Blended learning course III week 2

To complete the week 2 was not as smooth as I expected because of some other unpredictable work. I went through each section and felt this course does not have as many comments from participants as the other two Blended learning courses. However, this doesn’t mean the course content is not well-organised. I am very grateful for the module providers and educators.

The key points of this week are digital content creation and collaboration in relation to the Digital Skills Framework.

We create/use digital content almost every day. It can be simple or sophisticated. I summarise a list of common skills and knowledge as follows.

Digital Content Creation Skills Knowledge on using technologies Tools / Technologies
Create/edit/publish/share images
  • image file types (e.g., .png, .jpeg, .exif, .gif, .svg, .bmp)
  • editing
  • convert file types
  • backup
  • embed html code elements
Create/edit/publish/share podcasts
  • audio file types (e.g., .wav, .wma, .mp3, .rm)
  • recording
  • editing
  • convert file types
  • backup
  • embed html code elements
Create/edit/publish/share videos
  • video file types (e.g., .mp4, .flv, .avi, wmv, .mov)
  • recording
  • editing
  • captioning
  • convert file types
  • backup
  • streaming
  • embed html code elements
Create/edit/publish/share websites
  • webpage files
  • RSS
  • CSS
  • HTML(5)
  • XML
  • Web domain
  • URL
  • web browser
Create/edit/publish/share objects
  • presentation
  • animation
  • multimedia files
  • web design
Create/edit/publish/share documents
  • file types (e.g., .doc, .odt, .rtf, .pdf, .txt, .xls, .csv, .wps)
  • backup
Create/edit/manage databases/content management systems

We share digital content with others frequently. We can reuse numerous online digital content created by others too (see free digital resources below). Copyright of digital content is the crucial knowledge. It is vital for we to understand what is free licensed online content and how we use Creative Commons.

We use collaboration technologies widely too. It can be a group of people work on organise socialised activities, distant learners take a group work, researchers from different institutions co-write a book, or people undertake a project together. Many useful tools have been introduced in the course. Here I list a few.

  • web conferencing and meeting tools (e.g., Adobe Connect, Webex and GotoMeeting, Skype, Google HangoutsGoogle Hangouts, WhatsApp, FaceTime) You can communicate online either one-to-one or in a group.
  • Twitter hashtags (A way of organising a discussion around topic and allowing people to easily follow through twitter.)
  • Diigo (A multi-tool for personal knowledge management. It supports many features such as bookmarking websites, tagging, creating your own library of online resources, highlighting text on web pages, and adding notes to web pages.)
  • OneFile (An e-portfolio tool that records and manages work-based training.)
  • Mahara (An open source ePortfolio and social networking web application.)
  • PebblePad (An ePortfolio and personal learning platform, where learners can manage their own learning materials in the way suits their learning purposes.)
  • Slack (A Teamwork tool that supports messaging, files management and sharing, video communications and more.)
  • Trello (A project management tool that can be used as a personal to-do list, or as a collaborative online tool for sharing and planning how a group of people work together.)

For me, there are many good tools, but the key is not the tool itself as it always changes and develops according to people’s needs. We cannot use one technology to help learners achieve the expected learning outcomes. It’s necessary to trail different ways of using technologies and find the most useful features that the technology can support for the learning activity.

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Blended learning course III week 1

Completed the first week of the Blended Learning Essentials: Developing Digital Skills online course. Comparing to the previous two Blended Learning Essentials courses, it includes more learning design activities. Although it says 4 hours per week are required, I still feel it’s not enough. If I read all comments and responded all questions, I would double or triple the time.

This course focuses on developing learners’ digital skills for successful employment and modern workplace. What digital skills employers are looking for? How can education help students to gain the skills?

The University of Leeds and UCL have developed a Digital Skills Framework which includes four themes:

  • Managing digital identity
  • Managing digital information
  • Creating digital content
  • Collaborating digitally online.

This week is about the Digital identity and Digital Information, and the next week it will be more about the Digital content creation and Digital collaboration. One of our activities was to find the requirements for digital skills in job descriptions in our own area. Interestingly I read a tweet recently about “Learning Technologist” and “Learning Designer”. My opinion is that they have little difference about required digital skills but some differences of the levels of requirements for pedagogic and research knowledge. Linking to the course activity, I list brief examples between the two according to the digital skills requirements.

Digital Skills Learning Technologist / Educational Technologist (job essential criteria examples) Learning Designer / Institutional Designer (job essential criteria examples)
Digital Identity
  • Knowledge of ways to present information online for maximum impact and professionalism
  • Experience of using websites and social networks in a professional context
Digital Information
  • Knowledge and understanding of TEL theories, systems, tools, their varied applications and potential for innovative practice
  • Awareness of issues related to the use of resources in an HE context, such as copyright, data protection, academic integrity, accessibility etc.
  • Provide research, analysis and optimisation of all digital activities
  • Ability to analyse and process data accurately
  • To plan and manage the development of varied e-learning material, including video, webinars, self-paced interactive resources, and online activities.
  • Experience of administering content on a virtual learning environment or online content management systems
  • Ability to evaluate and quickly learn new software tools.
  • Experience of administering content on a virtual learning environment or online content management systems
  • Good understanding of copyright surrounding the use of digital materials
  • Have a good understanding and experience of web technologies such as HTML5, CSS and JavaScript.
Digital Content Creation
  • Knowledge of tools for multi-media content production, including ideo and audio creation systems and associated editing and streaming technologies
  • High level skills in writing and editing online content
  • Knowledge of design and implementation of engaging online guidance, training materials and technical documentation
  • Ability to create and maintain digital resources for learning – including, graphics and video.
  • An excellent understanding of and confidence with complex IT systems and multimedia content creation
  • Reviewing and creating learning content for websites and other digital products including the content of interactive games, video, animation, apps etc.
Digital Collaboration
  • Excellent team working skills, able to work collaboratively to enhance service delivery
  • Able to work in a team of multiskilled professionals.
  • Work in a supportive role within a team, collaborate with colleagues to solve problems and innovate
  • Ability to create visualisations and prototypes/mock-ups for sharing ideas with colleagues

(Sources: jobs.ac.ukindeed.co.uk)

When we talk about Digital identity, using digital badges is one way to motivate learners to gain more skills and do better. For example, the Employability passport set up by the Sussex Downs College. Primarily, I hope educational institutions and employers develop more agreements on digital capabilities and issue relevant digital badges widely.

Some other digital skills frameworks (see below) are also useful. Basically for me, apart from subject knowledge, what we teach and what students need to gain are the skills that enable them to be adaptive, transferable, resilient and learn how to learn.

As usual, I learned new resources:

  • Tech Nation 2016 Transforming UK Industries  – An annual report that said “… digital jobs and activity are becoming ever more important in traditionally non-digital areas of the economy.” Yes, I haven’t found a job that does not use digital technology completely nowadays.
  • OneFile – a training eportfolio, an assessment software, a CPD tracker, a dynamic reporting suite and a virtual learning environment.
  • Weebly – a free online tool for building a good quality website from scratch. I have seen Wix as a free online website-building tool due to advertisements.

Digital accessibility course – week 4

This week is about making web content accessible.

Although I am familiar with HTML in my work, I have to check my knowledge again by reviewing the Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG2.0) and the Web Accessibility Tutorials. I am glad to read the difference between WCAG1.0 and WCAG2.0 too. I realised that I still make mistakes when using “alt” to describe image.

The WCAG2.0 provides 12 guidelines and 4 principles for creating accessible web content. As more and more multimedia resources added into our e-learning system, I noticed the guideline 1.2 “Time-based Media: Provide alternatives for time-based media”. It’s very useful and can help us to reduce accessible barriers when creating the online resources.

With WAI-ARIA, developers can make advanced web applications accessible and usable to people with disabilities. Reading the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG), I started to think if Xerte Online Toolkit (1) has made the authoring tool itself accessible, and (2) helps authors produce accessible content.

There are 3 levels of conformance:

  • Level A (lowest): It is the minimum level of conformance, which means the web page satisfies all the Level A Success Criteria, or a conforming alternate version is provided.
  • Level AA: The Web page satisfies all the Level A and Level AA Success Criteria, or a Level AA conforming alternate version is provided.
  • Level AAA (highest): The Web page satisfies all the Level A, Level AA and Level AAA Success Criteria, or a Level AAA conforming alternate version is provided.

The important thing to know is that WCAG2.0 does not cover all accessibility problems, therefore conducting conformance checking of WCAG2.0 does not prove your website support accessibility to everyone.

The best way of testing a website accessibility is to combine the conformance testing and user testing as both ways have pros and cons.

Conformance testing includes two types testing below. However, it does not involve real users, but user testing may be time consuming, expensive and having difficulties to find suitable real users.

  • automatic testing, which is using programming to test. You can use WAVE and AChecker.
  • manual testing, which is experts inspection.

Through an example of improvement of a web site by applying the WCAG 2.0, I see the differences between applying WCAG2.0 and not applying it. It’s a good way to make us think about the online resources that we have developed, and what we can do.

Similar to previous weeks, I learnt some useful resources:

What and How to Teach with Video – Week 1

The Digital Accessibility course I took on FutureLearn is very useful. It took my spare time but I enjoyed to learn new things that I can bring into practice immediately. I noticed a course “What and how to teach with video” on EMMA, another MOOC platform. I think it will be interesting and useful too as using video is so popular nowadays. Thus I decided to register. Although I was far too late, it’s still good to have the opportunity to learn it.

Firstly, I list some of the comparisons between EMMA and FutureLearn in terms of my experience.

  • Both websites are easy to use.
  • EMMA is beta version, so loading the course pages is slow.
  • EMMA provides blog functionality. However, this blog area is not course-based. It is a public blog opening to all EMMA users.
  • EMMA blog does not have spelling check feature.
  • EMMA blog – Add New Post – New Post Content – does not support Font and Colours settings.
  • EMMA comments do not support paragraph spacing, so make comments hard to read.
  • EMMA does not have ‘like’ feature option for comments, and can’t reply to a reply.
  • Both websites provide Progress for me to check. EMMA provides more details in one picture so I can see which one I have done, which one I haven’t easily.

The course has a clear structure and it uses videos in an excellent way because it’s topic is Teaching with Video.

The first week is about what to teach with video, leading to robust learning outcomes. It’s presented as four domains: Cognitive, Experiential, Affective, Skills and 33 Potent pedagogic roles. I watch videos every day and make videos occasionally, but never really summarised what I use video for. Taking this chance I will learn it systematically from Jack Koumi.

I really like that it has been separated between techniques (you facilitate learning by using video and you use video to provide realistic experiences) and teaching functions (what you try to teach by using video). At the beginning I was a bit confused between some of roles and a video example could play multiple roles. However, after using the guideline to check some of the videos I watched on Youtube, the 33 potent pedagogic roles do make sense.

Also I quite like the handout for each lesson, and the video in each unit was broken down by explanation and examples. As I registered late, reading other people’s comments are interesting. However, there are other languages in it, which is difficult for me to understand. I don’t know if EMMA can provide automatic translation for these non-English languages.

Digital accessibility course – week 2

I enjoyed learning new and practical things in week two.

I add two things of the course design which have given me good experience.

  • It provides exercises and quiz in the section which are designed timely and not lengthy.
  • People’s comments provide extra useful resources.

Technology can be very helpful. Human can design and create assistive technology to compensate for limitations relative to mobility and speech. I suppose this is “When God closes a door, He always opens a window.” Having a disability does not exclude people from discovering and pursuing their passions in life. The incredible examples are:

I have started to aware many technologies I never heard of. I listed some below. I thought I would be able to use these technologies easily, but actually it’s complex, especially I had to try them in some way that I don’t usually do. For instance, I tried the NVDA on Windows 10. I closed my eyes, and only used the keyboard to work out what a webpage looks like by listening to what the software tells me. It’s no success I could follow and find the information easily. Listening to the robot voice made me tired and annoyed too. The exercises let me see how technologies/documents/webpages have been designed without thinking of accessibility. Online resource creators (including me) can easily forget the accessibility guidelines.

The most import point of this week is learning how to make document accessible. Here are things I learnt particularly and I have started to apply them in my own document creation from this week.

  • I never noticed that there is an “Insert captions” feature for an image in MS-Word. I often create an caption under the figure/image myself.
  • Between Decorative image, Informative image, and Functional image, I felt I haven’t used the “alt” tag in the functional images properly most of time. The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative tutorial is really helpful.
  • Using”alt” tag for Group of images
  • A mistake – using style (e.g, bold enlarged text) instead of proper headings
  • A mistake – putting blank lines between paragraphs rather than setting the “space before/after” attribute for paragraphs
  • The accessibility guideline provided in the course is very useful for auditing a document for accessibility.

Digital accessibility course – week 1

I registered the “Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society” online course, which started on 6th February.

With my previous experience of a software engineer, I knew that the good or bad of an application is largely related to how much the designers/programmers know their users. I took an “Interaction Design” course as a part of my degree many many years ago. I learnt how our own brain illusion can affect our understanding and designs. Although in my work I haven’t been involved in creating/developing products/applications any more, I see many examples of learning content delivered without thoughtful design and users complaining about the difficulty and inconvenience when use a system (including myself!). I hope through this course, I refresh my knowledge; learn this topic systematically, especially considering the disabled/elderly users, which I may not have enough knowledge of; and start to improve my practices.

This is my first MOOC experience. Because it doesn’t have a blog area in the course, I decide to write down my experience here.

First, I noticed the course itself is a good example regarding to digital accessibility. I list some.

  • It clearly presents online communication etiquette and content copyright.
  • It provides transcript for each audio/video clip. The transcript is easy to read and searchable. I can access to it at any time.
  • It provides a glossary (downloadable) which helps us to check the vocabularies used in the course.
  • The comments field supports editing and spelling check, which is very useful to avoid typos.
  • I can check my comments and progress quickly.
  • Video materials are downloadable.
  • Audio materials can be set to play with different speed.

Second, the most mind-opening statements for me are:

  • Professor Mike Wald said “Everybody can think of themselves as only temporarily not having a disability, because at some point in their life as they get older, they will have some sort of disability.
  • “… disability is caused by the way society is organised, rather than by a person’s impairment or difference. … An impairment is defined as long-term limitation of a person’s physical, mental or sensory function.” from Scope
  • The term ‘Usability’ is normally used to refer to the actual use of the technology by a particular target group of users and contexts (e.g. including whether they find it easy to learn to use). The term ‘Accessibility’ is normally used to refer to the use of the technology by everyone rather than just a specific group of users (e.g. including whether blind people can also use the technology).”  from section 1.6.
  • Up to one in seven people in Europe may have speech, language and literacy difficulties at some time in their lives.” from section 1.15.
  • As Neil Milliken said that “everyone in an organisation should have some knowledge of the issues that affect one in five of the population”. I think I never even asked myself what is the issue?

Third, the new knowledge that I knew little about:

  • I realised how little knowledge I have about the UK law/legislation. I learnt that “…only Accessibility has actual legislation making it illegal to disadvantage a disabled person through an inaccessible product or service.” In the UK, it’s the Disability Equality Act (2010).
  • Everyone can influence their organisation. However, to be able to do so, it needs a hub and spoke, effectively, and champions. More importantly, it needs an executive sponsor who is higher-up enough to support companions.
  • Subtitles and captions are different. I now know why Blackboard Collaborate product uses the term ‘captions’.
  • Seeing the examples of people who have dyslexia, hearing impairment, deaf, visual impairment, and cerebral palsy, and the discussions about the challenges they face daily, I appreciate what I have. I started to see more of people’s needs and learn the existing technologies that they are using but I haven’t heard of.

Fourth, the course opens many resources to us. I am starting to think how much work I have been involved in has met the Accessibility standard, and how many of our current web resources follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. The new tools/resources that I can immediately use in my practice are:

Finally, I list a few inconvenient points.

  • The learning resource links are not opened in a new window/tab. When click on a link, it opens in the same window, which if you are typing some comments and click on a link accidentally, you will lose the unpublished comments. You need to type again.
  • It does not support ‘searching’ in the course.
  • It suggests that 3 hours/week studying time are needed. In fact, I have spent much more time on learning course materials, reading people’s comments, posting comments, and digesting what I learned in this week. Is it because I haven’t been a student for too long? I guess if the learner has already had the background knowledge, they can learn much quicker than I did, but still 3 hours/week seems impossible.

Don’t ignore the web design concepts in your interactive materials

Nowadays many web-based tools are designed easy-to-use. Users can quickly deliver content through webpages. However, we notice that people may not consider the web design elements when they create interactive teaching materials online.

Questions we often come across are like below. It’s hard for people to know everything of web design and their user experience. So I list some quick resources that may help you to design online materials better.

  • I want to use an image on the page, but where can I get good free images?

There are massive image resources on the Internet. However finding a suitable image from a reliable resource and using the image legally are the key. The UK Intellectual Property Office has published an Intellectual property – guidance: Copyright notices. Before you searching images, read it first. Below are useful resources for you.

  • Why does the image look differently on other people’s machine from mine?

Your audiences view the page using different mobiles, tablets and browsers. Different web browsers that are created by different companies may not display web pages the same way. Thus, make sure you have tried on different devices if possible and make sure your webpages are cross-browser compatibility. Using some of the recommended tools to check your webpages.

  • What highlight colour on the page should I use if I want call people’s attention?

Think about what theme colours you have on your webpage. Who are the audience? Does the page or image on the page contain red/green colours combination that may affect colour blind users? Do you have more than three key colours on the page? What do you want to highlight, for instance texts or a specific area. Is it possible to call user’s attention without to use highlight colours? Ask random audience to have a look at your webpage and see how they respond to it.

Using some of the resources to improve your pages.