Final Reflections and Summary

For anyone who has read my blog from the start, you’ll recall I quoted from a favourite song ‘Town Called Malice’. Another line: “I could go on for hours and I probably will” reflects quite explicitly what I’ve found to be true about using my Blog.  What a supportive and useful tool it has been, and not least because it’s provided the basis for some final reflections today (and earlier this week) that summarise my thinking and learning from the SBOE module.

As a result of reflecting on my past posts, I’ve found myself creating several reflective entries during this final week and have been able to reflect even more deeply on my participation, learning, and current (and future) online practice.  It’s my aim to keep this final post concise to avoid you, the reader, having duplication of reading effort – let’s see if I can do that successfully.

Let’s commence…

Referring back to the Chinese New Year on 19th February I set myself four LOs to support my learning goals, and provide a platform for reflection and summary. Here is my review of the four:-

LO 1. Explain how my student-led seminar helped improve my literacies?

At first I perceived that my own student-led seminar would have most impact on the achievement of this LO, however I can safely say that I learned and progressed my digital (and other) literacies over the whole suite of seminars. Examples from each:

  • Unit 1 – proved the challenges of engaging students in discussion boards. Also our tutor provided an great example of what a simply constructed Moodle seminar could look/sound/feel like – handy for us in the 1st student seminar as we only had days rather than weeks to complete our seminar design
  • Unit 2 – found me in the role of online teacher and I learned how providing the right technical environment and learning space is critical to student engagement.  Also that copyright infringement must be avoided particularly when publishing online. (also see my reflective Blog posts specific to this seminar on 10th April)
  • Unit 3 – my first seminar as a participant, and it also provided an opportunity to reflet on the participant-impact of my student-led seminar (also see my reflective Blog specific to this seminar on 12th April)
  • Unit 4 – encouraged a look into the online future, this seminar captured my imagination and was inspirational on a few levels (also see my reflective Blog specific to this seminar on 20th April)

LO 2. Incorporating SBOE learning to improve my online and blended practice

As described in other blog posts, not only my own practice but that of colleagues in my team, and wider student support organisation, have benefitted from what I’ve begun to incorporate in my online teaching practice. What I also want to add as evidence for this LO is the opportunities I’m already identifying in my school consultant role to improve and expand online practice and provision. For example:

  • School of Marketing, Tourism & Language’s new Tourism & Hospitality Yr3 Live Project in Hong Kong (HK): this may provide an opportunity to replicate Confident Futures learning interventions provided on-campus in the UK, and the provision already in place for Yr3 Marketing in HK
  • School of Nursing Midwifery & Social Care are due to launch an Adult nursing programme in Singapore: again there may be opportunity to replicate the UK student experience using the 3 annual Confident Futures interventions

Given the opportunity to introduce these interventions, I will approach it using my existing blended education methodology, and the online design I’ve devised during SBOE and described in my posts of 27th February and 20th April  for the workshops: Knowing Yourself & Others and Creating Convincing Proposals. These opportunities will also support the universities strategies: to deliver excellent personalised student experiences and internationalise our work.

Finally for this LO, I have also become more open to, and aware of, new information and practices being disseminated around the university and the wider world of online learning, so I regularly attend webinars and lunch time online sessions.  See my blogs: 1st March and 25th April that explain my experience, my learning and the action I intend taking as a result.

LO 3. Improving my confidence in engaging colleagues in online provision 

As described throughout my blog, I have found a new confidence in not only describing the benefits of introducing / increasing online learning interventions but also in engaging colleagues to utilise existing and new online provision to improve wider teaching practice.  So not only am I in a better position (due to increased knowledge and practice) of identifying what makes an great online teacher but also how I can support others to demonstrate these qualities too.

See my blog post on 25th February for a deeper sense of my personal learning and my blog post of 25th April on how I’ve increased my effectiveness in supporting colleagues, e,g, Careers and the Student Mobility teams.

