Monday, October 02, 2006

photos of the Future of Learning in a Networked World experience

Some of the FLNW photos.

The Designing for Flexible Learning Practice workshop 4 brainstorm and reflection on the whiteboard sets the scene. watch this space for my reflections on the amazing experience of interacting with a web 2 whirlwind.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Progress with research project and evaluation of business report module

On Thursday this week - Dawn, Tiffany and I met to discuss how to progress the evaluation and research side of things. This is all set up in a wiki for the project team.
We worked through the research questions and methodology and revamped the questionnaire so it is more generic. The information sheet needs to be modified now to suit the different research approaches we all agreed on in a previous meeting - see overview. we need to get the changes to the college ethics committee by mid-September.

Next meeting Thursday 7 Aug.
This morning M, D and I observed a Business communication class (n=19) using the Business report module. The class was taken by I who has also been developing the module. We used the feedback sheet from the OIL website (with some slight changes) and got them to fill it out in class which worked really well. It took an average of 30-40 min to work through. Most of them worked through from start to finish.

We also got them to work in pairs and tell each other what they liked and didn't like, and how they thought the module would be useful for their business report assignment. We got them to write some key things on the whiteboard around these items. They all engaged with the module and we now have several questionnaires to analyse and some potential participants for the research project. In October, after the business report assignments are handed in, we will return to talk to the class and find out whether or how they used the module to write their reports.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Analysis and Evaluation next phase for OIL

The next phase for the Analysis and Evaluation Group for OIL (online information literacy) eCDF project was brainstormed today.

We did this after we finished the second presentation to research forums at both the polytechnic and the university (21 August and 24 August) to inform people about the evaluation processes which have taken place over the first year of the project. In particular, the presentations were to inform audiences about the findings of the research evaluation project - Real use research evaluation of an online essay writing module: In formation literacy eLearning modules project. The audiences at both venues were relatively small with approximately 15 at each event.

Brainstorm of ideas for the next phase of evaluation
1. Which modules from phase one do we need to test for usability?
  • Business report - scheduled for 1 September 0800 - 1000 in computer lab H517. M and I and myself plus D has volunteered to help as well. This could be usability testing and not part of the research project.
  • Science report - will not be used in class this year, but could be randomly used by second year students if they are referred to it by their lecturer. R wants to customise the module for first year students using the online editor. Then integrate it in the first year biology course in 2007. This would be ideal for the research project. Also D to get Rosemary to review the module for the Science Investigation - expert review.
  • NZ Information Sources
  • - review Leitesha and Joseph modules, also review modules with Learning Centre students and staff at university and polytechnic - usability testing.
2. Which modules to be investigated as part of the research project?
Depending on the research design, expert review and use of the online editor for customisation could be incorporated in the research. Also real use with students in class and critique of the modules by users early October). Observation, focus group interviews (record and transcribe) and questionnaire testing of usability will still be used as methods for collecting data when in real use. Also a feedback blog could be set up for participants to add their feedback. Staff who participate in customisation of the modules would be asked to keep a log of the process, and be interviewed in a focus group. This would comprise case study research.
  • Science report - as above.
  • Essay writing
  • - M wishes to customise this module for a foundation course.
  • Digital Information Literacy
  • - expert review & consultation - FLNW** conference visitors - this module and others.
  • Maori & Pasifika
  • - expert review & consultation - ongoing consultation
  • Ethics - expert review & consultation - copyright expert
  • Searching - expert review
  • Evaluation - expert review
  • Springboard (introduction to IL) module - expert review
Need to make modifications to the questionnaire (remove irrelevant features), information sheet and consent form. Also the feedback sheet on the OIL website needs to be modified to collect feedback. If we add an information sheet and include the consent on the questionnaire, then people critiquing the modules of the OIL site could be included in the research project.
  • Expert review will also be obtained re ANZIIL standards.
  • Notify college research office about changes in methodology - information sheet, consent form, questionnaire, research design.

Methods for disseminating modules
  • Add OIL link to institutional websites
  • Training in online editor - introduce mid-September with Terry Stewart eCDF project - inhouse group training first from 4 September when usernames and passwords issued.
  • Google not picking up site.
  • ITPNZ, DEANZ, FLLinNZ, eLearning Directors notified
**FLNW = Future of Learning in a Networked World

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Digital information literacy

I have to prepare an outline for an online module on digital information literacy for the eCDF OIL project.

Digital information literacy is also called fluency, and I like the definition I found on the 21st Century information fluency project website.
This site also has micromodules - small tutorials about information literacy.

