sessions which can be provided to other institutions, but there are cost implications for this. There was no area to discuss the cases on the iEthiCS site, but I could see how they could be used in a social learning situation within another course (as mentioned above).

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.

Having these available as resources that other institutions could use in their own systems would be beneficial, although I can see that traditionally people are very keen to maintain ownership, especially where a lot of effort has gone into development. I like the fact that the team are willing to supply training sessions, although the costs do seem high. Comparing the same case in two formats really made me realise how much I appreciated the video clips for learning; it would be interesting to find out which versions other people preferred. Having captions or transcripts would also help to address learners who prefer reading rather than watching. For me, the text only versions could be improved by making them a bit more visual – maybe simply inserting photographs of the interaction/scenario being described would help to make it more real.

#ocTEL Week 2 – Understanding Learners and Learning

The “do one thing” task for this week was to consider questions around learning styles. There are three different approaches to learning – the ‘deep’, ‘strategic’ and ‘surface’ approaches and it is generally accepted (certainly in Western higher education) that ‘deep learning’ is the ideal we should be striving to engage our learners in.

Learning strategies

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 do worry that the way I present my material in the online module I teach does encourage surface or strategic learning. I’m starting off on the back foot as the module is Statistics and Research Methods, which always elicits a groan and shoulder-slumping from students anyway, regardless of whether it’s distance-learning or campus-based (I have the envious task of having to do both!) When it’s something the students have to do, rather than something they want to do, I think the bias will always be towards surface or strategic learning. How does this manifest itself? Well, there’s a lack of enthusiasm for starting the material and covering it at a slower and more steady pace compared to their specialist science modules which are taken up and discussed more quickly. I get the impression that many of them put it off until the last minute, when the forum (and my email) are both suddenly filled with questions. So how can I alter my approach to influence their approach to learning? Well, as I discussed in a previous blog post, I do think I need to provide a little more structure to help them manage their time better. With this in place, I also plan to schedule regular webinars on particular topics, but making these related to the topic without just being a reiteration of the screencasts etc that they already have. Using examples that are different in style to those presented in the notes may help them consolidate their knowledge and apply it to new situations and interpretation of data (ie deeper learning), which is what I really want them to be able to do by the time of the exam.

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?

My intentions for the ocTEL course were a bit of a mixture. Firstly, I wanted to try to put more consistent effort into this MOOC than I managed for the BYOD4L course earlier in the year. In my defence, I did have a 1 month old baby to look after at the same time, who did (quite rightly!) demand much more of my time than the course. However, it was still enjoyable being a “lurker”, even if I didn’t manage to actively contribute to many of the activities. Fast forward to now, and having a slightly older baby who has more defined naps gives me a little more time, and therefore time to expand my intentions. My approach has been mostly trying to achieve deep learning for this material, but with a realisation that it will probably involved a mixture of surface and strategic approaches as well. I’ve been quite surprised at how much the badges have motivated me – who’d have thought that a little icon held so much power?  There is of course a danger that this encourages strategic learning (being alert to assessment requirements and criteria), but I like to think it’s just helped me focus on what’s actually achievable for me, now, and given me a way to navigate through the vast amount of information that’s available as part of this course. The reflection element of ocTEL has been great, and certainly provided motivation to blog more regularly (as well as updating my site to something that allows easier posting of blog entries). This reflective practice is something which will encourage deeper understanding and critical analysis of the course material, rather than just a surface “box-ticking” approach to get badges. With this in mind, it makes me more determined to embed this kind of reflective activity in our campus-based course, with a view to expanding it in our distance-learning courses as well. (Why aren’t there more hours in a day?!)

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

I think this doesn’t necessarily relate to the method of teaching (ie online vs face-to-face), but depends more on the individual learner. You will always get students that want to understand the bigger picture and achieve a deeper learning than others. Encouraging deeper learning needs to be embedded in the way the curriculum is delivered to all students; I do worry that the current modular approach to teaching a degree simply encourages students to see the course as a series of chunks of learning, rather than sections that build the bigger picture. Is this a disadvantage of getting rids of “finals”? If an online (or face-to-face) course is simply delivered as a series of lectures and exercises (virtual or in a physical classroom), then surface and strategic learning will always be the easier option. The teaching and the assessment should, however, be able to recognise those students who do manage to pull it all together into a coherent whole, and show an interest in the course material by going further into the subject. Surely this is what we should be looking for in someone with the higher class of degree? If we’re preparing people for life outside University, then the deep learning approach needs to be encouraged – churning out graduates who can’t apply their knowledge to new situations doesn’t do them, or us, any favours.

