Tuesday, 18 June 2013

#ocTEL Week 9 Risk Management

This week's activity is called"Cheating Murphy's Law". I was about to embark on the first activity - reviewing a previous project and saying where it had gone wrong, what I would do differently etc when real life intervened and I was suddenly confronted with a possibly very risky turn in the development of the Scale Up project.

It may not seem like a big deal, but the IS people have decided they want to get Mac Books for the new classroom.

Now admittedly, some staff in certain specialist areas do use Macs with their students. And some students may well be au fait with the operating system and key board in the Mac environment, but the vast majority of my students are not. I can immediately see a big risk of students being turned off, anxious and frankly perplexed - especially when all of the computers they are able to access in the University's public spaces (such as the library) are Windows based PCs. And let's not even start on staff reactions! Apart from that handful of Art and Design lecturers involved in the project, the majority are Windows PC users: that's the kit we have on our desks at work (and usually at home). It is hard enough getting staff to engage with technology without adding a further obstacle.

Of course IS have reassured us that the Mac Book has "dual boot" (OK so long as we know how to do that) but it doesn't have a dual keyboard...... Is it just me or does this seem a bit daft?

So: Murphy's Law - what can go wrong, will (and especially if the decisions affecting teaching and learning are left to people who don't actually teach or interact with learners). My Risk Log is embedded below -

Friday, 7 June 2013

#ocTEL Week 8 Enhancement

If you didn't already realise it, I am a big fan of virtual learning, TEL, MOOCs, PLEs etc so I have enjoyed this week's assignments - especially the videos about Saylor and Udacity.

I admit I haven't  really thought in terms of reducing costs as far as my project goes, although I know that in my previous job, the decision to deliver the course for NHS managers using a predominantly e-learning approach was based on cost factors.The decision to use more technology in my teaching is really about increasing the sense of fun and interactivity that students get from it and decreasing the amount of time I stand up  in front of them reading from slides.

Weirdly the climate in HE now is so heavily influenced by NSS, Unistats and KIS data that any curriculum decisions which reduce f2f contact in favour of more online, problem based, collaborative, digital approaches are actually being overturned. We are being required to add in hours of lectures and seminars in modules where you would actually be expecting much more independent learning of the students (a final year dissertation, for example) despite the huge cost in terms of staff hours (which are scarce) and rooms (even scarcer).

But cost is of course a factor in many decisions. This week I have been involved in discussions about using a MOOC-like resource as a way of attracting teens into my subject area - a pre-university taster delivered on line. Attracting more students is going to be essential for some courses to stay economically viable. And arguably it is more cost effective all round if students end up choosing the right course first time round.

So... back to the week's activity: the enhancement I am most hoping for from the redesign of my module is that it will actually be much more fun, more media rich and more interactive, both in the classroom and out of it. One thing I have really appreciated from my involvement in three MOOCs since January is the wealth of freely available educational material (ie no cost!), including games, simulations and videos, which can be integrated into the learning environment.

I do think that the redesign of the module is going to be fairly costly in terms of time that I and my team spend in planning sessions and building the learning room on line, but hopefully this will have a long term benefit.

Today I have been at a workshop discussing how to embed Ditgital Literacies in the curriculum. As part of this - and in connection with the Scale Up project - I have recently helped put together a bid to fund student mentors to work with new undergraduates on the development of digital literacies in transition. The use of students as change agents to mentor other students (and staff) is an exciting idea and if successful I hope to engage the student mentors alongside other teaching team members to contribute to a project blog. Recording and reflecting on our progress through the project is going to be an essential part of all of our learning.

I was also inspired by a conversation I had with a colleague about engaging students in decisions about assessment design, something which I think has real potential to increase student engagement - in fact involving students more as partners in all aspects of the curriculum design is a challenge I think I'd like to give more thought to.


Finally, some news - related to all of the above - I am going to the PLE conference in Berlin in July. I attended the inaugural one in Barcelona three years ago so it will be interesting to see how the debate has moved on. I used to think in terms of a dichotomy between VLE and PLE but I now feel that digital literacy implies the management of a PLE (personal learning environment) which actually includes the institutional VLE among its many components. I also used to think that PLE as a concept was a long way from where my students were (or vice versa) but now I see these converging as I witness more and more students arriving with mobile devices and we as a University start to think about digital enhancements to the curriculum that extend beyond the VLE. 

ps: random picture from my recent holiday in Tarragona - street furniture which has been "enhanced" at minimal cost by local graffiti artists: I thought it was a good metaphor for the week's topic! :)