LER & Uses of technology using action research – Week 3

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This week, I have learnt how to start “Action research”. The most interesting activity is to start a cognitive trial, which uses Plan, Do, Observe and Review as a quick test of my research questions I designed last week. I need to test a purposively chosen sample (at least one) of my likely participant/respondents. As I have mentioned in the first week that I am not in the position of undertaking a research study, in this activity, I took a face-to-face meeting with a user as an opportunity to try cognitive trial.

“In Action research you are explicitly placed as a participant observer, whose views are as much in consideration as those of your trial subject(s). A cognitive trial should always be conducted as an action research cycle: plan, do, observe, review.” (From Unite 2, week 3).

I have planned the observation and explained it to the user whom I had a meeting with. Unfortunately, in the meeting it’s mainly to respond the user’s feedback of their experience of using a learning technology so far, it’s not recorded. As I need to provide further information for the user in terms of their comments and our recommendations, the observation commentary will be included in the meeting minutes and guide for the next meeting. An analysis of my findings of the user’s experience so far will be added into our user case stage report.

The second activity is to read an article about the ethical challenges of researching in Facebook and to consider the problems of authenticity and validity relating to my planned research study. It’s useful to learn the AERA (2011) Guidelines and BERA Ethical Guidelines (2011). One particular point about “Confidentiality” in researching an open context is stated by AERA (2011, 12.02.c, p.150) as below. I would argue too that the participants have the right to be informed about the research observation, and their open personal information shouldn’t be identified in the research report.

Confidentiality is not required with respect to observations in public places, activities conducted in public, or other settings where no rules of privacy are provided by law or custom. Similarly, confidentiality is not required in the case of information from publicly available records.

Useful reading resources:

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LER & Uses of technology using action research – Week 2

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This week sessions focus on three defining characteristics of learner experience research below. It aims to help me to clarify the learner experience research that I would like to conduct.

  • Gaining sustained engagement with participants (using technologies)
  • Trustworthiness
  • Participatory approaches (check back the data correct)

How do we gain sustained engagement with participants? 

When advocating an upcoming research study, it would be helpful to present some previous research studies that the researcher or the research team has conducted to the learners. It provides an opportunity for the participants to see how they can engaged in the research, what would impact on their experience, and what consequences would have after the research.

Student representatives in schools and the Student Union connect to students directly. They play a key role in encouraging participation.

Students often connect to their tutors/instructors and schools closely. They see the information coming from staff in the school is more trustful. A learner experience research study could be designed through discussing with the staff first. Then through the school, researchers can recruit more participants.

In my previous experience, I found many of our research studies University wide are large-scale survey and run annually. Considering an investigation of the VLE users experience, I have suggested that we also provide a permanent feedback/comments area in our VLE homepage. So when users have a common about something related to VLE, they can just send it to us. They don’t need to wait for the annual survey to tell us their experience.

A research should use multiple methods that it’s good for participants to participate. For instance, using both email interview, online survey, and video diaries all together.

In addition, it’s common nowadays to provide incentives for participants. Personally I wonder if there is research about how much incentives can affect participation? In my team, budget is limited, it’s difficult for us to provide incentives.

How do we establish trustworthiness in the research?

Trustworthiness is one of the quality criteria for qualitative research whiles rigour is one of the quantitative research quality criteria. To minimise the risk of avoidable errors, I think the key is to be aware of issues in qualitative research and apply multiple strategies. Here are some:

  • Ask research questions are important. It should avoid the researcher’s perceptions and not lead participants’ answer.
  • Ask participants to check and confirm their data during data analysis.
  • Make the research transparent and use peer debriefing to get wider review and checking by peers in the area.
  • To not exclude some group of participants (e.g., disabled people, or part-time students, distance students.)

What is the nature of participatory approaches?

This is an arguable area as it’s related to personal information. I think all qualitative research has bias just like each researcher has unconscious bias. Watching the ESRC’s National Centre for Research Methods video podcasts, I noticed that being different from conventional approaches, it’s to empower participation and encourage participants to collaborate with the researcher, and learn from participants. The inclusive, equal partnership, and ethics preparation in participation are essential.

I learnt new research methods which are developed over the recent 10 years. It’s good to see some of the first studies of learners’ experiences of e-learning used innovative methods to uncover learners’ lived experiences such as email interviewing and audio logs. Meanwhile, it’s necessary to have a look at the self-study materials on planning and conducting online interviews, questionnaires and ethical issues. I particularly like this statement: “The role of learner experience methods is making visible experiences of all learners“. I realised that many of the online research methods have not included the participation that could have, for instance, people with disabilities due to accessibility issues. As I haven’t thought and checked the accessibility of the common online research methods used in my work, this can be a valuable area for me to investigate.

In this week, video diaries as a method of qualitative data gathering for research has called my interest. I wonder how much the students are willing to reflect on their own experience in a video and how truly they’s like to show their experience. I see the potential in this method to include people who rely on assistive technologies to participate in research. It can facilitate learners to reflect on what might help or not help in their experience. Meanwhile the researcher can learn from the participants by watching their video diaries.

Digital accessibility course – week 5

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The last week is about accessibility for everyone in everyday life. I think we all have a lot linking to it.

On 1st October 1999 San Francisco unveiled the first accessible (talking) ATM in the United States. I haven’t noticed if any of the ATM I used in the UK has Talking accessibility. Therefore I searched and found that the first Talking ATM might be installed in 2012 in UK. The first ATM in China was installed in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Shanghai branch in 1988. The first talking accessible ATM was installed in the Industrial Bank Co.,Ltd in 2015 in China.