LO 4. Engaging more efficiently in the suggested reading and practising reviewing the literature clearly into my learning

The two major influences that have supported me in this LO have been the debating team exercises in units 3 and 4 and the use of this Blog.

The debating exercises have supported me to engage more widely with recommended reading than I might have. Because I was encouraged to review from different viewpoints I have experienced the benefits of putting forward an argument in a more academic and less personal way, which also meant that any counterargument was a response to the argument and not the individual. A liberating and eye-opening experience that I aim to practice using in academic discourse with colleagues in future.

Reflecting on my Blog I perceive that as I progressed with my blogging my writing  became more linked to theory and research. I began to link my findings with past, present, and additional reading and research.  My Blog posts have also directed my thoughts on improving teaching practice through reflections on: retention, support, engagement, barriers to learning, and successful ‘collaboration to learn’. I have also recorded how I put learning into practice through practical application of: leading a seminar, gamification and improving my own, and my team’s, online practice.

What I believe I have successfully kept in my Blog posts is authenticity. I have aimed to keep my reflections accessible, and a true representation of what I have gained through this module – not what I think others want/expect to read. My reward has been that I’ve truly enjoyed the blogging experience and also developed my authentic style to include more academic thinking.

NB…For a mid-module update on how I was progressing towards some the LOs through the seminars, see my post dated 8th March

A further 3 key learning areas within SBOE are:

  • In my post on 25th April I summarised my experience as both seminar leader and participant. To do this I used a framework of 10 recommendations from other online professionals to measure both the SBOE cohort’s activities and my own personal practice. I uncovered many good practices and shared the major ones in this post
  • The usefulness of my ‘Between The Blog’ entries are described in my post on 23rd April. I was surprised that not only did these posts remind me of learning challenges I encountered but also that they encouraged further reflection and research i.e. around retention. They guided me to focus on the barriers to learning that online students can encounter, and sometimes leave learning as a result of. Simpson (2013) introduced me to four classifications of these barriers, as put forward by Morgan & Tam (1999) which I’d never previously reflected on in any depth.  The 4 classifications are:
    • Situational
    • Dispositional
    • Institutional
    • Epistemological
  • A model that really resonated with me was Garrison and Anderson’s ‘Community of Inquiry’ (CoI). This model has allowed me to understand and explain that I am very influenced to learn through Social Presence, however I must take into consideration that not everyone is as influenced by this presence as I am. I made several posts referring to this model but the one that includes the ‘so what’ for my future practice is on 12th April where I included some thinking around ensuring that when I design for online, I cover all thinking and learning preferences.

In conclusion…

I haven’t kept this final post short but hopefully, by including direct links to previous Blog posts, I have been reasonably concise. Actually my challenge was not so much what to include in this summary, but what to leave out and I hope, when I reflect back on this post I don’t regret leaving something out.

I have really appreciated electing to use this Blog for my SBOE individual project, so much so that it is my intention to write a Blog for module 3 of the PGBOE to support my reflective and theorist learning practice and development.  Finally, I’ve produced a list of references used over all my posts which I’m providing as an attachment rather than elongate this final post.

M Andrew References used in Individual Project Blog 2014_15 Tri2

Goodbye dear reader, and if you’d like to join me on my journey through module 3, look out for my next PGBOE Blog commencing in September 2015 😀

Back to a Thursday Full of Webinars

Way back, in my 1st March blog post I indicated I’d purchased the book Brain Rules (Medina 2014) as a result of attending a Citrix-hosted webinar and that I promised I’d post something about my learning from that book. Well a little later than promised, and hopefully better late than never, here are some thoughts (and future actions) around Brain Rule #6 ‘Attention’ which link to my reflections on 22nd April on keeping online learners engaged.

Can I have your attention please

If you’ve just read that statement, I’ve hopefully engaged you to read further into this blog…

Brain rule #6 suggests that ‘while you are reading this paragraph, millions of sensory neurons in your brain are firing simultaneously, all carrying messages, each attempting to grab your attention. Only a few will succeed in breaking through to your awareness, and the rest will be ignored either in part or in full’. Further reading revealed ‘the messages that do grab attention are connected to memory, interest and awareness’.