Digital Information Fluency (DIF) is the ability to find, evaluate and use digital information effectively, efficiently and ethically. DIF involves knowing how digital information is different from print information; having the skills to use specialized tools for finding digital information; and developing the dispositions needed in the digital information environment.

As well as the definition there is a useful diagram.

Therefore in a module geared up to help users gain skills in digital information literacy, the following needs to be covered:
  • Language and the meaning of terms used for digital searching e.g. subscription-based and free networked datasets, networked information - abstracting and indexing services, full-text material and digitised collections, access points, interfaces, search syntaxes
  • Terms used for digital material e.g. learning objects, resource-based, multimedia etc
  • Range of interfaces for accessing digital information - databases, datasets, electronic libraries, Internet, other multimedia - problem-solving so users can navigate sources and understand their scope
  • Formats of digital information - text, audio, video, images, blogs, wikis etc.
  • Portals, search engines, RSS feeds, subject gateway - catalogue, or directory, of internet resources e.g. OMNI Examples of several subject gateways via the OMNI website plus Internet tutorials on how to find information effectively and Internet detective.
  • Resource Discovery Network (RDN) and web collections and sub-collections e.g. JISC collections
  • Digital repositories e.g. OSLOR, Aeshare, Australian Flexible framework toolboxes
  • FOSS (free and open source software) - examples relevant to information literacy e.g. Diigo ( a web-based annotating tool), blogger, google etc.
  • Digital tools for searching - search engines, subject directories, gateways etc.
  • Data sets e.g. Citation Index, databases, data centres
  • Examples of online resources e.g. NZ National library, British library online gallery - world's oldest printed book "Diamond Sutra", wikipedia
  • Publishing on the web, digital publications
  • Intellectual property and options for copyright - creative commons, JISC models, copyright licensing Ltd.
This module will need to be linked to search strategies, evaluating and ethics modules.


Blackall, L. (2005). Digital literacy: how it affects teaching practices and networked learning futures _ a proposal for action research. The Knowedge Tree, Edition 07.

Breaks, M. & MacLeod, R. (2001).
Joining up the academic
information landscape:
the role of the RDN hubs within the Distributed National Electronic Resource.

21st Century information fluency project

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

initial planning FLLinNZ third round

Our planning session for the Flexible Learning leaders in New Zealand planning meeting all the 1st and 2nd round FLLinNZers gathered at Wiapuna Hotel at Mt Wellington, Auckland. We started with a warmup and a discussion of what we are expecting from the third round of funding and any issues. The facilitator presented on the situation in Australia.

Main points were:

  • competency-based apprenticeships
  • qualifications recognised across Aus
  • maximum flexibility in system - impacts on quality
  • grow private training orgs with effective competition
  • school-based apprenticeships
  • RPL - want to improve uptake
  • industry wants to control knowledge base - web 2 does not fit
  • training providers not keeping pace with rapid technological change - important
  • costs, flexibility and access
  • need training to meet needs of lifelong learners - skills shortages, shiftworkers, contractors, mature learners, just-in-time and to suit learners
  • need to build capability - respond to physical and online environment
    changing role of education and training

key activity: who can we connect with to make the most influence?
often fail to equip people with skills to be able to problem solve and think forthemselves.

Pedagogical shifts

  • more of the following:
  • distributed networks
  • social networking
  • blended and flexible models
  • facilitation driving pedagogy not instruction
  • innovation
  • market changes e.g. full employment
  • Less occurrence of the teacher teaching many.

Examples: Motor Traders Association - mp3 audio files used in training to capture their interest

Caryl Oliver - mlearning - there is a recording of an interview with Caryl.
Manager of 2020: multigenerations, longer later, more teams, flexible working, performance emphasised, innovation

Overview of pressures on the NZ tertiary education sector can be seen on the concept map (to be loaded).

Facilitator talked about Australian Flexible Framework and how we could have links with Australian projects. Learnscope and Knowledge tree online journal. eLearning networks project is running a September Online Event: Tapping into Resources for E-learning 6 - 8 September 2006

Brainstorm ideas
Pictures of brainstorming outcomes can be seen in large size by clicking on photos.

Monday, August 07, 2006

FLLinNZ meeting

Our planning session for the Flexible Learning leaders in New Zealand planning meeting all the 1st and 2nd round FLLinNZers gathered at Wiapuna Hotel at Mt Wellington, Auckland. We started with a warmup and a discussion of what we are expecting from the third round of funding and any issues.

