Blended Learning Course week 3

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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.
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Blended Learning Course week 2

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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:

TagsBLECourse

A glance at VLE platforms in the UK universities

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In 2011, I had a quick look at the use of VLE systems (e.g., Blackboard/WebCT, Moodle and Sakai) in the UK universities. The list of universities in the UK referred to a resource from Wikipedia. The list has been changing since then.

In 2011, among the 140 universities:

  • 25 universities used WebCT as their key VLE platform;
  • 67 universities had Blackboard as their key VLE platform;
  • 25 universities used Moodle;
  • 2 universities used Microsoft SharePoint;
  • 1 university used Sakai;
  • 1 university used Tulip, and
  • 19 universities either didn’t present their VLE systems on their websites or it’s developed by themselves. It’s not searchable.

2011list

Using my spare time, I had a quick look at this list again. You can access the file here. Based on it, I searched the use of the key VLE platforms on the university websites. In 2014, among the 149 UK Universities, the changes of VLE platforms between 2011 and 2014 are shown as follows:

  • 12 universities used Blackboard built on previous WebCT system;
  • 10 universities shifted from WebCT to Moodle;
  • 1 university shifted from WebCT to SharePoint;
  • 1 university shifted from WebCT to Canvas;
  • 14 universities shifted from Blackboard to Moodle;
  • 1 university shifted from SharePoint to Moodle;
  • 1 university shifted from Tulip to Moodle.

A general view of VLE platforms used in the 149 universities (2014 September) is below:

  • 70 universities have Blackboard as their key VLE platform;
  • 68 universities use Moodle as their key VLE platform;
  • 2 universities use Sakai,
  • 2 universities use Microsoft SharePoint;
  • 1 university uses Desire2Learn,
  • 1 university uses Canvas; and
  • 5 universities either don’t present their VLE systems on their websites or it’s developed by themselves. It’s not searchable.

2014list

Please note, this is not an accurate statistical research results, rather it gives us a roughly idea of what VLE systems have been used and how it has changed over the last three years. The data were collected by simply visiting the university website and search their VLE(e-learning) platform. I didn’t ask the university to confirm it.

After I updated my list, I also found the HE Systems Review created by the Higher Education Library Technology. I’m not sure how new the resource is.

Learning Technology tools

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I come across this source “50 Education Technology Tools You Can Start Using Today“.

Although I have used applications like those to some extent, there are 40% tools I didn’t know.

  • Animoto – an online video maker that turns your photos, video clips and music into video in minutes.
  • Educreations – a global community that people can create and share video lessons online.
  • FlipSnack – allows people to turn PDF files into amazing interactive books.
  • GCFLearnFree.org® – a free online learning resources for anyone who wants to improve the technology, literacy and math skills needed to be successful in both work and life.
  • GoAnimate – allows people to create animated videos and share with others.
  • LiveBinders – a bookmarking tool  installed on browser tool bar. It allows users to add web pages directly into one of the binders or a new binder in their account by clicking on the “LiveBinder It” link.
  • Poll Everywhere – is live real time audience response voting with SMS, laptop, or twitter. It is free for audiences of 40 people or less.
  • popplet – a collaborative brainstorming tool. It allows users to visualize ideas.
  • Socrative – a smart student response system that empowers teachers by engaging their classrooms with a series of educational exercises and games.
  • Smore – allows people to design beautiful online flyers and publish instantly.
  • Thinkfinity – is the Verizon Foundation’s free online professional learning community, providing access to over 60,000 educators and experts in curriculum enhancement, along with thousands of award-winning digital resources for K-12 — aligned to state standards and the common core.
  • Weebly – a easy tool to help people create a free website and a free blog.
  • Wix – a free website builder.

Personally I feel many these applications are not for Higher Education specifically.

  • Blabberize – a free web 2.0 tool that allows people to quickly create talking photos. Simply upload a photo, select a part of the photo where  you want it speak, and record your audio. Instantly, Blabberize will compile those elements together and you’ll get a talking characters.
  • ClassDojo – a classroom tool that helps teachers improve behavior in their classrooms quickly and easily. It also captures and generates data on behavior that teachers can share with parents and administrators.
  • Edmodo – a social learning platform for teachers, students, and parents. By looking at the demo, it pretty much likes Blackboard.
  • i-SAFE – is a blended compliance enterprise solution that combines the power of technology, traditional curriculum and the influence of social media to educate and empower students through cutting-edge e-Safety education platforms.

Authoring Tools

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Seven Top Authoring Tools” occurred in my search. The term “Authoring Tool” is somehow misleading as it’s not word processing software but a web content creation application. Also terms such as “web authoring tool”, “web page authoring tool”,”course authoring tool” and “e-learning authoring tool” do not help too.

Well, I prefer using “web content management tools” or “e-learning development tools”.

The definition provided by W3C  is clear,

“Authoring tools are software and services that people use to produce Web pages and Web content. “

An explanation in the article “A Review On Authoring Tools” written by Khademi, M., et al is clear too.

“… a program that helps you write using hypertext or multimedia applications and enable you to create a final application merely by linking together objects, such as a paragraph of text, an illustration, or a song….”

There are some sources listing useful authoring tools below. I won’t call them authoring tools, but put them under the LCMS.

Make learning resources accessible

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More and more requirements grow in higher education: public engagement, open, free, easy, economic…  Product providers need to change…

Two pieces of news are about open educational materials:

IC4E 2012

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The 3rd International Conference on E-Education, e-Business, e-Management and E-Learning (IC4E 2012)

It is one of the leading international conferences for presenting novel and fundamental advances in the fields of e-Education, e-Business, e-Management and E-Learning. It also serves to foster communication among researchers and practitioners working in a wide variety of scientific areas with a common interest in improving e-Education, e-Business, e-Management and E-Learning related techniques.

Location: Hong Kong, China

Date: 5-7 January 2012

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