A point Medina makes regarding the first of these ‘attention grabbers’: Memory, is that we are heavily influenced by this and use it every day to determine what we give our attention to. I understand this concept because of my memory of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and the personalised ‘map of the world’ we all create as we experience life. What I became aware of though (not a memory) was that I am probably not providing a full enough orientation to my online learning for students who may have little, or no, online-learning memory.  So providing a more effective introduction to my online materials should make up for no memory on the student’s part to help keep them engaged. This of course links directly to ‘attention grabber’ #3: Awareness, in that effective orientation provision can also lead online learners to a greater understanding of the unknown, and what is being expected of them.

ACTION FOR ME – Include accessible orientation support e.g. our unit 4 seminar orientation, and use illustration, plain English and easily accessed help functions from the start. This will also help to support the programme leaders (PL) module leaders (ML) I work in partnership with, to create more supportive online memories for students to access thus aiding their motivation to continue with the online provision.

‘Attention grabber’ #2: Interest, is where my online learning interventions should link directly to my face to face workshops. I’ve already learned that in order to build motivated, engaged attention from students my learning intervention should be integrated into the learning outcomes of the module – and perhaps even the module assessment, if I can convince the PL/ML.

ACTION FOR ME – Ensure I don’t get so caught up in the excitement of creating online interventions that I overlook ensuring my provision is truly relevant to the student’s academic learning. Also where possible/feasible, create online testing and application of new knowledge to again link to assessment within the module LOs.

Finally, for the purposes of this blog post, rule #6 suggests that Emotion also grabs our attention: as described in the adapted Community of Inquiry model (Anderson 2014) from my post of 8th March.

Medina suggest that ‘emotionally charged events are better remembered for longer, and with more accuracy than neutral events’ and although researchers have still not defined exactly what an emotion is and not everyone is emotionally stimulated by the same event, I agree with Medina that the ability to engage someone emotionally can be a very compelling method of motivating them to want to learn.

He suggests that a great example of the use of emotional motivational advertising (learning about a new initiative or product) can be found in Steve Hayden’s 1984 commercial for the new Apple computer. The advert is just 1 minute long and I do remember it vividly, along with other emotive memories from 1984. For any reader old enough – do you recall it too?

If you want to check out the emotional audience reaction to Steve Jobs 1983 introduction to ‘The 1984 Ad’ check this video out @ at 5.13 minutes in.

Jobs got a similar reaction when introducing the iphone in 2007 again using emotion, memory, interest and awareness to effectively engage his audience. A master of engaging his audience / learners?

ACTION FOR ME – If ultimately the lesson of Brain Rule #6 is ‘We don’t pay attention to boring things’ I will consider how to tap into my online learners memory, interest and awareness and undertake further research on whether, and at what point, it’s appropriate to engage my online learners emotionally?

Medina, J. (2014) ‘Brain Rules’ PearPress: Seattle

TV Advert for release of Apple Computer (1984)  (last accessed 26/4/15)

Jobs, S. (1983) keynote on Apple Computer release (last accessed 26/4/15)

Supported and Supporting through SBOE

SBOE Learning – translated into action…

As well as collaborating online with fellow SBOE students, I’ve also attracted learning support from family and friends who I’ve been shared my PG experiences with. Unprompted by me, they’ve occasionally sourced relevant articles and journal entries they thought would be useful to aid my thinking and learning – don’t worry I’m not going to share them all, just this one.

A work colleague sent me a link to an interesting site where I found some new insights into ‘Bringing the Classroom to Life with Blended Education’. Searching around this site to see what also caught my attention, I spotted a link to ‘5 TEDtalks to make you think’ and I selected one to watch that grabbed my attention: Terry Moore’s 2005 talk ‘How to tie your shoelaces’

What I believe Moore demonstrates simply and concisely (as well as providing a good example of Teaching Presence’s direct instruction) is an example of encouraging people to think differently, by demonstrated a new way of doing something and, more importantly, offering an explanation of why you’d want to think differently about it. It also shows Moore using humour to support learning in a short, well designed facilitative session which works just as well face to face as it does when translated into a short online learning experience – which is of course the amazing truth behind most TEDTalks.

