Saturday, October 20, 2007

Structured versus not structured versus guided

Is the Facilitating eLearning Communities course an example of constructionist and constructivist and reflective learning?

Are we like this lego maze (Lego Maze Eric4 by Anvilon)
- structured yet in a quandary and having to find our way around and out? Is there really an end point for a course like this? I hope not....I believe participation in Facilitating eLearning communities needs to be an evolving experience which has to ebb & flow with the technologies, change according to the needs of the participants and catch the trends and waves of eLearning.

I know it is not about mastery learning because the learning is intended to come out of the participants own perceptions, explorations and knowledge development. Plus there is no exam or test. But...

If structured = mastery learning and sequential step by step learning - then this course is not structured. If structured = guided and free to follow your own interests & explore - this course is structured.

I find it quite intriguing that people feel the course is unstructured. Yes there were more instructions for the first few topics and activities and directed discussion than the latter part of the course - yet some people chose not to engage.

The 10 min lecture series has been structured, and also allows discussion and reflection. some people have not been able to engage synchronously and have done so after the events and have made very good postings on their blogs about some, not all the presentations. Others have not engaged at all. Several people have engaged with the assessments - learning log (blog) and wiki - others have not.

I wonder why people feel it is unstructured - or does this mean unguided? Even though there is a learning guide, posted lists of what people should be doing on the course blog, email directions, directed activities for the first few topics, directed assessments, a lecture series, a list of resources, content on WikiEducator etc. Does guided mean something different for all of us? Guided does not equal structured or does it?

In a true constructivist learning community the course is far too structured. There are too many things participants are told to do already. There was very little for them to negotiate. Do participants feel they need to be sat down and directed through a series of topics, and some workshops on how to use some of the technologies? Does structured for some mean teacher-directed rather than learner-directed?

What I would like to know is do people feel they are being guided to be part of an online community? If the answer is yes, then we are on the right track.

Perhaps it is the topic. I believe people learn best how to be an online facilitator by being exposed to a range of strategies and practical opportunities rather than a whole lot of content and theory about how to do something though there is some of that too. Part of being an online facilitator in a community is to experience discomfort as well as comfort. David alludes to that and also mentions the value of finding out things for ourselves.

I am surprised that he feels that participants are "relatively unguided" - people have been given a lot of material to look at and plenty of discussion topics have arisen. The facilitators could have continued to impose very directed discussion topics all through, but instead chose to use the 10 minute lectures as the basis for discussion...which has occurred.

Perhaps what we need now is a short presentation to bring all the threads together for the community - this could serve as a reflection on what we have covered and a stimulus for the next leg of discussion. Watch this space!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Why is evaluation so important?

I was asked recently to present about evaluation for one of the constructing courses sessions. I decided to do an Elluminate session so I could fit it around study leave. However this morning when I was all geared up to present, the server decided to play hookey and go west.

This spurred me on to prepare a slide show with audio (Plan B). The presentation is called: Why is evaluation so important?

It can be viewed on the Internet and doesn't appear to take too long to load. The presentation is approximately 20 minutes long and covers the what, why and how of evaluation and its relationship to educational design.

I would have preferred the synchronous computer conference option so people could ask questions and we could have some discussion. However, while preparing the audio to accompany the presentation, I found I was able to tie things together better. This meant that my presentation was longer than originally intended, but I feel that it integrates the concepts underlying evaluation much more clearly. I just hope my audience thinks so as well. I have also given them the option of both asynchronous and synchronous discussion around the topic of evaluation.

I used MyPlick to upload the presentation (PowerPoint) and audio (mp3) which I created in Audacity. I prefer this site to SlideShare because the presentation and audio can be lodged on the same site. Mmmn maybe "all my eggs in one basket" is not such a good idea.

All this stuff is really helping me develop stronger digital information literacy skills. The importance of this became very apparent today during a research meeting where we were discussing some of the processes we would use to communicate and share ideas. Considering the research project is action research and the focus is digital information literacy, we as researchers will also be learning, not just the participants, through using web 2.0 tools to conduct the research processes. This is the start of my reflections around this project; it will be very important for all of us to keep a log of the process. Preferably an open log on the web where we can read each others entries and really share progress and ideas. This will be very important with the national spread of researchers in the project.