Blended learning course II week 2

It is a reflective thinking week for me. The course focused on blended learning innovation and how technology can help for the challenges the VET (Vocational Education and Training) sector are facing.

First, reaching more learners, more flexibly. Without learning the course content, I would say to make learning materials easy-to-accessible and widen the distribution channels are key to reach more learners. Through the course, I realised that developing collaborative learning will improve learning opportunities. Learners can take the task on their pace (synchronously or asynchronously). The teachers can reuse the learning designs and reduce their time on creating learning materials from scratch each time. The UCL Moodle Hub is a good example that shows how Moodle course design looks like, and how learning designs are shared and available for wider audience/teachers.

Second, developing independent learners. Many possible ways here such as peer review that is well facilitated by teachers, reflective learning activities and collaborative learning activities, and flipped learning activities. A combination of these ways will offer students different learning experience. Technology plays a valuable role in fostering independent learning and making teacher’s time more productive. For example, we can use the Learning Designer Tool to modify designs, share design ideas and reuse good designs. Students are able to access learning materials pre-/post- classes and learn at their own pace. To achieve this, it’s necessary that teachers know the best practice of using the VLE systems, the IT services make sure the technology works and fits the teacher’s purposes. The learning design needs to facilitate independent learning activities.

Third, reducing the costs of innovation. Encouraging people to share their learning designs, materials and good practices is important here. Cross-institutional collaboration is increasing gradually. I don’t have many evidence for its benefits. However, my experience with the JISC projects/programmes (cross-institutional collaboration) is positive. For example JISC Digital Literacy development programme and Jisc Digital Student. My perspective is that we need to work on how we can change institutional cultural and adaptiveness, and how we encourage people do so before OER policies are ready in the institution.

My another take-home tip is from the case analysis of “Prospect Training“. To take account of two important barriers to learner use:

  • (a) they made it downloadable, so it could be used on-site in any location, not being reliant on the internet, and
  • (b) they made it device independent, so that it works on any mobile device

More resources:

  • Good Things Foundation is a social change charity that supports socially excluded people to improve their lives through digital.
  • OER Commons is a digital public library and collaboration platform that aims to make high-quality education accessible, and to grow a sustainable culture of sharing and continuous improvement among educators at all levels.
  • Kahoot is a free game-based learning platform that makes it fun to learn – any subject, in any language, on any device, for all ages.
  • Explain Everything is an interactive whiteboard app that allows users to annotate, animate, narrate, import, and export almost anything to and from almost anywhere. An infinite collaborative space.
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Blended learning course II week 1

The “Blended Learning Essentials: Embedding Practice” MOOC started. I have attended the “Blended Learning Essentials: Getting Started” course last year. It really helped me to understand what is blended learning approaches, why it is useful in teaching, and how we can design blended courses. So I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn the topic further. It’s a good way for me to keep my knowledge up-to-date and learn from others.

In this week, it focuses on “how to make sure that when we use blended learning, we do achieve our aim of improving learner success“.

I particularly like the way of explaining to us how we can ‘identifying evidence of learning’ through the case study from an Aromatherapy course in Section 1.5. In this example, the different types of learning in action include below, which are useful for us to conduct a learning design in the later sections.

  • Acquisition (reading, watching, listening)
  • Discussion (exchanging ideas, Q&A with each other or with the teacher)
  • Practice (putting concepts, ideas, into practice in an exercise, with feedback)
  • Production (producing something for the teacher to assess).

The document “Learning types and digital technologies” demonstrates how we identify learning types, what learning activities are included a learning type, what learning experience the learning activity brings, and what conventional technology and digital technology support the learning activities.

The discussions about Learning Analytics have made me think more of the increasing use of data to support students’ learning, its challenges and issues. Among the learning materials, I feel the two articles “Learning analytics in secondary schools” (written by Tim Gander) and “Ten tips for safe and effective learning analytics” (written by Niall Sclater) helped me the most. As we have increasing amount of requirements for statistic reports of students online actions, it is crucial that we know why we use learning analytics and we provide complete transparency and clear institutional policies.

… to raise and benefit success of learners a policy framework must be established that supports the use of learning analytics, as opposed to academic analytics. The use must be driven by pedagogy rather than institutions. (Tim Gander, 2013)

Students should normally be asked for their consent for personal interventions arising from your analytics, either during enrolment or subsequently. But sometimes legal, safeguarding or other circumstances may arise that mean they can’t opt out of such interventions; if so, these circumstances must be clearly stated and explained.  (Niall Sclater, 2015)

It’s great to know that the UCL Knowledge Lab has developed a Learning Designer Tool based on the six learning types from professor Diana Laurillard’s Conversational Framework. The tool is useful for quick developing a learning design, visualising, editing, sharing and reusing it. I have created one from stretch using the tool, and I’m looking forward to exploring it more.