Moore ends his short session by stating “sometimes a small advantage some-place in life, can yield tremendous results some-place else” and I believe there have been real advantages of my learning on SBOE which have, perhaps not in terms of earth-shattering result, but yielded results none the less that have improved my  teaching practice and increased my support of colleagues.

Let me explain using just a few examples (some already referred to in previous blogs):

  1. The recent Video Shorts I designed and developed, although not widely watched by students prior to attended my Creating Convincing Proposals workshop this week, were in fact used successful to facilitate succinct explanations allowing me to move quickly to active student application. Also, a colleagues has incorporated these shorts into her design for an up and coming workshop for a different cohort. She identified they could help keep her explanation short and simple, encourage learner attention and engagement to motivate curiosity, and keep her on-schedule with the learning plan.
  2. The 2 videos I designed and developed to explain the theory behind the DiSC model, the basis for our Knowing Yourself & Others workshop (Marston 1928) have been utilised successfully in two learning interventions:
    • Online pre-work for a joint Careers & Confident Futures employability workshop – to provide more time actively exploring and improving C.V. and job applications
    • Online pre-work for another joint initiative ‘Get That Job’ to entirely replace the Confident Futures workshop by asking the students to work at their own online pace prior to the Careers face to face session.
    • These online introductions were based on previous ‘Get That Job’ feedback of ‘what the students wanted more of’.
  3. My Personal Development Tutor on the SBOE recommended I get involved in the university’s project ‘Students as Colleagues’ and I decided to grasp this opportunity to support the project, students and of course my own professional practice.  As well as providing some real insights into how I can improve my practice, my confident 1st year student is just about to share her findings and recommendations with the rest of my team next week.
  4. I now find myself actively promoting the benefits of online education to other colleagues within Student and Academic Services e.g. the Student Mobility team who are finding it difficult to engage students who’ve elected to study abroad to come onto campus for support workshops. I’ve now offered to help a colleague from this team explore and start experimenting with design on Moodle-train over the summer.

These examples provide evidence of how I’m sharing good practice, supporting online and blended practice of colleagues and also taking opportunities to disseminate my improved technical and online knowledge & practice in a very practical way within my HE role. As a direct result of Unit 3 student-led seminar I can now also describe the impact of these examples in terms of Cognitive Learning: where learning is described as a behavioural change based on the acquisition of information about the environment – in this case the online environment. (last accessed 25/4/15) (last accessed 25/4/15)

What About the BTBs?

I wasn’t 100% sure what my Between The Blogs (BTB) posts would add to my Blog. I’ve reflected separately over these posts (also a few points in my learning reflection posts) and identified some useful information about external influences and challenges on my engagement and impact on my learning. I’ve found some of these challenges more tricky to handle than others, and understand that some online learners may find similar challenges a real barrier to learning. These ‘between’ blogs have encouraged me to examine and relate my own setbacks and experiences to the HE challenges of student attendance, retention and widening access. I haven’t defined the answers to these challenges from an online position, but think that it’s a good start to begin to consider what specific help I should be providing for online learners who are finding difficulty in engaging, or even attending, their online courses.

To recap, what I’ve personally encountered since January:

  • Short holiday away from studies
  • Illness – two occasions (one recorded in BTB and one I’m currently experiencing)
  • Close bereavement
  • Technical challenges: bad connectivity at home, and constraints of my small screen laptop, which led to me only being able to blog on my home PC which I have to share with others. Both have led to time management challenges

Is it unusual, or normal, for a student to encounter this number of challenges in one trimester? I’m unsure! Are the challenges that online learners encounter different from the campus-based learner?  Again I’m unsure! Perhaps this would be a useful focus for future research on the PGBOE, however it’s definitely something I need to take into consideration when planning and designing current online interventions. How exactly do the challenges of time-commitment, family commitments, online preferences, personal and educational setbacks, and technical issues impact on engagement and successful learning?

