You are browsing the archive for progress report.

Understanding Learners’ Needs – Week 2 Wrap-up

30/04/2013 in Course information, progress report

The week’s activities began with a good deal of interest and comment relating to the four ‘Readiness questionnaires’. Most comments and posts related to the limitations of this mechanistic approach to identifying learners’ needs. Colleagues identified that differing degrees of self-awareness amongst students, previous experiences of learning (whether face-to-face or online) and the mood of the moment are all likely to impact upon how the questionnaire would be completed and the value that students would place on the automated feedback that they receive.

We were then delighted to welcome Helen Beetham as our guest for the Week 2 webinar, which was enjoyable, informative and as promised provocative at times.  You can view the recording of Helen’s webinar, and can also view Helen’s slides.

During the webinar we considered the purpose of asking students about their preparedness for online discussion, and considered other approaches to identifying learners’ needs which focus less on student deficit assumptions and more upon understanding what students actually ‘do’ in terms of their practices.  Webinar participants were divided about the various ways that learners are willing to engage with technology, which led Helen to suggest that we should be very wary about making any grand statements about learners’ needs and preferences.  Instead, we should be prepared to recognize the situated nature of learning and make opportunities to speak to students about their use of technology, helping them to imagine different learner and digital identities. Read the rest of this entry →

Big questions and learning the ropes

12/04/2013 in About this course, Course information, progress report

Here’s quick overview and recap as the induction part of ocTEL draws to a close and we approach the start of the main course next week.

The aims we set for this part were for you to

  • have a sense of different Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) contexts and some of their strengths and weaknesses
  • understand the range of prior experiences and expectations of the course participants, including those from different cultures, and the implications of these for this form of TEL
  • achieve basic confidence in navigating, discussing and otherwise participating in the ocTEL course.

One of the main activities was to frame a ‘big question’ about Technology Enhanced Learning and there’s been a great array of these. Diana Laurillard gave us a classification of them in her webinar presentation:

Participants' big questions

Diana Laurillard’s analysis of the TEL questions raised by participants

Thanks also to Tom Franklin who provided a more fine-grained analysis of questions posed via the JiscMail list (simple version below, or more comprehensive version on Tom’s blog):

One of the observations I’ve made in commenting on a few of the blog posts I’ve seen is that our suggestion that you come up with a ‘big’ question has led many of you (not unreasonably) to frame your questions in general and abstract terms that could be applied to the whole sweep of Higher Education and the role of technology within it. That’s fine, but big questions can also be personal and concrete ones. For example, your interest in peer assessment and support is a big issue for you if you see this as the only way that you can make your new course work effectively. So don’t be afraid to frame your questions in personal and local terms, as this will mean that, if you hold the questions in mind as you work through the rest of the course, it will focus you on practical ideas that you can apply in your day-to-day practice.

We also encouraged you to introduce yourselves to others, and this has demonstrated both the diversity of experience among participants and the enthusiasm for TEL-related professional development. The diversity was a lesson for us as course designers as well, as we saw the Death by Acronyms forum topic emerge. We will be reviewing all the materials for the rest of the course to ensure we are not too blinkered by the UK-centric origin of ocTEL.

Some questioned whether it was really such a good idea to encourage a thousand people to introduce themselves to each other. In the process of the introductions and the sharing of big questions, a lot of ‘discussion traffic’ was generated and some people felt overwhelmed (indeed some may still do so). The JiscMail list is probably where there’s been most evidence of people being uncomfortable with the communication channel (and I’ve said what we would do differently, with hindsight). We’ve taken the lessons for this course, but hopefully there are also lessons in terms of the strengths and weaknesses of different communication channels that have broader implications for TEL. Meanwhile, the JiscMail list seems to have established at least temporary equilibrium (many unsubscribed in the early, busy days as numbers fell from around 800 to just over 700, but they’re now back up to 790+ as we welcome new registrations).