I also enjoy reading other people’s comments and learned learning martial and technologies:

Inclusive learning and teaching environments course – week 3

This is the last week of the course. It focuses on how we can use technology to encourage collaboration in a range of learning situations and the emergence of the ‘technology power user’. Again an amount of learning materials are covered. I’d like to summarise it into five aspects.

First, preparing to support online learning inclusively. Aiming to ensure that the education is as inclusive as possible for disabled students.

JISC has provided guides to supporting online learning. It is imported to make online students feel they are connected with the institution.

Well-designed course activities can make them feel involved, but it’s useful to provide additional online social spaces, such as dedicated discussion forums or regular live chat sessions, to encourage interaction. This also provides an opportunity for students to feed back about the course and their learning experience.

Provide accessible support materials. For example the “Essential Digital Skills and Awareness” resources on the Southampton Solent University website.

The Journal of Inclusive Practice in further and higher education, Issue 5.1 Special Edition (2013) included ten research articles about the disability services in educational institutions.

The SCOPE website lists information of assistive technology and services for disabled people.

Second, considering accessibility when using social media, multimedia, mobile, mind mapping, and cloud technologies. Social media technologies allow people to connect and share information easier. Multimedia technologies allow people to interact with learning materials through multiple ways. Mobile technologies increase the flexibility of reaching online resources without location limits. Cloud technologies make backup, recovery and store documents easier. Mind mapping technologies provide another way for people to present their learning outcomes.

It is necessary to mention the JISC Digital Student Project again. Ray’s story shows how social media technologies can help his learning.

Many universities started to adopt social media and media technologies in teaching. For example, Queen’s University provides Social media accessibility of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Apple, Windows, and Android mobile phone system providers all published accessibility support guides.

Inclusive design is an important part of accessibility and usability. The University of Cambridge developed an Inclusive Design Toolkit which has helped me to understand the terms of ‘Design for all‘, ‘Universal design‘ and ‘inclusive design‘.

Third, considering accessibility in assessment. Thinking about offering different assessment modes and different choices within tasks to allow students to show their learning outcomes. JISC’s Making Assessments Accessible is the handy guide to get started.

Creating accessible examinations and assessments for disabled students article provides some useful suggestion for inclusive assessment. It is from the SHEFC-funded Project – Teachability: Creating an accessible curriculum for students with disabilities.

Plymouth University students and academics talked about their experiences of inclusive assessment and gave their advice on best practice.

A short video created by the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) introduces the way of designing assessment.

Inclusive teaching resources: Offer Flexible Assessment and Delivery generated by RMIT University is a useful guide for people to design, deliver and assess learning inclusively.

Introduction to Accessible Standardized Testing aims to provide design guidelines for building accessible standardized testing tools for Open Education Resource (OER) authors. It is from the Floe Inclusive Learning Design Handbook, which is a part of the Floe Project produced by the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University.

Fourth, thinking about “digital wellbeing“. Digital wellbeing is defined by JISC as follows. It brings the concerns such as workload, lack of time to explore digital approaches, stress and information overload, the responsibility staff take for the wellbeing of students, cyberbullying, and managing time.

The capacity to look after personal health, safety, relationships and work-life balance in digital settings.

Fifth, what can I do in my practice? I think it’s important to be aware of the inclusive teaching and learning as the first step. When I create new materials, bearing in mind the “born accessible” is the key. Talking to people about the inclusive teaching and learning when I support them is a slow but necessary way to make it happen.

More useful resources and tools:

Important developments in technology for Higher Education from 2017 to 2021

A diagram to summarise the important developments in technology for Higher Education

Inclusive learning and teaching environments course – week 2

This week, we had overwhelming information on the topic – how we can develop inclusive learning and teaching environments.

First, we need university-wide strategies and disability policies that help staff to understand the Equality Act 2010 or relevant Disability Act requirements and guide staff to realise and change mechanisms to support disabled students. These are two examples of Cornell University and University of Plymouth which show how they have suggested staff to foster inclusive teaching and learning environments. I think the checklist for inclusive teaching (from University of Playmouth) is particularly useful. It should be a part of the baseline (or sometimes called minimum standards) for VLE and relevant learning technologies in supporting online activities. It should guide not only the academic staff but also all support/professional staff.

