Wednesday, August 29, 2007

eLearner profiles: Diversity in Learning

I was very interested in a report of a Tertiary eLearning research fund project 2005 which looked at learner profiles - learning styles and preferences of students for elearning. Samuel Mann was on the research team and you may have seen the questionnaire. i have requested a copy of the questionnaire on CD from the lead researcher.

Jeffrey, L. Atkins, C. Laurs, A. & Mann, S. (2005). eLearner profiles: Diversity in Learning. Ministry of Education, TeLRF project report. Available at: you need to scroll down the page.

What I liked about this research report is the comparison between student preferences for traditional lectures, tutorials and blended forms of online and f2f learning. You may find that these findings mirror some of the feedback you may be getting from your students about online learning. For example, they do not particularly want to be self-directed and do group work. They want lectures and are not particularly keen on online learning which can cause them a lot of anxiety. This is a NZ-based project

"The sample size was 1811 and came from six universities, five polytechnics or institutes and six private training organisations."

Also the researchers categorised the learner profiles as: cognitive voyagers, strategic competitors and multimedia collaborators. If you read the executive summary of the report you will get the gist of the different profiles.

The researchers measured things such as extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, learning styles, dependent versus independent learning preferences, achievement motivation, relativistic reasoning rather than factual,working collaboratively rather than alone, time poorness, global versus sequential learning and reflective versus analytical and much more. It is a fascinating study. I hope you will take a look. Do you believe that this is the same situation for your students.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Persona activity for Facilitating eLearning Communities

I have just finished reading through the discussion on Blackboard around creating personas. The individual persona exercise, quite rightly, became a group persona which reverted back to being a suggestion to create two general personas which are representative of the group. David started off the exercise with a persona based on an analysis of the learning styles and some of the information posted in the introductions.

A suggestion was also made by Cheryl is to name the two personas according to the learning styles for each group.
1) Reflective, Global, Intuitive, Visual; 2) Active, Sequential, Sensing, Visual
Person 1 – Virg; Person 2 - Vass

If you collect up all the posts it is very clear to see the personalities of the group emerging. The characteristics of the group who participated have demonstrated they have a range of skills and can do the following:

  • analyse and organise information,
  • facilitate others towards action,
  • mediate,
  • reflect,
  • become impatient with no progress,
  • get confused,
  • suggest solutions.

I am impressed with how far you have come towards developing a persona or two. It is not an easy task. As stated by Yvonne,As facilitators we could use a single persona to help focus learning activities and experiences based on shared characteristics and I can see how this would work in some circumstances but are we finding this tricky because we're the learners and not the facilitators?

I thought there may have been some discussion about what should/shouldn't be included so that everyone would feel 'represented' and we'd end up with a final persona. So I'm wondering why we've found it so difficult to do?

Does anyone have a response to Yvonne's post? I wonder why was this exercise so challenging? Is it worthwhile to do this in your own classes so you get an understanding of who you are facilitating?

Every suggestion has been from a different perspective, but it appears that although confusion has been expressed, some progress has been made. There was also a name suggested for the group persona and some characteristics, such as below:

Name: The Colossal Squid – not sure if this really fits with the new pic I have added.

Age: Average 45

Gender: female

Learning Goals: 1. To gain more familiarity, skills & ideas for teaching online. 2 To discover new ways/methods to deliver effective learning experiences - not necessarily for full online delivery but as an additional teaching/learning tool.

Background Story: Teaching background (10-15 years), (mostly) married (some partnered), 3 kids (ages 8,10,13), Interests include music, the outdoors, family & friends. Fairly computer literate.
A telling quote:??? I get the sense this will come as the background story develops
email address: Gmail? Generic polytech email?
Job Title: 1/2 time lecturing/teaching (with some online component), 1/2 time consulting on e-learning projects
Photo: Attached – provided by David
Learning Style: Visual preference, global slant, huge active preference

There was also a suggestion by Linda to create two personas based on the fact that “some learners are experienced with technology while others are very new to it,” rather than using learning styles.

Individual personas

Three people have asked others to form a group with them and we are still waiting to hear the outcome of those sessions. For example, an Elluminate meeting was organised last Fiday 17 August. If it went ahead, and am interested to see what came out of that exercise.

Learning styles: There was certainly a lot of emphasis on learning styles, and a virtual chocolate fish to David for getting the ball rolling. This was as good a way as any to get a “feel” for the learners and sometimes learning styles may be the first bit of information you get. Of course if you take the time to look at your students’ enrolment forms you will also find out some demographic information.

Think about how you actually get to know who your learners are in the f2f classroom and online?

Because of the difficulties in getting to know students online, lots of lecturers now take the time to do a learning styles exercise at the start of a course.

Luckily nine people also posted some information about themselves in the introductions forum. As you have found out it is an exercise which may be a lot easier to complete over more than one week when you get to know your fellow class mates through interacting with them in discussions and with them on their blogs.

Once everyone has their blogs up and running, and if they add information about themselves on there, it will be easier to confirm the personae. And maybe as leigh suggests it is a dynamic process which will evolve over the length of the course. In any case, the activity though not immediately satisfying or conclusive has certainly stimulated a lot of thought around who you all are as learners…don’t you agree?

So where to now?

I really like Yvonne’s observations about why the exercise has appeared to pose difficulties. Meaning that it took longer than a week and also seemed challenging for people to get an immediate outcome. It certainly started on time, and it is evident that the exercise needs more than a week and this should be stated from the outset. Maybe it is an exercise which should be started later in the course when we have a better grip on who we all are – personality-wise and professionally.

What do people think?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

eLearning guidelines project day

All the project leaders involved in the eLearning guidelines project gathered today at the Wellington airport conference centre. The steering committee meeting held yesterday was used to plan today's event.

The main aim for today was to introduce project leaders to each other and to discuss items around managing the projects. There were some group activities around finding common ground, sharing ideas and resources, and risk factors. The risk analysis brainstorm session highlighted a lot of concerns. or example, staff turnover, keeping to milestones, budgets, project management skills. It was a very useful exercise. The show and tell after lunch was an excellent way to keep everyone awake and informed about who was doing what. The short snappy explanations about the projects were just the right length (two minutes) to inform. Also the session where we had to migrate into groups of similarity was also very useful.

I joined the design group and it became apparent that everyone was keen to keep the discussion going around best practice in design, and also to share resources developed for the projects. For example, several people are gathering material for a literature review. The Otago Polytechnic project is called: The power of design on flexible learning and digital network literacy

The eLearning guidelines that the project will use are listed below:

  • TD11 Should staff use a team approach to develop and teach the course?
  • TD12 Is the design of learning informed by research on effective eLearning?
  • TO9 Are staff encouraged to participate in networks and learning communities involved in reviewing, developing or sharing good practice in the use of e-learning?
For the demo session today , I added some information about the project to the Otago Polytechnic project space on WikiEducator. This was essentially the project application. The plan is to have a meeting as soon as possible with Leigh and Terry to discuss the way forward for the project and who will be involved.

It was very good to meet most people involved in the projects, and people seemed keen to keep the contact going on group email and to support each other. Motivation and pastoral care from John, the project manager will be very important in keeping us all on track. And I hope people will take the time to log what they are doing regularly and share
their progress in an open manner and support each other.