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

Reflection and discussion need to be used to encourage deep learning, as this allows students to identify their own areas of weakness and also their strengths. I’ve always said that having to teach a subject is one of the best ways to make sure you understand it, so peer-to-peer support and teaching is a useful method to encourage this deeper approach. We need to ensure we build a community for online students so they are comfortable with this approach.

#ocTEL Activity 1.5 – Are you ready for online learning?

This task introduced several online resources which aim to determine whether a student is ready to take an online course or not. I looked at all four of the links available and identified all of them as covering the following areas (to varying degrees):

  • Time-management
  • Learning style
  • Working environment and management
  • Digital skills
  • Current IT provision & requirements

So how different were they to each other?

This survey was broken up nicely into discrete sections which addressed the points above. The feedback was fairly comprehensive and reinforced the topics which had been covered earlier. The feedback felt like it was really aimed at me and I think I’d find this useful if I was a student.

This one was more concise, but still covered similar subjects. I thought the fact that they explicitly asked about sharing experiences and having discussions was good, as I think this is something which distance-learners have the real potential to miss out on. The feedback here was minimal though, which made me slightly disappointed. There was no reinforcement of what skills were needed for distance-learning, just a brief message if “sign me up – you’re an ideal candidate” which felt a bit like they just wanted my custom!

This was also a questionnaire which provided comprehensive feedback after submission. The questions weren’t in explicit sections like the Penn State one, but covered similar areas.

This resource was explicit about the skills and characteristics which were required for online study:

  • Basic technical and academic skills
  • Ability to study independently
  • Good organizational skills
  • Willing to devote the same amount of time and effort as a face-to-face course

This one was really comprehensive, and gave really nice feedback based on a score and interpretation of that score (shown in the image below). Some of the others did also give a score, but didn’t directly relate back to that in the feedback provided.

Overall, many of the questions seemed fairly obvious to me, but maybe that’s because I’ve been signing up for a lot of online courses recently so these are issues which I’ve been considering anyway. Even if the questions are reasonably obvious, I think it’s a valuable opportunity to reinforce to our students what skills we think they’ll need, and which are important (like the feedback from the Penn State questionnaire and the University of Houston).

I wonder whether we could use something similar for our MSc students. The distance-learning courses are provided as part of a work-based training programme, so I think they’d provide a different purpose here than they would with our campus-based students. I think this group of students could do with a little more preparation about how to manage part-time study alongside their work commitments. Exploring these questionnaires with them in their induction week could be interesting to try. For our campus-based students, I wonder whether we could do with a more generic “are you ready for postgraduate study?” questionnaire, which highlighted the skills they would need. Having said that, would they be much different or do I expect similar skills in time-management and independent study? If I place importance on developing their digital literacy skills so that they can take this forward to their next employment or study opportunity, maybe they’re not too different after all.

online readinessSo luckily, after signing up for ocTEL, several FutureLearn MOOCS, and considering an online MSc that starts in September, the results of these questionnaires indicate that I’m a good candidate for online study. That’s reassuring, at least :-)

#ocTEL Activity 1.1 – Reflecting on My Practice

One of the modulearning quandrantsles I provide for the distance learning courses has ended up being delivered in a way which allows the students to work through the material at their own pace. This falls into the “Individual-directed” quadrant in that the material and learning path is clearly laid out for them to work through, yet the planning of this study is up to the student to direct. There are pros and cons to this approach. The main benefit is that these students are completing the course alongside a programme of work-based training, so they don’t have set times during which they can focus on their study. The individual nature of the study allows them to fit it in where it’s most convenient to them. However, I have noticed (with some groups more than others) that this often results in all the learning being left to the last minute, with time-management skills often lacking!

So, how could I change this to make it more of a social activity, which then provides some incentive for students to pace themselves through the module?

I have always offered to hold webinars for this module so that students can discuss any issues which have come up during their study. However, it has always been left to the students to decide which topics they want to cover; I didn’t see the point in scheduling workshops to cover topics that they were happy with if the time could be better-used covering ones which they were unsure of. That approach evidently didn’t work this year, as no-one took me up on the offer during the module, yet many queries were raised in the week before the exam! There is also a forum which is available throughout the module; this usually gets some use, although this does tend to be towards the end and nearer the exam, despite prompting from me at various points.