Also, as my institution begins to focus more on internationalisation and an excellent, personalised student experience for every student, regardless of whether that student is on-campus, off-campus, distance or blended learning, it’s no longer acceptable to say “I didn’t think about that impact on the student”.  As learning providers and learning supporters we must get the complexities of our Teaching Presence (Garrison & Anderson, 2003) spot on for each of our learners i.e. our design, facilitation, direction and learning focus.  And we must do this in the face of the non-academic, and academic, setbacks our learners are encountering.

I also found that my thinking in this post linked to the recommended reading: ‘Supporting Students Online, Open & Distance (Simpson, 2013). In particular where Simpson cites Morgan & Tam (1999) 4 classifications of the barriers to progress by students online, using student interviews as a basis. The 4 classifications are:

  1. Situational: i.e. poor family support – links to many of our ENU 1st generation HE learners
  2. Dispositional: i.e. personal study problems
  3. Institutional: late arrival of materials
  4. Epistemological: difficult course content

My learning challenges in this module have linked mostly to Dispositional, however I have found a few instances of family support challenges (Situational) mostly linked to other commitments to close family (home life and care commitments) and the needs and desires of my wider family. In other words, like so many other Scottish Domiciled students, I do not have the luxury of a student life spent simply in pursuit of knowledge and self-improvement.

My experience of working with students close to assignment deadlines are that they too are mainly challenged by Situational and Dispositional barriers. They have access to Epistemological challenge support from their tutors and PDTs on a regular basis but often find it far more challenging to deal with personal and family chanllenges as they perceive it’s their responsibility to handle these themselves.

How this informs my future practice is that through the wealth of support within the university from experts in most areas of Situational and Dispositional support, I am in a position to remind students of this support by including relevant links within my orientation or front pages of the module to aid early intervention support.  Examples of the support offered can be found on these pages of the Edinburgh Napier University site.

Finally today: I understand that best practice dictates that I should ‘model’ everything I expect my online learners to demonstrate when collaborating to learn. Palloff and Pratt (2005) give some fine guidance on collaboration (which as they state has “been defined as the hallmark of constructivism”) through their list of collaboration ‘do’s’ in ‘Collaborating Online – Learning Together in Community’ (2005, P6).  I would add to this list that it is my responsibility, through Teaching Presence, to create an online environment which encourages, and nurtures, teacher and learner relationships that break down any barriers to learning, created by things that endanger the success of each learner. This way we will hopefully never have to encounter a negative answer to Neil Selwyn’s chapter 6 question ‘Will Technology Displace the Teacher?’ (2011).

Garrison, D.R & Anderson, T. (2003) ‘E-Learning in the 21st Century’. RoutelegeFalmer: Oxon

Palloff, R.M & Pratt, K. (2005) ‘Collaborating Online – Learning Together in Community’. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco

Selyn, N. (2011) ‘Education and Technology – Key Issues and Debates. Bloomsbury: London

Simpston, O (2013). Supporting Students in Online, Open & Distance Learning.  Taylor & Francis:

Summarising the Seminars – my experience as leader and participant

Throughout SBOE module we’ve considered:

  • What it takes to be an effective online learner and great online teacher
  • How we can support our online learners through developing their digital literacies and various methods of online feedback
  • How we reach our students using on Social, Cognitive and Teaching Presences then debating how online communities can impact on access and retention
  • How we might engage with our online learners in the future