The facilitator presented on the situation in Australia. Main points were:
  • competency-based apprenticeships
  • qualifications recognised across Aus
  • maximum flexibility in system - impacts on quality
  • grow private training orgs with effective competition
  • school-based apprenticeships
  • RPL - want to improve uptake
  • industry wants to control knowledge base - web 2 does not fit
  • training providers not keeping pace with rapid technological change - important
  • costs, flexibility and access
  • need training to meet needs of lifelong learners - skills shortages, shiftworkers, contractors, mature learners, just-in-time and to suit learners
  • need to build capability - respond to physical and online environment
  • changing role of education and training

key activity: who can we connect with to make the most influence?

often fail to equip people with skills to be able to problem solve and think forthemselves.

Pedagogical shifts

  • more of the following:
  • distributed networks
  • social networking
  • blended and flexible models
  • facilitation driving pedagogy not instruction
  • innovation
  • market changes e.g. full employment

Less occurrence of the teacher teaching many.

Examples: Motor Traders Association - mp3 audio files used in training to capture their interest

Caryl Oliver - mlearning - there is a recording of an interview with Caryl.

Manager of 2020: multigenerations, longer later, more teams, flexible working, performance emphasised, innovation

Overview of pressures on the NZ tertiary education sector can be seen on the concept map (to be loaded).

Facilitator talked about Australian Flexible Framework and how we could have links with Australian projects. Learnscope and Knowledge tree online journal. eLearning networks project is running a September Online Event: Tapping into Resources for E-learning 6 - 8 September 2006

Brainstorm ideas

Pictures of brainstorming outcomes can be seen in large size by clicking on photos.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

IUT conference

The last few days have been spent attending the IUT conference (Improving University Teaching). Yes university teachers do care about good teaching! I went as a Doctorate in Education student and because it was nearby at the University of Otago. There were some interesting sessions on offer, and it was a different conference to the ones I normally go to - not eLearning but education.

The highlights were hearing Tom Angelo (University of Victoria) speak again and seeing him in action using interactive methods in a big lecture theatre. The man is magic...and he gets the audience to think and do!

Kathleen Weigert, Georgetown University USA was intriguing when speaking about justice. She asked us to define justice and then talked about three kinds of justice - commutative (fairness in exchange), distributive (allocation and how things are shared), social (contributive - contribute to common good and remove barriers e.g. education).

My definition was: "Doing the right thing to serve the needs of people". She mentioned the importance of policies in institutions matching their practices, and whether the mission statements in our organisations had included statements about justice. I was interested in the Community-Based Learning programme she teaches in where students undertake community-based work to complement their academic learning. For example, students taking courses about homelessness actually work in the community with people experiencing homelessness.

Another speaker, Bland Tomkinson, spoke about the integration of interdisciplinary topics, sustainable development and global citizenship. Although he wasn't a particularly receptive speaker when I approached him afterwards, and and there wasn't any discussion about his topic, he had some good ideas. I will have to read his conference paper.

The first workshop on Teaching Philosophy (Elaine Laflamme) was partially useful in that it made me think about to which category of teacher I belong - my result from the inventory is that I am a humanist, progressive teacher.

I also found Robert Aitken's presentation about using audio journaling techniques with students very relevant - he believes that people think while they talk so the audio recordings demonstrate more thinking about the process whereas written journals tend to be censored and the actual process is rarely documented. The session I was particularly interested on metacognition was presented by someone who didn't know the subject very well, a co-author, so I will have to read the paper.

It was also good to meet up with friends and colleagues from my past biology life, and find out about Rob Wass and his research topic of looking at the Zone of current development (ZCD) and how it moves to the zone of proximal development (ZPD) during study in Zoology.

The podcasting and vodcasting workshop was okay, particularly because I was able to promote Leigh's courses. A little bit was covered on good practice so this was good. A bit gobsmacked to talk to someone who was planning to record biology lectures and put them up on Blackboard. Good for review I suppose. but the idea of taking them down if people stop coming to lectures is ludicrous. surely the measure would be if students liked them and actually learned better.

And the worst presentation by far had to be Gerrie Jacobs and his Powerpoint Karaoke. some good messages about integrity and credibility but too many flashy bits and not enough substance. good lessons for what not to do to an audience.

There were some very good posters - eportfolio at Massey university in an engineering programme, Rob's research study about Learning in the Zone and another one about pharmacy and experiential learning in the curriculum. I also got a couple of free books - one on Curriculum transformation and disability: Implementing universal design in HE and effective tutorial teaching. The former book also had a poster about their work. Oh yes the workshop where L Meyer used a questioning instrument to stimulate self-questioning was very useful. Qs such as how, why etc matched with other words which could be attached to a statement about a topic to get a class to generate their own questions to go away and research and think about. we had to throw a dice and choose the words which matched each number. The game aspect instilled a bit of fun, and the class shared the questions they came up with.

