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.
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Notes from the BbTLC 2018

This is the second time that I attended the Blackboard Teaching and Learning Conference. As Cardiff University has about 31k students and 5k staff using the Blackboard technologies, it is an effective way for us to get involved in the event. I highlight what I have gained from the 3-day conference as follows.

1. Expectations and unexpected facts

Having a conference mobile app and a twitter hashtag is an effective way of organising my activities and not getting lost in the big venue and the busy schedules. One feature I like particularly is the option of “mobile web browser” if you do not want to install an app on your mobile device. Also, following the #BBTLC18 tweets allows me to learn what is going on in other sessions that I was unable to attend. It’s a good way of taking notes and sharing with people at the same time.

Attending conferences is a great opportunity to network. It helps me to catch up with old peers and get to know and meet new people who work in the same area. Especially it’s very useful for me to recognise the pioneers and experts from other universities and to learn how they have contributed to this area. For example, talking to Dr Jonathan Knight, one of the three UK Blackboard MPVs (Matthew Deeprose, Chris Boon), I learnt that Blackboard provides Weekly Office Hours (Technical and Learn) to enhance its support.

Blackboard IM product will end its life in December 2018. Although not many universities are using it, we have users who like it and use it for supporting students widely. It’s pity that Blackboard did not show its user feedback research on this tool before they made the decision. Conversations with Behind The Blackboard are often like to talk to a robot. So I was pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Anneke Bates about my concerns and requirements. Thank Andy McGinn and Wade Weichel for directing me to the right expert.

There is no perfect product and service. With non-enough testing and users’ feedback, the transitioning from Crocodoc to New Box View had brought many unnecessary problems to our users. I appreciated that Blackboard honestly took the responsibility for this issue. I’m also very grateful for the peers who have shared their resources and experience of supporting the transition via the Blackboard Community.

2. Priority

For me, the first thing that I need to do is to check and participate in the User groups. The Blackboard Community has been available for all users for about two years. I haven’t followed the user groups as regularly as I should. I need to go through the information and discussions in the Mobile/Collaborate (MoCo) User Group and the Wales User Group, and keep an eye on the European Ally User Group when it activates.

In Wade Weichel and Dan Loury‘s talk, it presented Blackboard’s platform strategy and upcoming product development. Blackboard becomes listening to users more. So the second thing for me is to check the details of the Q2 2018 and discuss with my colleagues about our plan.

The third is to bring the offer of “Academic Adoption Discovery Workshop” back. Although we had Blackboard consultation a few years ago, I don’t know where it ended. Meanwhile, I didn’t attend the pre-conference Academic Adoption Day on 9th April 2018, and not sure if there were something similar. It would be helpful to see other attendees’ reflections on it if they had attended the first day activities.  I will keep an eye on relevant tweets, blogs, and discussions.

The Blackboard Catalyst Awards can be tracked back to 2005. It aims to recognise and celebrate those in the Blackboard Community that have demonstrated and achieved exemplary practices in teaching and learning improvement. Congratulations to the BbTLC18 winners (University of Derby, Edge Hill University, University of Leeds, Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University). I think two schools in Cardiff University have done excellent work through Blackboard technologies. I will encourage the academic staff and learning technologists to submit applications for the awards.

3. Adoptable ideas

Andy Jaffrey from the Ulster University (the first UK university of adopting Blackboard Predict) presented how they have used Blackboard Predict to explore predictive analytics solutions which would allow at-risk students to be identified sooner, make early intervention possible, and further to increase retention. He mentioned that they provided “Annual report for each school on their Internet”. I think this is a service that we haven’t done enough and should investigate how we can improve sooner. We use Eesysoft to assist the Blackboard analytics. When Andy mentioned the challenge of answering to staff’s question “Can you show me why the student is predicted to fail?“, I took it as a thought-provoking question for both my team and Eesysoft (a very friendly supportive team) to prepare.