What we have all aimed to do, but not necessarily reflected on to any great extent until our evaluation results are released, is how we kept, and how to keep, our online learners engaged. From a participant (student) point of view it does appear that seminar engagement did take a dip towards the end of the student-led seminars and during seminar 1 led by the tutor. Also, throughout the entire module our VOH (Virtual Office Hours) were not well supported. Our module leader has already asked us to be involved in research around the engagement aspect of our online learning and I’ve indicated I’m very interested to participate, and also see the results of the research. When reflecting on one of the assessment criteria attached to this Blog: ‘identifying and articulating lessons learned for own professional practice’ I undertook online research on what ‘online experts’ recommend about the challenge of online engagement. I have uncovered some tips from GoToTraining, part of the Citrix Group, who have been actively engaging people online for 25 years. I decided it would be useful to measure their tips for keeping online learners engaged, against what we’ve been doing in our 4 online seminars.  Also against what I’ve been motivated to continue, and start, using in my own online practice. There were many examples of good practice but to keep this post from being too lengthy I’ve selected the best examples:

Tip Evidenced within SBOE activities and Evidenced through my personal practice in Tri2 14/15
1.Primacy – what learners learn first is essential to engagement – share the LO / goals In all student-led seminars we were encouraged and measured on the successful inclusion of LOs – published in introduction. I have become more aware of the need to make clear exactly what my learners will be able to do that they couldn’t do before undertaking a learning intervention.  I wasn’t always replicating my best practice on my new technology supported learning but now am.
2. Visuals – 60% of learners prefer visual to text-filled content The visuals were a big part of each online seminar but most memorable from Unit 4 (the future focused unit). As a result of my Unit 2 design work I’ve become more aware of the need to ensure I’m not infringing copyright and now have techniques to ensure I’m adhering to this.
3. Sounds – music has a powerful impact I found the videos in Unit 4 a useful way to learn quickly about a new subject. Not exactly music but similar and impactful. I’ve adopted a non-copyright ‘jingle’ for my newly designed Video Shorts (as described in my Blog on April 20th) to draw them together as a series and reassure my audience, through sound, what to expect e.g. short, sharp, information feed. 
4. Movement – keep engagement through activity and fun There were activities in all 4 units: from ADBs to competitive games (unit 4 being the most interactive and feeling the most like it adhered to the ‘movement’ rule/tip. My face-to-face training practice is very firmly based in interactivity and movement and, as a direct result of the SBOE, I’m now focusing on identifying online / technological methods to replicate this ethos to engage and support effective learning.
5. Emotion – stories and emotional context can help retention of learning Unit 3 gave the best example of how emotion and stories engages learners. The exercise in week 1 ‘Introduce Yourself’ engaged all the cohort, and I’m pleased to say that my emotion- inducing post ‘Bucket-list’ attracted 32 replies, with the next closest ‘2 truths and a lie’ attracting 18. This is not only an example of Social Presence but of Emotional Presence (CoI). I’m a big fan of storytelling to demonstrate or emphasise a learning point, and this exercise in Unit 3 has given me a new idea of online engagement.
6. Context – Engagement is greater if learners know WHY they are learning There were many examples of good practice for this tip throughout all the seminars. I consider that our brief introductions and links in Unit 2 were good context setters. Referring to my Video Shorts again, I developed the idea of informing my audience of why they were learning about the technique and how they should use it now or would use it in the face to face workshop. This method not only ties the ‘shorts’ together as a series but gives a purpose to watching them.
7. Humour – laughter and fun can be the best path to long-term memories In each unit ADB there was encouragement of humour and personal touch in posts, especially Unit 3 exercise on the use of emoticons. As a cohort I consider many of us engage our  readers using a little humour and often use the support of emoticons. I frequently use humour at the start of a workshop to: build rapport, take away any student uncertainty, and encourage engagement – this is something I need to consider the appropriateness of more carefully for my online practice, perhaps using video links with some humour might be appropriate?
8. Community – create a sense of this for learners to be more comfortable with what they’re learning and who they are learning with As you’ll be aware from previous posts on my Blog, community is a big learning support for me and as well as all units encouraging community through exercises, in Unit 3 we explored the theory and methodology using CoI. In my own practice I find it challenging to create a sense of community prior to learning intervention since the Module Leader themselves has often found it as much of a challenge. I currently have the opportunity with Napier Student Association – through the Internship Development Programme I’m developing for them – to lead a Moodle Module and practise creating a true sense of community. If I create a great online experience for these influential students, they can testify to the effectiveness of community online to other students.
9. Interaction – exploration of the topic and interaction with it All the units depended on the interaction between participants and some exercises worked better than others. For me the gamification in Unit 4 week 1 worked well, however I have also been reminded by the summary results of Unit 3 that not everyone learns the same way. Again interactivity is a cornerstone of the Confident Futures learning ethos and I’m constantly exploring how to translate collaborative interactions to online.
10. Recency – what learners learn last is important so a summary of learning is essential Unit 4 had the most effective summary section due to inclusion of the poll, and awarding badges. On reflection, our Unit 2 summary was quite simplistic and although it offered participants a method of self-summarising I would create a more impactful summary using some techniques I’ve seen since.

