#ocTEL week 0 – Introduction

A bit of a bumpy start to my ocTEL experience…I returned home from holiday last night to find a completely clogged up inbox, as I had not realised I needed to switch my email receipt settings so I get the digests and not all the individual emails (in common with a number of fellow participants!) I could not find my ocTEL registration email (in my junk folder), and had to do a lot of sorting out to get up and running. Anyway, I think I’m ready now!

I started this blog recently to capture various strands of work I’m doing on educational technology (or technology-enhanced learning, to use a more up to date term). I teach accounting in the business school of a large Russell group university, but I have been interested in educational technology for a while now. I can see its power to enrich teaching and learning and challenge our students.

My undergraduate studies (not in accounting) were not particularly technology-enhanced, as they were quite some time ago! However, I designed a web resource for fellow students as my final year project, so that was my earliest experience. At the university where I taught previously, I was introduced to Blackboard, and taught on a face to face course with about 1,000 undergraduate students registered. We decided to make the experience ‘blended max’ by leveraging as much from Blackboard as we could to help us manage the scale of the course. However, noting others’ rather ‘trial and error’ approach, I decided I wanted to understand more about the pedagogical affordances of the various technologies that were available, to try and use them in a more focused way. So, I enrolled on the Open University’s Online and Distance Education postgraduate programme. I have got a lot from this programme, not least the experience of being an online distance learning student and all that that entails. I also found this useful in my role as module coordinator for a large online distance learning MBA module. I took a pause in my studies on changing jobs last year, but I plan to resume with my final course towards the MA later on in 2013. In the meantime, when a colleague mentioned this MOOC in an open meeting at my university, I thought it might be interesting, not just for the content and making connections with fellow participants, but also for the experience of being an MOOC student.

So, I guess I have a moderate amount of previous experience both as a student and in using technology enhanced learning (TEL) technologies and pedagogies in my teaching. However, still plenty of capacity to learn and develop further!

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#ocTEL MOOC – open course in technology-enhanced learning

I thought I should practise what I preach so I have registered for a MOOC run by the Association of Learning Technologists. It starts this week,and 780 people have registered so far. If the introductory materials are borne out, it appears that the constructivist, open-access principles of Stephen Downes and the other early MOOC advocates are being followed. I look forward to this experience, but I am conscious that the audience for a MOOC on TEL may be atypical of the audience for other MOOCS, so I am not expecting it to be a truly authentic MOOC student experience!

Digital expectation gap

I read with interest ‘An Avalanche is Coming: Higher Education and the Revolution Ahead’, a report released by the Independent Public Policy Research (IPPR) thinktank earlier this week.  While it is worth noting that the three authors work for Pearson, a company which has well-publicised intentions of moving into the HE space as a provider (building on the publishing and media footprint it already has), and there are a number of Pearson-related examples cited in the report as evidence of this revolution, it does contain some thought-provoking content.

However, the assertion I was most struck by was the statement that, in the post-revolutionary ‘mass universities’, which will have an emphasis on blended and online delivery, ‘the variety of courses and learning opportunities will extend far beyond what is offered at a traditional bricks and mortar college, allowing students to customise and build their learning according to their personal interests and passions over a period of time that suits them best’ (p.57).  Having taught face to face, blended and fully online distance learning courses, and been a distance learner online myself at postgraduate level, I think that potentially invalid assumptions are being made here about there being high and consistent levels of digital literacy among current HE students.  As with other aspects of life, there is a broad spectrum in attitudes, preferences and the extent to which students are (and can be) self-directed learners in an online context.

In audit theory, there is a well-established concept of the ‘expectation gap’, i.e. the difference between what the general public think a financial audit consists of and what it actually consists of.  This led me to consider further, is there a ‘digital expectation gap’, in terms of educators’ views of students’ preferences and skills relating to online and blended learning being significantly different from reality?  There is a small but expanding volume of educational research which suggests that this type of expectation gap does exist.  We cannot assume all our students will adapt to a blended or online model, without support in developing digital literacy and scholarship skills, or that they will indeed want to.  Thus, although the report cautions universities against being overly cautious in the face of potentially revolutionary change, these changes need to cater for the spectrum, otherwise a  number of students will be left out in the snow.

 

Reference:

Barber, M., K. Donnelly and M. Rizvi An Avalanche is Coming: Higher Education and the Revolution Ahead [online].  Available from: http://www.ippr.org/publication/55/10432/an-avalanche-is-coming-higher-education-and-the-revolution-ahead (accessed 17 March 2013)

Screencasts in Articulate

Recently I have been using Articulate to create screen casts showing worked examples of lengthy accounting problems which are solved in a series of steps.  Articulate is actually a suite of programs which have lots of applications in e-learning design, so I have been scratching the surface of its affordances.  I have been using Articulate Presenter, which adds a menu to Microsoft PowerPoint, enabling audio narration to be recorded on a slide-by-slide basis.  One of the advantages of Articulate over Wimba Create, which I have used before, is that the narration can be recorded for each slide separately and mistakes easily over-recorded, unlike the one perfect take you have to do in Create.  However, when it comes to uploading the finished screencasts into the Blackboard VLE.  This was fiddly, although good instructions from our learning technologists helped! The screencasts are potentially reusable on a variety of courses, so my aim is to build up a library of resources of this type.  I shall be interested in the student evaluation comments, as I think that students for whom the first language is not English might find the ability to pause and replay the narration particularly useful, as a complement to face to face classes during which they can ask questions  as I work through examples.  

 

What is this blog about?

Hello!  This blog is to share my experiences with educational technologies, which I use to support and enhance my teaching in a UK higher education institution.  I’d class myself as an enthusiastic learner in this regard – I’m not a total amateur, but I have a lot to learn.  

Recently I’ve been experimenting with some technologies I haven’t used before.  I am also working towards an MA in Online and Distance Education with the Open University, so later on this year when I resume my studies, I’ll be blogging about my studies.