Second, can technology helps? Yes, but we need to know limits of a technology, policies supporting disabled students, and teaching approaches. For example, the following statement is on a list of suggested good practice of communication in an inclusive way. It shows technology is not the first solution, we need to change our approaches before use a technology.

Notes or slides uploaded to a content management system or virtual learning environment 48 hours before the event.” (section 2.2)

Then we discussed the use of technologies such as lecture capture, presentations, note taking, TTSe-books, e-journals and students support.

So how about supporting students in different subjects such as STEM, Arts or Architecture? Think about the learners who are with mobility limits, hearing impairment, colour-blinded, or dyslexia, how assistive technology can support them in undertaking reading, assignment, writing, typing, or presenting? Through a few real learner cases, we discussed what should improve, what technologies can be used and what resource formats creators need to generate. My immediate taking includes:

Timely, the latest Inclusive Teaching and Learning in Higher Education as a route to Excellence guide identified 5 risks of adopting a strategic approach to reasonable
adjustments and what possible mitigating actions the HEP can take
.

Resources for us to understand inclusive teaching and learning:

Tools for supporting inclusive teaching and learning:

 

Blended Learning Course week 5

The last week of the course is about wider issues around blended learning: digital skills, inclusiveness, and flexibility. I didn’t expect that it is short and pass quickly.

I wasn’t aware of the Agored Cymru’s Essential Skills Wales provides standards for employment in today’s workplace. It includes essential skills for learners (Level 1-3 – Application of Number, Communication, Digital literacy, Employability, Skills for work and life) and essential skills for practitioners (Level 3 – Digital literacy, Employability, ESOL, Literacy, and Numeracy; Level 2 – Supporting Adults and Young People in Essential Skills). The resource I refer to the most is the JISC Digital Student project of exploring students’ expectations and experiences of using technology. I have learnt what I have done, I could do, and can do for students’ experience in my work through viewing the students’ stories.

I haven’t tried the Open University Being digital Self-assessment pathway, but it looks like a well-designed group of activities for helping learners to assess their digital skills and check if their online learning is effective.

The most impressive statements for me are below. It’s not very new, but it’s very useful to see the research evidences.

Learners’ digital experiences are strongly dependent on the confidence and capabilities of their teachers, but currently staff workload and career pathways are hindering staff development. (Digital Student: Further Education: FE learners’ expectations and experiences
of technology – Synthesis report
)

We must be careful that the educator’s ‘flexibility of time’ is not taken to mean ‘elasticity of time’. This is an absolutely critical issue for the successful introduction of blended learning. The effects on teacher workload are typically ignored in education strategy and policy documents, in the false assumption that going online is cheaper. It can be, but only if it is managed in a long-term and innovative way, which it rarely is. (section 5.5)

The JISC guide to using the assistive and accessible technology in teaching and learning is a handy resource for us to support inclusive teaching.

The Technology Outlook: Community, Technical, and Junior Colleges 2013-2018 is an US project report. It listed top ten trends impacting technology decisions and top ten most significant challenges. In this week I also attended an Educause webinar which shows the technology shifting to meet students’ learning requirements. It is worth reading the analysis. I jot down the impressive statements for me from the two reports as follows.

People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want. (p.17)

Education paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning, and collaborative models. (p.17)

The workforce demands skills from university graduates that are more often acquired from informal learning experiences than in universities. (p.18)

The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices. (p.19)

Too often it is education’s own processes and practices that limit broader uptake of new technologies. (p.19)

The empirical evidence strongly suggests that blended learning conditions (where at least a quarter of course content is delivered online) produce significant gains in student learning. (section 4)

In addition, I have to thank Professor Neil Morris and Professor Diana Laurillard make the course interesting and easy to follow, share good practice tips, and open learning materials to wider audience. Many useful materials about blended learning are available from the University of Leeds.

More resources and tools:

Blended Learning Course week 3

This week focused on three topics: VLE, Open tools and open educational resources (OER), and there were some interesting activities to help us learn the topics.

The first activity I’d like to highlight is giving an example of my learning activities through VLE tools and describing the impact it had on learners, and sharing the example on the VLE padlet wall; then critique another participant’s example from my perspective. This activity required us to practise many skills:

  • Reflective thinking on my own practice and pick a proper example.
  • Making online presentation. I decided to make a PowerPoint presentation through video as it is easy for people to follow my example. I could practise my presentation skills.
  • Publishing a post on Padlet, which is an easy-access open collaborative tool.
  • Awareness of public presentation and writing.
  • Critical thinking on my understanding of a topic.