I hope some of you will feel that, over the last nine days, you’ve got some new insights about what works and doesn’t work for you, as in Sandra Huskinson’s message:

Experimenting has been interesting via the different channels of communication. I’ve found I get replies relatively quickly via all forms of media. Keeping tweets short is a challenge. The learning in either format is good although things are limited in twitter useful links are posted. I don’t think there is a ‘best’ for reflection, challenging or learning as I found each format did this in its own way.

In case you’re a bit of a numbers and trends geek, here are a few figures on the different channels of ocTEL communication as of the time of writing (mostly taken from our Course Reader, which is the best way to track all ocTEL discussions) :

Please be assured that no one person is keeping on top of all of this activity! ocTEL deliberately gives you the choice of which of these channels to use for each activity, according to what you feel is most convenient and rewarding. I’ll be interested to see the trends in how these figures change over the coming weeks.

If you’ve read all the way down to here, thank you, and I hope you feel you’re getting the hang of it. That basic confidence really is the one most valuable thing you can carry forward into the rest of the course.

The materials for Week 1, TEL Concepts and Approaches, will be emailed round on Monday. If you’re eager to get under way with them, they will be available on the website some time on Saturday morning (UK time), under Course Materials.


What we’re learning from you about communications in large online courses

05/04/2013 in About this course, progress report

In this course we encourage you to communicate with each other via several channels, including your own blogs and twitter accounts, and we provide some guidance about when and why to use them. We let you, the course participants, choose which one you prefer.

One of the main purposes of this induction part of the course is to give people time to explore the possibilities of different features and benefits of the different channels. We give you time to ‘settle’ before the course gets underway in earnest.

What we’re finding is that the email discussion list (JiscMail) is both the most and the least popular channel. It’s the one that most people have gravitated towards for introducing themselves and sharing their work on initial activities. That means that there have been a lot messages circulating (good), but also that some people have rapidly felt overloaded (not good) and have opted out.

(For help on getting just one daily digest from the JiscMail list, or opting out, see the FAQ.)

By comparison, the web forum that people can use for posting introductions is relatively un-used, although other forums are starting to get lively. no one has used that channel.

About 80% of you opted into the email discussion list when registering for the course. As some decide that this is not for them, this may fall to 50% or less of active participants.

Whatever channel you choose to use, you won’t miss out on important communication from the organisers. We post all course content and messages from the organisers on the main ocTEL website and send one email at the start of each week directly to each participant. If the email discussion list is used by just a minority (rather than the majority) of participants, we believe it will still be useful.

It’s part of the process of large group dynamics evolving and finding an equilibrium. It’s why we included an induction period in the course design. At the same time, we acknowledge that managing communications in large groups is a challenge for everyone. For help on how to manage the different channels, please go to the FAQ.

There are also some interesting questions and positive points that emerge from this in terms of online learning:

  • with a large, open course – with participants from around the world and in different professional roles – how do you make visible the other participants and their activity?
  • can the introductory process ever be non-chaotic (in the sense of chaos theory, rather than shambles)?
  • how do nudge people towards ‘pull’ or more passive communication channels like forums (which require the hassle of new login procedures as well as unfamiliarity) instead of the convenience, for senders, of email?

Course begins: looking forward to your feedback

03/04/2013 in About this course, progress report

ocTEL starts today. Like the English first class cricket season, which begins tomorrow, play gets under way at the civilised hour of 11.00 British Summer Time. Like cricket, it’s best if you don’t rush.

We’ve put a lot of planning and preparation into the course, but we’ve retained a lot of flexibility and minimal central control. So when 900 people starting using multiple discussion channels, things are going to happen that we probably haven’t prepared for. Please give us your feedback, and sometimes a little of your patience as well, when this occurs.

We’ve deliberately stretched the first induction module to be more than a week long. Hopefully that means you can take your time. If you get stuck or confused at any point, you have time to recover without feeling pressured. The main thing in this first session is to get a feel for the different ways of communicating with each other and with the course. With that in mind, here’s an introductory screencast about how to login (more help here). Thanks to Martin Hawksey for this — Martin has built pretty much all of the course infrastructure.