So, what will I change for this year? I think perhaps they need a little more structure to their approach to the study, without detracting from their need to be able to plan their own time. I intend to draft more of a guide to how and when I think each section should be completed to ensure that all material will be covered in time, and will schedule at least a couple of webinars with proposed topics that I want to cover; this would be done fairly early on in the module. The option of additional webinars will also remain open to them, and I’d be interested to see whether scheduling some initial ones kick-starts their requests for more. I guess that depends on how successful the first ones are, so no pressure there then!

#ocTEL Webinar – Week 1

Sharing approaches to and strategies for what we do and how we do it.

This week was much more structured, and seemed far less chaotic to start off with. There were still some assumptions on the part of the presenters about how much we were familiar with the software. For example, when asking for smiley faces or ticks, it turns out there are 2 ways of doing it. One just puts a smiley face in the chat window or a tick next to the name of the participant whilst the other way puts one on the slide, which would seem more useful (and not clutter up the chat window as much!). Whilst this wasn’t covered by the presenter, the chat window was a great source of information and expertise, so I guess we learnt how to do it after all!

As I mentioned after the first webinar, the amount of information being exchanged between the presentation and the chat window is immense. It was probably my lack of sleep the night before (very shouty baby!), but I found it harder to multi-task this week and often found myself realising that I’d just been focusing on the chat window and had missed some bits of the presentation.

However, that said, it was nice to see the message about putting pedagogy before technology being reinforced. There was also discussion about how to make teaching and learning sessions more authentic, with one example being the use of Wikipedia in an assignment rather than using an internal wiki in a VLE. The pros and cons of this were discussed, but it made me think about my plans to introduce more digital literacy skills to my students. Originally I’d just kind of assumed that I’d use Mahara as an e-portfolio, but now I’m starting to wonder whether there might be a better approach. Would a more authentic method be to use WordPress instead? This would mean the site would move with the student, instead of having to rely on possible alumni access for Mahara. There would also be the same pressure of the material being in the public domain as there was with the Wikipedia example – would this inhibit or inspire the students?

There was also some really useful discussion about the projects already covering digital literacy for students, notably the PriDE project. There was also follow up to this in blog posts, with this link for self-assessment of digital literacy being really quite useful (for me as well, not just my students!)

As with last week, it appears that my notes are full of links and papers to chase up. I’ve now set up my Diigo account though, so at least I’ve got somewhere useful to store them for future reference, even if I don’t get around to looking at them now!

#ocTEL Webinar – Week 0

The first webinar for this course was certainly an experience. I hadn’t used Blackboard Collaborate before, although I have used Adobe Connect on many occasions, and it turns out they’re reasonably similar. However, every time I do have to use a new piece of software, social network or other online environment I’m not familiar with, I think it provides a valuable reminder of how our students (and other staff) must feel when faced with this requirement. It doesn’t really worry me, as I’m quite excited by technology (sad, but true). However, it always makes me face up to the fact that other people don’t feel the same way. Within the webinar itself there were a mixture of participants, some of whom were obviously more comfortable with the system than others. If people who have chosen to engage with an online course still run into problems, how do we make sure that we make the process as painless as possible for others who may *have* to do it as part of a program of study? For example, it would be interesting to know how many people who were having problems with the audio had tried the audio setup wizard on the test site prior to the webinar. I didn’t find the link to the test site particularly easily – how many others would have missed this entirely? How do we make sure the instructions are clear enough to help engage everyone? A bad experience the first time an online session is attempted will surely put people off trying again on another occasion, or possibly reinforce and existing belief that “this online stuff” isn’t as good as more traditional face-to-face approaches.

There was also a massive amount of activity on the chat feed, which made it a feat of concentration to be watching that as well as actively listening to the audio from the presenter. The online meetings that I’ve hosted previously haven’t really used this feature a lot, but it certainly illustrated how much you need moderators to be keeping an eye on this if it is going to be used, especially for a group this big where the chat moved at a ferocious speed! I know the chat can be viewed on the recording, but one thing I found helpful at the time was to have a blank Word document open at the same time, where I was able to quickly copy and paste useful links or comments that came up in the chat. Yet another document to reflect on later…

Action points for me as a result of this webinar:

  • Look at literature/blogs/resources around digital badges
  • Explore storify, and evernote again