Combining with some case studies, the exercise of selecting open tools to support learners helped me to rethink why adopt a tool. We encounter this kind of question a lot. People often ask us why we can’t use A, why we have to use B, Is B better than A, I cannot see B is better than A, etc. Apart from the elements of the service situation, it has to benefit users (especially learners) in the specific context. I need to help users to see the choices based on a thoroughly understanding of their use case. There are many open tools for different purposes (e.g., presentation, reflection, collaborative writing), personally I like Google tools, Vimeo, Audacity, Prezi, and WordPressSocrative as an interactive tool that allows users to answer questions, is new to me. I will have a look at it and learn the differences between it and Xerte Online Toolkits.

The third activity is that we had an online Q&A session on YouTube. It’s a good opportunity for us to interact with the educators, which reduced the learners’ isolated feeling when took an online course. It’s an excellent example that shows how technology is used to engage learners. Although I was late to join the session, I could read the chat history and watch the part I missed easily. One thing I noticed is that I couldn’t see how many other peers were watching it and on the Chat during the YouTube Live streaming. I learned a bit of how to broadcast with YouTube Live after the session.

I have a page in my blog which lists free online resources for educators. I haven’t updated it for a few years. The study in this week reminded me to keep such information up-to-date. They are on my to-do list now. I’m glad to refresh my knowledge about OER, and particularly like Neil‘s clarification about OERs and Open Access resources.

OERs should not be confused with Open Access resources: the latter also includes e-resources available on websites, but for these resources copyright and permitted usage is either unclear or not defined at all.

Like previous weeks, I enjoy reading comments, organising my thoughts and writing down, and learning from others. A few interesting conversations called my attention:

  • using Facebook in teaching and the inclusive issues for Chinese students in such scenarios;
  • discussions through forum in VLE or Whatsup, the differences?
  • advantages and disadvantages of OERs.

Blended Learning Course week 2

This week Neil Morris encouraged us to reflect on what we have learned and check #FLBLE1 on Twitter. Comparing to last week, I spent more time on reading comments,  responding some, exploring the resources shared in the sessions, and digesting the topic.

The focus in this week is to help us to get ready for blended learning: (1) understanding pedagogy (2) understanding a wide range of technologies (3) gaining digital literacy skills, and (4) knowing context/environment.

Firstly, the key learning for me is the pedagogy for using technology for learning and the impact of technology on pedagogy. Among the highlighted pedagogical approaches: ConstructivismSocial constructivism and Problem-based learning, social constructivism approach definitely is used in my practice, though I do not often talk about pedagogy when support users. It makes a lot of sense when I think why we support tools such as Yammer, discussion forum, Xerte Online Toolkits, Mahara, Panopto, blogs, and so on.

The problem-based learning is an approach that challenges students to learn through engagement in a real problem. I thought it is to help students understand a topic through developing students self-directed learning. However, I forgot it is most commonly group-based. The quiz exercise helped me to reinforce my learning of pedagogy. I also found an introduction of problem-based learning from HEA.

Secondly, being able to understand technologies and know what they are designed for is my area. I’ve learned more new applications this week, which I may be review or introduce to my colleagues later:

  • iObserve is a video and audio recording app that allows allows you to record observations, time stamp criteria, give instant feedback and create a signed declaration.
  • DREAMS LMS is a remote e-learning and marking system. I wonder if it is like the FutureLearn platform, but provides more interactive content creation functionalities.
  • NearPod is an interactive classroom tool to create, engage and assess. I wonder what are the differences between this tool and the VLE platform like Blackboard. A video introduction about this tool can be seen in the HCUK resources below.
  • The TAGSExplorer (developed by Martin Hawksey) is a very useful tool for visualising a tweet hashtag and its activities. It’s a good way to see what’s going on with the Blended Learning course tweets through a dynamic map. (below is a screenshot)

Thirdly, the discussion about digital literacy skills is not new for me. Although it is still at an early stage of development in our institution, I have been learning it for a few years now. I have shared our University materials in the discussion. As I think they are so useful, I’d like to share them again:

Fourthly, the big environment of my work context is not easy to change. In the case study when Borders College said that it took them 5 years to implement blended learning, I accepted that. Changing is slow in big universities. It took us two-three years to adopt a new technology university-wide. Still I am struggling how to help people get ready for adopting technologies in their practice. I may not be able to change the environment much, but I can make myself up-to-date of the new approaches and skills. Reading the comments in 2.8, I agree that the common barriers for people to embed blended learning within their environment include: unrobust infrastructure for adopting technology; limited finance, and a lack of visionary leaders to lead the transformation.

In addition, like most time I learned new resources:

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