Collaborating to Learn – 3rd, last, but definitely not least

Unit 4 student-led summary was a game of 2 half’s for me. In week 1 my favourite activity was the BIG DEBATE where again we were split into debating teams, with one team advocating the virtual university and the other team providing critical challenge of it.  I appreciated the colour identification set up for all posts by the seminar leaders – this added a new dimension to following a debate with ease:

  • The blue team identified thus       – Blue
  • The red team identified thus         – Red
  • The seminar leads identified thus – Leaders

…making identification of the purpose of each posts instantaneous – very useful.

I must confess that I did not particularly like the first activity of week 1: The African Adventure Trail Quiz.  It was a little tedious to find my way around the African Virtual University and personally I didn’t really see the point.  I seem to recall that I didn’t do very well in my first attempt but learned from the feedback.  I got a good enough score in the second attempt but was not in the least interested in making a third attempt to get to the top of the leader board.  I was not motivated by getting a perfect score for something that I didn’t consider to be important enough.  This is interesting information in itself though.

The seminar orientation was very well laid out with lots of information and very useful to refer back to whilst completing the seminar e.g. the explanation of the Progress Bar.  I also appreciated joining in the discussion in activity 3 where one of the leaders, Anne Jamie, provided some additional and very interesting videos from the ‘School of Thought – A Vision for the Future of Learning’.  In fact my experience of watching, and learning from, these videos led me to putting into action an idea that I’d been ‘brewing’ for some time; workshop video pre-work. I was motivated into producing the suite of video shorts that I’d been planning, and activity 3 was the catalyst for me getting this new online design underway.

See below for a link to my Creating Convincing Proposals Video Shorts that I’m currently in the process of trialling with a group from the Business School on a Live Project.  The idea behind this online initiative is to save time explaining the techniques in the workshop by asking students to watch 12 mins of video (all 7 video shorts) before attending. This should allow more time to be devoted to discussing how to utilise the techniques for a graded presentation and put ideas into practice in the safe environment of the workshop, whilst also receiving feedback from peer groups.

Creating Convincing Proposals Video Shorts

My favourite aspect of this seminar though was the gamification and mobile learning activities in week 2.  I’ve already indicated in my blog entry on the 9th April, how I achieved the highest score for the seminar’s gamified elements in Week 2 and won unit 4 Top Scorer award.  I found myself intrigued and immersed in the learning games in  week 2 (in spite of my belief that I had little interest in online gaming!).  What really captivated me was what I’d call the ‘treasure hunt’ aspect of ‘chasing’ additional points where I had to for example:

  • add at least two posts to the debate OR
  • submit a new post, at a certain time with a heading of ‘what I had for breakfast’ OR
  • add something to the virtual dictionary

I found this part of the ‘game’ very captivating and grew more delighted as my progress bar was completed.  I was also able to offer a little advice to a fellow participant who was trying to understand how to complete their task bar.

I truly consider that I was in competition with myself and perceived that everyone of us on the seminar could be at the top of the leader board as we were all able to achieve the 55 points for a place at the top.  I was secretly delighted though that I got a Top Scorer badge 🙂

In a conversation with one of the seminar leaders we discussed whether the PGcert cohort were somewhat ‘debating and discussing weary’ by this stage in the module. The fact that there were fewer of us participating in the discussions leads me to suspect that this was in fact true.  Again, another useful point to take into consideration when planning ongoing activities for online learners.

All in all I have enjoyed the 3 seminars and found them a stimulating and enlightening learning experience.

Collaborating to Learn – Part Deux

In the unit 3 student-led seminar our topic was ‘Reaching the Online Learner’ and one of the useful additions to the seminar summary was the published responses to our induction activity questionnaire.  Whilst all responses and the summaries were interesting I found myself focusing with particular interest on the results in questions 3, 6 and 7.

Cognitive Presence Q3 ‘I found that work on my own was the primary way I learned’ responses indicated:

  • 2 of 13 strongly agreed
  • 7 of 13 agreed
  • 1 of 13 were neutral
  • 3 of 13 disagreed

I found this interesting since, although I don’t recall my exact reply all these weeks later, I suspect it was ‘disagree’.  What the other participants responses have opened up to me is that in spite of my Community of Inquiry (CoI) categorisation being high in Social and Cognitive presences, I must take into consideration that, from the 13 responses only 2 others agreed with me and 9 indicated they learned primarily in quite a different way to me. What also surprised me was looking more closely at Cognitive Presence Q6 ‘I found that text-based questions were the primary way I learned’ that 7 of 13 agreed with this statement but remarkably, in student-led seminar 3 and, especially in seminar 4, there were not many participants actually getting involved in the text-based questions.  The replies to Q6 perhaps show then that even when people don’t get involved in the text-based question discussions, they are still learning from them.  Part of me feels let down by those students not participating and thereby contributing nothing to, but only taking from, the Cognitive Presence indicators!

The other question I was drawn to thinking more deeply about was Social Presence Q7 ‘I felt comfortable disagreeing with other course participants while still maintaining a sense of trust’ where the responses were:

  • 7 of 13 agreed
  • 4 of 13 were neutral
  • 2 of 13 disagreed

Personally I wasn’t surprised by this spread of responses, and most of my fellow participants reflected my thoughts by agreeing that without the very key communication aspects of Body Language and Tone, it is more difficult to get across the true meaning of your words in disagreement.  This of course is backed up with the often quoted Albert Merhabian Equation (1971):Thinking a little more deeply about Mehabian’s theory I searched for who was disagreeing with it and found this short video online…

This explanation focuses on the idea that Merhabian is mis-quoted and that words of course are far more important than only 7% of the meaning. It suggests that the equation was developed to explain what happens when what we’re saying stems from attitudes and feelings.  Since I suspect that ‘natural’ disagreement does stem from these forces, we are more likely to step away from confronting another’s attitudes and feelings when we’re using only words supported by a written indication of our tone.

What I believe took the seminar participants (or me at least) a step nearer to feeling more comfortable disagreeing was the debating exercise in week 2, where we had to leave aside our own personal views and debate the merits and limitations of Social Presence from the viewpoint of the group we’d been placed in. I also believe the success of the debate was supported by the ‘Netiquette Rule’ of keeping posts short i.e. no more than 200 words – this kept the pressure of too much reading to a minimum 🙂

I found myself ‘arguing’ a viewpoint that was basically at odds with my own personal feelings and beliefs. This made me take a broader outlook on the subject and encouraged more of a measured, academic and non-confrontational approach.  Something I found very interesting to be involved in and one which I believed helped me move towards one of my own LO for this blog i.e. Engaging more efficiently in the suggested reading and practising reviewing the literature clearly into my learning.  I believe this has helped me engage more efficiently in the reading and reviewing and not only from where my beliefs lie, but also engaging more on the other side of the argument.

This strategy was also employed in student-led seminar 4, where I learned some more on identifying debating groups using Moodle tools.

Watch this space for part 3… Busting the Mehrabian Myth (last accessed 12th April 2015 @ 15.35.

Mehrabian. A. (1971). Silent Messages. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Unit 3 student-led seminar 2014/15 Survey Responses and Initial Analysis (last accessed 12th April 2015 @ 15.29)