Wednesday, September 20, 2006

First Trials

Well, the first trials of the OpenLearn site have been completed and I am pleased to say I think they went well. My special thanks to those who volunteered, Anesa, Rebecca, Cling and Rob and also to Phil the IT support person who is from our department. I cannot sing his praises highly enough.

The OpenLearning part of the site is at this stage is very green and full of absent bits and bugs etc. Of course it would be at this stage but it is still possible to see what potential it might have. So what are the outcomes of the trials? Well I have not fully analysed all the detail yet and not even decided on the best form of analysis. It is certainly easy enough though to bring out important points. Many of the technical details would undoubtedly be corrected in due form but I have tried to summarise five positives and five negatives below to give a flavour of the feedback from the trials:

Five positives

All candidates were interested in the site and said they were very likely to return.

The discussion tool allowed interesting discussion and gave potential for learning. The journals were also appreciated.

The site seemed clear to the students and they found it fairly easy to use.

Two of the users found the subject content (B700) interesting.

All the participants enjoyed the French quiz despite the lack of video to which it referred.

Five negatives

Lack of interactive activities

Divorcing of tools from content.

Security and privacy concerns

Some navigation issues (sense of where you are).

A sense of being welcomed as an individual (personalisation).

Let's pick up on one of these areas - divorcing tools from content. In this trial the participants worked with a Business unit (there was not really any other unit for them to work with at this stage). Embedded within the unit were a number of activities for the participants to reflect on including tables which they have to imagine filling in (they are not able to physically fill these in and this was raised in the feedback). Consequently the participants made notes on paper. The journal tool which could potentially be used for note taking was divorced from the content and there was no quick way to navigate from one to the other. There needed to be some way of linking from the content to the this stage of the process this facility does not exist. Ideally, with tables, it would be best perhaps to fill in the tables directly.

I like the idea of interactive text...text that you can leave your marks on whether this is by highlighting, scribbling, marking or annotating. Interaction and feedback means being able to affect change in the objects in the interactive process.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Dealing with uncertainty

In the meeting this morning the issue of whether we would have the 900 hours of course resources available by the deadline date featured predominantly. It appears that we were likely to have 500 hours definitely in the bag and that there were an additional large number of hours. This would take us way in excess of the 900 hours. These however are at some stage along the process, or possibly simply identified and cleared but it was more tricky to give a clear indication of the actual number of these hours that would be available by the launch date. Somewhere along that line seemed to be the best situation available. Of course one hopes that ‘somewhere along the line’ just happens to be at about 900 hours by 25th October.

Other issues raised included the nature of the interactivity that these units would present. It seemed that this would be relatively low at this stage. My own thoughts on this are:

1. interactivity is an important issue although student action in terms of 'doing' is more important
2. interactive tools would eventually be available in MOODLE for students to use e.g. blogs, discussion groups etc
3. greater interactivity would be added to the site at a later date

My thoughts are that there should be something to do other than read content. It is important to also allow the possibility of interpersonal interaction, content interaction, and tool interaction.

The integrity model of transformation does however provide a pragmatic approach in order to aim for the targets.

Will we hit the 900 hour target…I suspect not but there will be a conveyor belt of content coming through…almost as a continuous process rather than a batch wise approach…I estimate 750 hours…let’s see how things transpire.