New course outline and confirmed dates

12/03/2013 in About this course, course design, progress report

We now have a complete set of draft materials for our course, which we will be reviewing and revising during the rest of the March, so that we’re ready to start the course in April. While finalising the course and planning the support, we’ve changed the order of the modules in the course. There have been subtle changes of emphasis in the modules since we published the draft course outline.

Here’s the outline as it stands now, with confirmed dates and with my personal take on what you might get from each part. We’ll post a more definitive outline nearer the start of the course.

Induction and Reception (“Module 0”) — 4-14 April
If you haven’t done an open online course like ocTEL before, it can take a little getting used to, particularly at the beginning when a lot of people are introducing themselves, sharing expectations and experiences. Hence we’ve created a “soft” introductory session to help you get familiar with how the course works, how to participate in discussions.
There will be practical activities related to Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), but informal ones which you can use as a “sandbox” to try out alternative ways of approaching the materials and interacting with others.
This module is deliberately longer than a week to allow maximum time for this exploration. We appreciate that many people may be on holiday during the first week of April. You won’t miss anything by not joining until 8 April; you’ll just have a little less time to play.

Foundations of TEL
1. TEL concepts and approaches — week commencing 15 April
How can I use TEL to improve my teaching and learning practice? An introductory overview of the field, covering different ways technology can make learning better, online and offline. In case you thought Technology Enhanced Learning was just about putting course notes on a Virtual Learning Environment and prodding students through them, you will learn about diversity and concepts behind TEL.

2. Understanding learners’ needs — w/c 22 April
How do I take account of students’ requirements? What we know about learners’ needs in general, including digital literacy and readiness to engage with TEL. Plus how you can find out more about the specific needs of your learners, and how to ensure that teaching and learning are accessible to people with diverse needs.

3. Active learning — w/c 29 April
How do I ensure participants learn through active engagement? An overview of theories of active learning and invitation to critique them. What these mean for TEL, and how to design activities that maximise learning. When and how social media and games can help.

TEL Methods and Tools
4. Producing engaging and effective learning materials — w/c 6 May
What makes good learning materials, how to find them, how to assess them, and how to produce them. The licensing principles of Open Educational Resources and using them to make better learning experiences.

5. Platforms and technologies — w/c 13 May
How do I choose the right tech to support effective learning activities? The unique features of online, mobile and classroom technologies as learning platforms. The implications of these features map for learning, and the comparative benefits of ‘open’ and ‘closed’ technologies

6. Assessment and feedback — w/c 20 May
How do I give timely feedback and collect the evidence to support it? Theory and practice of assessment and feedback, and where technology fits into this via the range of e-assessment approaches. Choosing the types of technology that will best fit the needs of assessment and of your students.

7. Tutor and peer support — w/c 27 May
How do I design and manage support for online learners? Focusing on the roles of human, as opposed to automated, support, including how online tuition differs from face-to-face contexts. How to organise peer support and review among learners, including practising peer review.

Managing TEL
8. Maximum learning for minimum cost — w/c 3 June
What can the ‘enhanced’ in Technology Enhanced Learning stand for? Exploring techniques for making richer learning experiences without adding costs, increasing scale, reach and access, as well as improving productivity and flexibility. Assessing the opportunities of open content, free Web 2.0 tools and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

9. Cheating Murphy’s Law: expecting the unexpected — w/c 10 June
How do I keep my project or course on track by anticipating and overcoming problems. Some case studies of what can go wrong with TEL, including implementation issues, risk analysis, troubleshooting, and dealing with technology that doesn’t work.

10. Evaluating TEL — w/c 17 June
How do I tell what difference I’m making with TEL? Evaluation, research evidence and measuring impact. There will also be time to reflect on and evaluate this course, both as a general example of evaluation practice and to give us specific feedback on this first run. And we will be hosting a discussion on where you might like to go after the course, including nurturing new collaborations and outlining what ongoing support is available via ALT and other channels.