The next step is to look at some of the conference papers, especially the sessions I missed because of the flexible delivery operations committee inaugural meeting - papers on transformative learning - a subject close to my heart.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

More stuff about quality

This picture shows the damage done to the road when the Water of the Leith got out of control in the May 2006 floods. I took this on a sunday walk with the dogs. This illustrates for me that "Quality is about preventing damage in education,not about fencing it off afterwards."

This week and last we had two visiting speakers which focussed me in on quality again. John Milne from Massey university ran a workshop on eLearning Guidelines (an eLearning Collaborative development funded project). All NZ tertiary educators are invited to contribute to the guidelines and develop their own for practical use in their institutions through a wiki accessible from the eLearn website.

In response to a scenario we developed with a student who joined the workshop, we developed a couple of new and very important guidelines, and found several existing ones which were relevant.

The scenario was:
An off-campus multimedia student is using blended methods (mainly eLearning)in a course. The student has a dial-up connection at home and has difficulty getting on-campus access to the computers and software. Not all computers have the necessary tools/software. The student also doesn't have them at home and no access from home. The students are given training in using some software in the first week, then no further training and little support from the lecturer. There is no after hours support.

Some people in the workshop found the session a bit wishy washy, but it was a collaborative and consultative exercise which doesn't suit everyone. Some people just want to be told. Guidelines are guidelines not standards and as such need ongoing discussion be dynamic and continually evolving.

The other speaker was Professor Fred Lockwood, a very experienced academic in the field of open and distacne learning. I went to hear his talk at the university about quality and distance education. I recorded part of the talk and had his permission to use it, though he did seem bemused that anyone would want to listen to it.

In his talk he made several interesting points in the way of questions about what we do in distance/flexible learning. Reading between the lines and through his humour it was clear to me that he thought the university was deficient in many areas - he had just conducted a review of their distance programmes and was helping them with a distance learning strategy.

The points which I identified with were:
1. Learner needs and how important it was to pay attention to them.
2. The need to conduct developmental testing with realstudents and reward them with free fees for such courses, with new flexibly offered courses. Even something as a textbook recommended by a lecturer can be unsuitable in the opinion of the students. This is rarely done at OP.
3. Too much information was a common problem so that students who were expecting to study for 5 hrs a week ended up getting increasingly more stuff to read and hand in until they could end up studying well over the 5 hrs per week. In Fred's words, "good value for money getting 35 hrs a week of study..."

I brought Fred back to OP to speak with a small group (in the Council room with tea) including some managers and people from EDC and other parts of OP which was good. We had an informal discussion and some good points came out e.g. open courseware. Looking out for the learners - part-time, lifelong learners etc. It was a useful session but I wish I'd asked him to chat about developmental testing so the managers could have got the message.

Fred has also asked me to contact him about putting together a book proposal for something from NZ and across countries too for the Open and Flexible Learning series. Not sure whn I'll have time to do anything, but it would be good to coordinate something and collaborate to write a chapter.

Quality is very important in not only attracting students but also in helping with retention. Quality starts before students enrol (18% lost before they "register") and should continue all the way through with the resources offered, access, teacher support/facilitation and should meet learners' needs.

Unfortunately in the model we appear to be adopting, online and product is being pushed which is shoving us along the inflexible rather than the flexible path. If we were truly to meet learner needs, we would adopt a truly flexible model where learners negotiate their content and their assessments and the way they learn. We are trying this to some extent with the Design course.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Quality education and learning

In a discussion today at work about quality processes I remembered the model of education which has been successful for Athabasca university in Canada. Their enrolments have increased many fold because people can enrol for gap courses to complete qualifications they are taking at other universities etc.

Also students can enrol any time and at any stage of a course. To enable this flexible learning, Athabasca has a well resourced production team which goes through a strict quality control process to create high quality learning resources for distance students. The team comprises designers - educational and graphic, technical staff, editors, content experts, a project manager and others.

Once courses are developed for flexible/online modes, student support is well sychronised and tutors are employed to teach the courses which academics had a hand in developing as content experts. The academic staff merely oversee their courses and spend their time conducting research which increases the reputation of the university. Plus they are spreading the word and helping others to produce quality online learning.

For example, several staff have written a book on the Theory and Practice of Online Learning and it is freely available under a Creative Commons licence at: The book is edited by Terry Anderson and Fathi Elloumi (2003).

It provides an overview of educational theory, strategic approaches and infrastructure, technologies, development of courses, team projects, copyright, teaching, support for discussions and learners, library support, quality.

I guess this model gauges quality by the enrolment rates and the reputation of the university. Academic staff become well known because their ideas and research is of a high standard and they get time to undertake research and present and write scholarly articles. This means they are up to date with current trends and in turn this raises the reputation of the university which then attracts students.

The research reputation of an institution does influence the status of institutions in the international arena and I guess this is what has happened with places such as Harvard, Cambridge, Stanford and Oxford. All you need is a few high status researchers and the place goes up in lights...and of course the ability to attract the rich and famous.

Sunday, May 21, 2006



I found a really interesting podcast by Graham Attwell describing and discussing the idea of personal learning environments (PLEs) where students can build up their own online learning tools using the Internet e.g. Wikipedia, blogs, discussions, online journals to create their own learning landscape. They have come about to get away from controlling learning for students, something a f2f classroom and Learning Management System tend to do. PLEs rely on providing a learner-controlled environment rather than a teacher-controlled environment.

This aligns with what is known as web 2.0 where learners search for and use Internet technologies and pick and mix so they set up their own networked system e.g. My spaces, Google, Flickr, ourmedia, MSN etc. depending on their needs. See the diagram of the future online learning environment on Derek Wenmouth's blog Blackboard and other Learning Management Systems belong in web 1.0 systems where software is provided for the learner and learning is very controlled rather than learner-centred. There are some projects underway (ELGG and JISC) to create PLE systems - a contradiction in terms really - see below.

More places to look to find out more:

I wonder is the idea of personal learning environments realistic? Even if we take on more of a facilitation role aren't we still controlling the environment to some extent by guiding students to the content we want them to learn and by assessing them on it?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

web 2.0

I found this very informative article by O'Reilly about web 2.0 technology. It covers the differences between web 1.0 and web 2.0 and made the concept much clearer for me.
Web 2.0 is fascinating and is about making the Internet work for us as when and how we need it. For example, the home page is static compared to a blog Oh yes you can argue that a home page can have all the features such as a blog and wiki, but why not just start with a wiki.

The worry for those of us new to all this open sharing of information is whether others will come along and change what we have I understand that if someone does this, it may well give another perspective or many. It is hard to change people's view of information as we are so used to having words fed to us rather than being able to interact with the words.

Imagine if newspapers provided news in the form of a wiki to which the citizens for whom it is written actually got a chance to contribute. Then we might get much more factual and interesting stories instead o the stories going through several people - the journalist, the interviewee, the editor, etc. remember the concept of the chinese whisper a story changes when passed from one person to another. The root of rumours!

"But what if just any old person got into the wiki and wrote absolute garbage?" What's new I ask?

And how amazing would it be to be able to write a book with others...yes truly write it with real people taking on the roles of each character. someone must be doing this already. Then we could write the type of stories we would truly like to read. This would probably do publishers out of a job, but then how great if the authors made most of the profit and we could take charge of our own stories.... people would still want to buy print books. Case in point, computers have not done away with the paperless office, they have created even more paper.

I have a lot to learn and the next goal is to start podcasting and to set up a wiki for the family geneology so we can all write it together.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

How to enrol in Blackboard

Below is a movie to show you how to enrol yourself or others in a Blackboard course. Give the video time to stream in - press pause and let it load before playing.

If you can't see the movie, please right click this link and download it to your computer.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Flexible design course

The session today got us a bit further with planning. I like the idea of a personal learning plan, and this will be a dynamic work in action and help people to focus on the areas they are interested in. The trick will be to ensure people are well supported as they are taken out of their comfort zones...even modelling new ways of teaching and learning can frighten people. we will need to introduce the idea of the personal plans at the first workshop and follow them up pretty quickly after that to get draft plans operating.

we have plenty of actions and have made a start on the Blackboard shell. I am not that keen on putting dates on the buttons and using the what, how, why, when labels might throw a lot of people...more thought needed on this.

An idea has come to me as I write this. I believe we need to pin them down to the type of plan they envisage right at the start of the may only be the name of a course they teach in but it will ground them in something real. and I think we need to extend the initial discussion about flexible learning to include the plan...what they hope to end up with. smetimes for the holistic learners they need to see the big picture first - where they are heading.

the personal learning plans will help them with the what, how and why they will get there. I would like to use a self-questioning matrix to help them plan, monitor and evaluate their activities - we can start them off with some sample questions which can be used in the f2f consultation about the plan, and then get them to start doing this sort of reflective process themselves as they go. some may prefer to use concept mapping to plan how they go about their activities.

flexible learning committee

T and I have just been brought on to the flexible learning committee and although there was good discussion about flexible learning issues most did not seem to have a clear idea of where the committee was heading re the information gathering for developing the strategy. Probably cos most people were relatively inexperienced with flex learning per se and were coming to terms with the whole concept. Now of course T and I have the job of coming up with the ideas/survey etc. to gather info on which to base the strategy...such is life and the challenge...and swallowing the "I told you so" feeling. It would have been a lot easier if we had been there from the start.

M of course is being roped in to our working group. Plus I will be involving L who is bringing us in to the 21st century although he isn't on the committee - yet. Good to have K as an ally on the same wave length and speaking the lingo.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

bronwynhegarty doctorate meanderings

bronwynhegarty doctorate meanderings

I have been reading this work by Hope Hartman:

Hartman, H.J. (2001). Developing students’ metacognitive knowledge and skills. In H.J. Hartman (ed.), Metacognition in learning and instruction. Kluwer, 33-68. Academic Publishers: the Netherlands.

I like the models she proposes:
Executive management metacognition - plan, monitor and evaluate progress.
Strategic metacognitive knowledge – what (facts), when and why (context) and how (procedures).

These models would enable participants to use metacognitive strategies for the three tasks in their course. This would help them develop metacognitive control and knowledge and also reflect.

For each task participants will be asked to plan, monitor and evaluate their progress using self-questioning techniques and reflect using a blog.

Why do I like the models she proposes:
1. Discipline diverse - these models can be used in a number of disciplines as they relate to any type of learning. The examples in the chapter relate to reading, maths, science social studies, writing.

2. Self-questioning is used and this can be modelled to encourage learners to create their own questions. The answers of course are generated by the learner.

3. Critical thinking - the models encourage this and by scaffolding the learning, critical thinking questions can be developed by the students themselves.

I also like the components of the BACEIS model and the internal and external supersystems.
B = behaviour
A = affect
C = cognition
E = environment
I = interacting
S = systems

The cognitive system includes metacognition plus critical thinking, creativity and learning strategies. It would make it too big a project I guess to also look at motivation, affective self-regulation and attitudes (affective system) which are also part of the internal supersystem.

The external supersystem includes culture and instructional techniques as well as teacher characteristics etc as influences on thinking but they are not really relevant for this project.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Facilitating flexible learning

Today three of us ran a workshop about facilitating flexible learning: how to give great feedback and still have a LIFE.

Overall, I think it went well. Lots of discussion and questions and people were keen to make contact at the end of the class....always a good sign.

It appears that the title and the content offered were timely. There was a big contingent from one school who have a push on to put courses online. This was excellent. They did have concerns, however, about how to get their content online. They were advised to work with the programme developers, and offered assistance to have people work alongside them, but not do it for them. The mentality is still there to get stuff on Blackboard, rather than thinking how they would like to present content and activities, and what technologies could assist.

There was some discussion about models where content is handed over to a team to create resources. Leigh made a good point about models he had seen which didn't work and had cost lots of money. He believes it is best to start with finding resources which already exist and can be re-used...if possible. This makes a lot lof sense.

Some institutions which are heavily in to distance education - open polytechnic, UK, Athabasca university have production units but this makes sense. Open university in NZ used to do this as well, but has found it is more cost effective to enable staff to take charge of their courses and they have moved to Moodle. It would be interesting to talk to someone and find out how it is actually going.

The total number who enrolled was 13 but 3 people didn't turn up. The group were very interested and gave positive evaluations.

I started the workshop off with an overview of facilitating online learning...well I sort of took charge of it really...we did brainstorm how we would approach it earlier in the week, but the actual content we presented was up to us individually. At the 11th hour, I felt the need to slap together some slides...too many bullet points..but for next time I will develop some concept maps.Hey I can try out CMAP.

I will try and get them done before this group finishes their online discussion. This will continue on until the end of the second week in May. Easter in the middle sort of interrupts the flow. The timing for the next workshop will be better. And hey next time we will try out Elluminate for the initial session.

People liked the different cases we presented. Merrolee had lots of practical advice and talked about how she managed the online discussion. It is good for people to hear the nitty gritty stuff from someone so experienced...well I am too. I talked about how assessment was linked in strongly to the discussions. We gave tips for managing prolific postings and motivating people to go online. I really have to do something about the amount of content in the evaluating eLearning for best practice course though...I will definitely be going with the learner-generated model for next year. hopefully i will still be teaching it then.

Leigh gave a very insightful overview of alternatives such as egroups, and how they are very useful platforms for handing over ownership of material to them something they can take away with them when they leave their 3 yr programmes...when they are locked out of the institutional platforms. Some of the OTs were very intrigued with the idea of having a community of practitioners able to remain in contact about professional issues.

It will take time but the ideas are filtering through. All we need are enthusiastic staff who act as "hotpoints" in their schools and talk about what they are doing to others. I do love running workshops with staff, and seeing the lightbulbs come on.

The next offerings will need to be a practical show and tell with staff demonstrating what they are doing. Oh when to schedule all these? We have two visiting speakers coming in May and June, Peter Mellow (AUT) on the Study Txt mobile learning project - article. Also John Milne (Massey) who is coming to work with us on the TEC eLearning guidelines an ECDF project. Exciting stuff.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

innovation JISC online conference

Innovating eLearning 2006 JISC online conference
A couple of entries really caught my eye and very much match with some of the isssues our institution is currently facing. Peter Miller - University of Liverpool
pointed us to the idea of Shared Learning Contexts (SLCs) which are described in Scott Wilson's blog at The diagram of the SLC illustrates a learner-centred model using open source technologies.

Geoff Stead's statement summed it up really - "VLE fervor has put shackles on a lot of creativity from people like ourselves who earn a living using technology to service learning. Five years ago we were creating learning tools that assisted low-literacy learners to find their voice and publish themselves online. We created project-based environments to share problems and strategies for dealing with low maths skills. But these things are impossible within SCORM (the standard VLE materials need to comply with) Almost 100% of the demand we get for resources to support learning need to fit into the lowest common denominator of VLEs ... namely: a single thread of learning objects, each one insular, curriculum mapped, with no connection to the learning process, no inbuilt dialog / saving / thought origination for the student. So yes, they have provided an excuse for less adventurous staff to hide behind. But they have also imposed a set of standards on all purchasing that have ended out stamping out a lot of creativity that was previously embedded in the resources as well. And all with the best intent! "

Some of the replies to this statement, referred to the usefulness of VLEs for staff new to eLearning. My thought on this is that we have basically trained people up to expect the VLE or Learning Management System approach whereas if the use of a variety of tools could have been "sold" to staff early on - through really good resourcing and support - we wouldn't all be caught up in using the corporate, expensive, proprietary tools. Tools which suit the company not the teachers and learners.

There was a very good article on one of the discussions - an evaluation of the use of blogging in a course related to technology.

Reflecting on professional practice by Annette Odell, University of East London. "Applications of Learning Technologies" is an accredited professional development course. Assessment is by means of a portfolio of work built up during the course and a key component within this is a reflective log, kept online using a blog.

This presentation describes the use of blogs on this context; briefly discusses different uses of blogs; reflects on personal experience with using blogs for different purposes and why the 'reflective blog' appears to be a consistently successful use; discusses factors that promote success and problems to be oversome; and summarises the participants' perspective on the value of keeping a reflective blog within this course and as part of their professional development record.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

information literacy modules

I would like to point people to an eLearning Collaborative Development funded (ECDF) project where we are developing reusable Information literacy modules - a New Zealand Ministry of Education funded project. The University of Otago is leading the project and the Dunedin College of Education and Otago Polytechnic are also involved in the project - Dunedin, New Zealand.

See and click on the link to essay writing to see the first module which is currently being piloted.

We have set the modules up as authentic tasks and have funding until 2007 to construct 10 modules. The project has been a very interesting collaborative venture and the team is learning a lot from the experience.
We are conducting usability testing on the raw prototypes and conducting a research evaluation project with piloted modules. All the completed modules will be made freely available across the tertiary sector in New Zealand.

Some of the issues which are arising include aspects such as SCORM compliance and packaging and reusability. All modules will be transferable between different LMS and will also be able to be viewed using a scorm player. We have successfully managed to upload the module in to Moodle. However I was unable to upload it into Blackboard.

We are hoping lots of people will visit the site, and give us feedback on the module.


In the JISC Innovating e-learning online conference Stephen Heppell had a Powerpoint with a list of creative assessments i.e. equivalent to a 1500 word essay - things like creating a video clip, moderating an online discussion etc. I believe this sort of assessment would shake the foundations of our educators. We are about to launch a new course in planning and designing for eLearning and intend to model options like this to our staff.
The other issue is not just about getting students to work creatively, but how to get staff to collaborate using tools such as blogs and wikis.

The arrival of Leigh Blackall, a very innovative programme developer is very timely for our institution. he is an advocate of open source solutions, and open networked learning. I am learning so much from him by just being open to a new way of doing things. He is also taking this approach with other staff, some embrace it and others back off.

Some are fearful of information being put "out there" even i have have to admit to this. Leigh has been here only a few weeks and already has staff podcasting, blogging and using wikis. with this confidence we can now take this to our students....sometimes we just need a push and a shove..oh and i really like his idea of learner-generated content and I'm going to try it out in the flexible design course.

For me it is a breath of fresh air and really enjoyable having someone on the same wavelength. I just hope as an institution we can keep him. I wouldn't like to see the shine lost from a gem like him.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

FLLinNZer visit 24 March 2006

It was great to have a 3005/2006 Flexible Learning Leader in New Zealand visit on 24 March. Cathy Gunn from Auckland university spent an afternoon with several of us from Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin College of Education and the University of Otago. We gathered at HEDC at University of Otago.

We were a small group of seven, gathered to share our enthusiasm about flexible learning. Cathy facilitated the session really well, making sure she found out what we wanted to share with the group right from the start.

My interest was in how people found working on collaborative projects, and I made the point that there were two groups of people when the ECDF funding was announced by TEC. Those who were already working together collaboratively e.g. Jenny, Dawn and I at UoE, DCE and OP, and those who scurried together into consortia so they could get the funding.

My question was why everyone was reinventing the wheel instead of working together, for example on flexible learning and eLearning strategies.

The afternoon included a mix of show and tell - essay writing information literacy module, Cathy's online assessment module, Leigh's open networking sites. There was lots of discussion and the time flew by very quickly. we had a good talk about the pros and cons of SCORM, and Jenny explained about the pitfalls they had discovered on the information literacy project. SCORM actually inhibits reusability features by imposing stringent standards. I should have recorded what she said because its feeling vague right now.

Next post will be about the OSLOR project and John Clayton's visit.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

work meanderings

Its taken a while to get going on my blog. I wonder do I deserve a virtual choc fish for starting and hopefully writing something meaningful.

A lot has been happening at work. For a start we are lucky enough to have visits from a couple of people involved in flexible learning - Cathy Gunn (University of Auckland) and John Clayton (WINTEC - Hamilton, NZ)....more about this later.

FLUG meets Blackboard head on
I have been busy with the formation of the new and improved FLUG - a group of enthusiasts involved in flexible learning and support. With our organisational strategy of flexible teaching and learning, it was timely to change the name of the Blackboard User Group to FLUG (Flexible Learning Users Group).

We also needed to extend the group - so a bigger cross section of people involved in flexible options here could muck in and get their hands dirty.


This way the small core of enthusiasts and people involved with the Learning Management System will have more of "a voice" in some of the changes which are happening here in our organisation. So the Bb User Group has re-birthed as FLUG.

So...what does this mean? FLUG will hopefully provide information to the newly formed Flexible ...committee about operational matters and stuff from the coal face. We also hope to assist in developing some sort of flexible learning and teaching strategy which is meaningful for our learners and staff in the organisation.

So who do we think we are...why should we have a say?
Because FLUG hopefully will represent the "real users" because it is made up mainly of people who get it. But do we?

We all know that flexible learning is a very important strategy for quality education.What gets me though is that every organisation seems to be busying themselves with the development of strategies for eLearning or flexible learning and teaching.....but what are these strategies based on?? What everyone else has been doing..or on the unique culture within an organisation? The former I believe because it is easier.

It is also easier to follow like sheep and stay with an LMS like Bb - the same as the others. It is also easier to stay with an imposition model - a model where the learners are told what they're getting rather than being asked how they want to approach teaching and learning.

The best model for a flexible learning and teaching strategy which I have seen is the one QUT (Queensland University of Technology) developed called the QUT Teaching Capabilities Framework. See overview at:

QUT surveyed staff and students who were using the LMS (Blackboard), to find out what was important to them as both teachers and learners. The project team took their findings and using a process of wide consultation, they developed a framework. This framework now underpins how teaching and learning is offered at the university, and has informed the professional development of staff.

Unfortunately, we have not gone down this track, but have taken the route followed by many. Additionally, we have also developed a teaching qualification without developing a teaching and learning strategy first. Now staff will be indoctrinated into "a way" of teaching which may not be right for our learners...or for our environment.

We have broken the first golden rule! We didn't find out what our learners actually wanted first!

As a result, our flexible learning and teaching strategy may also not be based on actualities but on assumptions. I believe we do have time to find out what our teachers and learners actually want, what their experience is to date and what they would like to see happening.

Wont this save time in the end! We are in a good position to really do something different and lead flexible learning in a new direction.

I would really like to see us get out from behind the herd, stop the baaing and mooing and get to the green grass first...for a change.

Watch this space to find out how the flexible strategy and the teaching qual evolve.