The National Federation of the Blind in the United States has mounted a campaign The Home Appliance Accessibility Act: seeking sponsorship in 2012 for legislation on domestic appliances. I searched and found the UK law on the design and supply of products. In China, it covers by three laws:

It’s good to see and learn the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). I didn’t realise there are many accessibility guidelines existed.

We can easily find an example of home appliances and self-service terminals (SSTs) outside the home which has accessible issues. Therefore everyone should try to avoid creating accessibility barriers using the universal design principles:

In addition, to reduce accessibility barriers, we should involve users in innovative technology research, design and development. The Research Institute for Consumer Affairs (Rica) is a good example. However, bearing in mind that a product shouldn’t make people feel stigmatising (see the first Principle of 7 Principles Universal Design which is ‘Equitable Use’).

So far I have learnt to be aware of accessibility issues and the Accessibility legislation in different countries, remember to refer to the universal design principles to design/choose products, read the WCAG2.0 guidelines to create accessible web content and use document accessibility guidelines to check document accessibility. More I will take into my practices.

At the end, I have to say thank you University of Southampton and the partner universities to help us understand how important the accessible digital technologies are and how we can overcome barriers encountered by people with sensory, physical or cognitive impairments.

What and How to Teach with Video – Week 2-4

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In week 2, I learnt pedagogically Effective Design for video, which is the essential knowledge in order to achieve the potential of the pedagogic roles. The Week 3 and Week 4 are design exercises. As I was late to register this course, I did this exercise without a peer group.

The Design Principles includes 30 principles defined in 8 categories (Hook, Signpost, Cognitive Engagement, Constructive Learning, Sensitise, Elucidate, Reinforce and Consolidate). This framework is based on the educators ideas at the BBC Open University Production Centre.

As Jack has said that “It’s often necessary to complement video with discussion, printed guidance, practice, formative evaluation”, I can see this course is designed in such way. I really like Jack’s demonstration in each video. In each unit, he provides learning materials underneath the video. In the video, he explains the concepts with examples and used colours to highlight the principles he was talking. His presentation alongside the content does help learners to follow and understand better. For example, the explanation about “control pace” and “word-image synergy” helps me a lot. As when I made a webcast, I spoke slowly because I knew users can change the play speed themselves, but I didn’t think wording and how can I say it in different ways to make the indicate syntax, or where should I pause longer or short due to indicate a new topic, etc.

I like the exercises about which pedagogic roles overlap with the design principles too. The difficult ones for me are:

  • “Concertise/Activate their knowledge” overlaps with “visual representation/analogy/metaphor” and “illustrating concepts”;
  • “Control pace, depth, breath” overlaps with “composite images”, “modelling”, and “condensing time” , and
  • “Maximise cognitive clarity” overlaps with “animated diagrams”.

It’s not easy to remember all 30 design principles and 33 pedagogic roles. However, it’s easy to remember some of the video clips that Jack used to explain the concepts. I will definitely consider what I learnt from this course, and apply the principles that I think the most beneficial for learners when I prepare to deliver video content.

Thanks for Jack Koumi run this open course. Jack Koumi’s latest publications:

At last, I have to say that I found that navigating a course on EMMA isn’t easy. I missed a few assignments, and later I realised that I can go to the course – My Dashboard to view all units and assignments/quizzes linearly, so I can see which section I have missed.  Also the Unit sections should have a number like 1.1 to help learners to browser. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t notice Jack’s blog if I didn’t read his comment in a discussion. He has summarised assignment answers and key notes in his blog, which is very important.

LER & Uses of technology using action research – Week 1

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I started my third MOOC course “Researching learners’ experiences and uses of technology using action research” on EMMA.

This is an interesting topic, which I expect to refresh my knowledge of action research and learn the latest research in this area. Hopefully I will take this opportunity to review a learner experience investigation design I undertook two years ago.

Working in the area of supporting VLE and learning technologies, it’s important for us to know what users’ experience is, especially to know:

  • What’s their views about using technologies in learning activities?
  • What are the benefits and barriers for them when using technologies in teaching and learning?
  • What are their expectation for learning technologies support?

Here the “user” include both staff and students who are using the learning technology. By knowing users’ experience, we will be able to understand users’ needs better, improve our support, and have evidences to help make decisions when we recommend changes. And the fundamental point is if we don’t try to understand our users, what do we have learning technologies for?

I’m glad to read some good resources of learning experience research this week.

  • JISC Digital Student project to explore students’ expectations and experiences with digital technology. Looking forward to seeing more findings.
  • JISC Learner voices in further education videos show that technologies have been used a lot in students’ study. I think it’s necessary that there are investment for students who don’t have fast devices to be able to use technologies easily. Meanwhile, staff and students who are not familiar with the technologies need to have training and well supporting.
  • LSE 2020 Vision – Students on the future of learning found that “A strong belief that technology could overcome the problems of a one to many educational paradigm and help to personalise their learning (students expected this technology to be innovative, seamless and easy to use)…”  Looking forward to reading their Stage 2 report at the end of Summer term.
  • Sharpe, R. and Benfield, G. (2005). The Student Experience of E-learning in Higher Education: A Review of the Literature. Brookes eJournal of Learning and Teaching, 1 (3).
  • Sharpe, R. and Benfield, G. (2014). Reflections on ‘The student experience of e-learning in higher education: a review of the literature’. Brookes eJournal of Learning and Teaching, 6 (1). This review shows the research changes of e-learning in HE, from ‘teacher-centred’ to ‘student-centred’, from “effective learner” to “digital literacy”, from “e-assessment” to “students as assessment partners”. I wonder how the research has impacted the teaching and learning practice?

One inconvenient thing is that this course hasn’t made all learning materials of following weeks available, which is different from my other two MOOC courses that learners can decide their pace.

Digital accessibility course – week 4

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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

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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.

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