If this looks interesting and you haven’t already registered for the course, please do so now via our home page.

As this is an open course, you’re free to pick and choose from the above and do as much or as little of the course as you like.

So far we have over 300 people registered for the course, from around the world, on the back of near-zero publicity. Now that we have firm dates for each of the weeks, we’re going to do a little more publicity. Any help you can offer in spreading the word would be very welcome. Please follow us on twitter, retweet and share.

In the remaining weeks of March we’ll be blogging some more about:

  • our line-up of guest contributors for the live webinars we’ll be hosting every Wednesday as part of the course;
  • our approach to tutor support and what course participants can expect;
  • possibly how experienced learning technologists can get involved and help us run the course (hint!)
  • and possibly some more about our guiding principles in designing the course.

Course outline – first draft

17/11/2012 in About this course, course design, progress report

The ocTEL project team have now had a chance to discuss and digest the results of our survey, and to think about what implications they might have for the course design.

The results are most useful in terms of what they tell us about objectives and topics that people would like the course to cover, and which we hadn’t included in the description we gave in the questionnaire. These included areas like pedagogic theory, how to evaluate and measure the impact of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), the wider context of digital literacy, specific technology platforms like mobile, how to deal with technology failures, and so on. We’ve endeavoured to add as many of these into the mix as we can.

The topic areas that came out as most important are what you might call the ‘practical coalface’ aspects of TEL:

  • designing learning materials
  • tutoring students online
  • students perspectives
  • designing and managing online activities, and social interactions

Less popular are the dry-but-worthy topics like openness and standards. However, since these are important and, well, worthy of inclusion, we don’t want to drop them. Instead we tried to think of how we could weave them into the course in such a way that their value is made clear. This led into a more general discussion on a topic that bedevils learning technologists: do you organise round the learning and show how the technology serves those goals, or do you respect the interests of those who are concerned with particular technologies or means of delivery. We want to demonstrate, not just assert, the interdependence and interaction between learning and technology.

So the solution we’re going with for now is a organised round practical challenges and problems that teachers and learning technologists face. We hope this will ensure that the technology and learning strands are bound together, as well as enabling the course to cover underpinning issues like openness and standards in a relevant context. You can see a ‘live’ working version of our course outline in this Google spreadsheet. In summary, the outline at the time of writing looks like this.

  1. The Future and Technology Enhanced Learning — induction and finding your feet — 1 week — Challenge perceptions about TEL, and opportunity to check familiarity with basic tools and services
  2. Designing the learning experience — 20 hours over 4 weeks
    1. Work out what your course or learning opportunity is going to feel like — Historical context of TEL and range of TEL approaches, brief overview and orientation of issues on the rest of the course and how they contribute to the learning experience, comparison of approaches (e.g. different kinds of MOOC, classroom-based TEL, simulations, discursive & constructivist etc)
    2. Be clear about how learning is going to take place — Design and organisation of group activities, social media in learning, games in learning, pedagogical theory
    3. Produce engaging and effective learning materials — Design of curriculum and course materials, pedagogical theory, authoring tools and environments, producing OERs, copyright and licensing
    4. Choose the right platforms and technologies to support activities and communication — Mobile platforms, VLEs, open platforms & integration, cloud services, accessibility
  3. Supporting learners — 15 hours over 3 weeks
    1. Understand learners’ needs — Learners’ perspectives, supporting learner transitions, accessibility and access needs, prerequisites for course, familiarity with technology and digital literacy issues
    2. Provide timely, effective assessment and feedback — e-assessment, formative and summative assessment, feedback, peer evaluations, e-portfolios
    3. Support learners with tutor and peer communications — online tutoring and facilitation skills, peer support and networking, Personal Learning Networks and CPD
  4. Managing the process — 15 hours over 3 weeks
    1. Get maximum learning for minimum cost — Openness (especially Open Educational Resoruces) and standards, technologies and techniques for achieving economies of scale (VLEs, MOOCs etc), using free Web 2.0 tools and platforms
    2. Keep your project or course on track by anticipating or overcoming problems — Implementation, risk analysis, troubleshooting, dealing with technology that doesn’t work
    3. Work out what difference you’re making — Evaluation, research evidence and measuring impact of TEL

In case it’s not apparent, I should stress that none of this is fixed: we’re publishing it now to expose the outline to the widest criticism while it is still not too costly to change it. Please don’t be shy about saying if you think we’ve got this wrong.

If you’d like to track changes to the course outline, here’s the RSS feed.

We’re aware of some remaining issues. For example, how to allow learners the maximum flexibility to focus on some areas of the course in greater depth than others, within what may be a linear timetable.

We’re also aware that our market research is not the last word or the whole story. Our questionnaire was (deliberately) short and may have been superficial in part as a consequence. Though we circulated it beyond the standard Association for Learning Technology channels, the balance of the responses seemed to suggest that the respondents were more likely to be learning technologists (and less likely to be teachers) and more TEL-savvy (in that 22% had already done a MOOC) than our target audience for the course.

So we are always interested in more feedback.


Rough cut analysis of market research survey

08/11/2012 in About this course, course design, progress report

We closed the OCTEL market research survey a couple of days ago — many thanks to all the 140 people who completed it.

Tomorrow members of the project team are meeting in London to review the results of this, as well as considering other sources of intelligence that should guide the development of the OCTEL course. To inform that discussion, I’ve done a summary of the key results in the slideshow below.

This includes a rough analysis of the free text responses people made concerning the objectives they’d like the course to deliver, and the topics they’d like it to cover.

This is a preliminary account, subject to revision and development from further discussion. So comments are welcome. I’m also going to see if I can make the data (stripped of all personal information) available under an open licence [Update, 19 November 2012: here is the dataset on the ALT repository].

We are trying to run this project in as open and transparent way as possible. Suggestions for other ways of doing this are also welcome. And, on the off-chance that you are free and in London tomorrow between 11am and 3pm, you can join the project team meeting at Stewart House, University of London, Room STB2, Stewart House Basement (map, please report to reception on arrival). Please email to let us know we should expect you (and best to bring a sandwich in case we don’t have enough lunch to go round).

Introducing the team

29/10/2012 in About this course, progress report

It’s still early days on the OCTEL project, but we are starting to assemble a team and build some momentum.

If you haven’t already done so, and you’re interested in the kind of course OCTEL may become, please complete our questionnaire to tell us what would make it a useful learning experience for you. And if you have a creative disposition please enter our competition to make a visual representation of technology-enhanced learning.

OCTEL is being run by a small core team (no full-time staff) and a support network of advisors, volunteers and kind helpers:

  • Maren Deepwell and John Slater (project direction on behalf of ALT)
  • David Jennings (project manager, DJ Alchemi Ltd)
  • Anna Davidge (web and admin support, ALT)
  • Rachel Harris (evaluation, Inspire Research Ltd)
  • Martin Hawksey (learner discussion management, JISC CETIS)
  • Linda Creanor (advisor, Glasgow Caledonian University)
  • Shirley Evans (advisor, JISC TechDis)
  • Peter Hartley (advisor, University of Bradford)
  • Terry McAndrew (advisor, JISC TechDis)
  • Phil Tubman (advisor, University of Lancaster)
  • Nicola Whitton (advisor, Manchester Metropolitan University)
  • Clive Young  (advisor, UCL)

Update, November 2012: we’re very pleased to announce that Stephen Downes has agreed to join the extended team as a ‘critical friend’ to the project. In case you’re not marinated in recent learning technology developments, Stephen is one of a handful of pioneers of the early Massive Open Online Courses, and continues to work prolifically charting the possibilities of the approach.

Openness is one of OCTEL’s foundation concepts, and we will try and experiment with practical ways of achieving this in our methods as well as what we deliver.

Have you got any tips or suggestions for open project management?

Skip to toolbar