Maria Tannant from the University for the Creative Arts shared their experience of developing a toolkit to support their VLE. The most valuable lessons/tips for me to take back include:

  • Devolve responsibility and allocate ownership of the resources to different teams – indeed when we design a supporting structure, we often manage the resources for the original team which created the resources. We did not make the ownership and responsibility clear.
  • Involve QAE (Quality Assurance and Enhancement) – we often forget this one or maybe we do not know how to involve them?
  • Provide Glossary to help students to understand the terms that the University uses, for instance, learning outcome, feedback, and assessment. We are improving at this point. However, we need to make it more accessible for students, and design a way of involving students to contribute to it too.

The Excellence in VLE Awards scheme developed by the University of Southampton is a good example of engaging academic staff to recognise and share e-learning best practices through listening to students’ voices. I missed the session presented by Tamsyn Smith, Sam Cole, and Matthew Deeprose. However, I had nice conversations with them in the evening party. I’d like to share their tips and experience with my colleagues and develop some engagement programme in my institution.

4. Good to learn

  • The close speech from the Professor Richard J. Reece, the Associate Vice-President for Teaching, Learning and Students at the University of Manchester showed us what a Digital university looks like, what the University of Manchester’s digital strategy is and how they are working on it. I like the diagram of the Student Lifecycle at Manchester in particular.
  • It’s good to have the time to read the e-learn magazine (No.19 Learner Engagement) on the train back to Cardiff. The particular interesting reading was the 5 UK highlights in Education on p.67.
  • Not new but still good to see the similar findings of what are the key matters in students’ experience of VLE from Lisa Fishburn’s (Newcastle University) presentation, for instance, More lecture capture, Easy to access resources, Better mobile app, and Consistency of content. I was surprised to see an Organisation in their VLE has grown so massively and pleased to learn how they have stopped the potential disaster. It’s an alert for us to check our use of Organisations in VLE too.

5. Further reading and exploring

The conference can be overwhelming. All in all, it provided opportunities for me to meet people, develop ideas, speak to vendors, be aware of new development, and get inspired. A very big thank you to Blackboard for organising the event. I look forward to working more closely with the community, the peers, the third-party producers, and Blackboard partners.

Jisc Digifest 2018 notes

IMG_20180306_093656It’s the first time I attended Digifest (#digifest18). Thanks for technologies and sharing, most programme sessions are available now.

The key areas include digital strategy, learner experience analysis, and blended learning pratice, especially many from FE.

What did I learn?

  • Many institutions have developed digital strategy.
  • Many institutions have adopted the Jisc Digital Capability Framework.
  • There are two types of digital strategies. One is the  institution commits to its digital strategy (e.g., Lancaster University, UCL). The other is the institution grants the digital champions who drive the digital change (I suppose Cardiff University is one of these).
  • 116 institutions have used the Jisc student digital experience tracker over the past two years as a benchmark. The Jisc staff digital experience tracker was released last month.
  • Institutions started to look into data critically, make sense of data, and generate useful data for students. It’s worth viewing the “Evaluation of student engagement with feedback: feeding forward from feedback” presentation made by Dr Dan Gordon.
  • Students’ expectations for enhancing learning experience include more opportunities for interacting with lecturers; collaborative opportunities; developing digital literacy skills; directing students to use BYOD in a constructive way; being partnership.
  • IT infrastructure and institutional culture are vital in digital strategy implemenation.

What did I think?

  • I heard the view of mirroring physical spaces to virtual spaces. I don’t think virtual environment should be the same to the physical environment, so do the learning activities and experience. If we just think how to mirror physical to virtual, we probably lack flexibility and innovation.
  • The challenge of changing from fixed to flexible study paths. It made me think about how APIs and SCORM were developed.
  • How important the digital learning designer’s role is?
  • Sanbot has visited three HE universities. It said that it can recognise faces, talk 28 languages, respond your questions. It can be programmed to do anything you need. Perhaps I only saw a small side of the technology. I felt it needs a lot of development.
  • A finding from the Canterbury Christ Church University: Students often said that they don’t want to be contacted by email. However, the survey found that students still use email the most to receive information. I guess that email is still the common communication method even though the instant messages, audio messages and video calls become increasingly used. This is because many institutions still choose conventional communication channels.
  • A senior audience said that it’s often the university policies (governance) stopped the university strategies. Sounds like a conflictive statement, but it’s the lesson and experience we should not ignore.

This is my reflective post for the Cardiff University Learning Technology blog.

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.

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: