What kinds of things would you find useful to discuss about online learning?

    • 28th June 2016 at 7:05 pm #261
      Lou McGill

        Come and start a thread on our discussion board……

      • 29th June 2016 at 7:34 am #264
        Robyn Edmanson

          As a librarian and Doctoral student I’m interested in how to engage with students online. My current study has almost nonexistent input from Supervisors – they have simply set up the course site via Moodle and asked that we do an eTivity or two and sat back. This pedagogy 2.0 let’s call it – relies on participants good will as tthere is no assessment as such. So my question is how do teachers effectively teach without assessible outcomes?

          • 29th June 2016 at 9:26 am #265
            Lou McGill

              Hi Robyn

              Congratulations on being the very first contributor to this forum!!

              I hope that others will join the conversation.

              In response to your question I wonder if it is because you are at Doctoral level that the supervisors may expect you to be very self sufficient rather than providing a much more structured experience.

            • 30th June 2016 at 10:20 am #271

                Like most online interaction there has to a purpose for a user to do stuff online. People don’t do things online, just because it’s there. I’m doing an online course at the moment, because it chimed with a developing learning objective in my own work – digital data manipulation and visualisation. I could have read a book about it, but really the topic needs an online approach, because it’s all about online stuff. I also find that ‘doing a course’ (in this case an OU Futurelearn MOOC) reinforces the decision to do it – for me, it’s harder to let it slip if it’s a course than if it’s just some reading.

                I’m also researching WW2 land combat doctrine. This can be done through books and articles, some available online, some not. There’s so much material that most of my activity is offline reading. I have little incentive (yet) to engage in a massive amount of online activity.

                I suspect that it’s a trap to say “I want to engage with students online”. This is potentially confusing the objective with the means to achieve it. It might be better to start with “I want to engage with students”. Then you can investigate the purpose and nature of that engagement. Once you’ve got a handle on those, you can address the methods – the precise means of online engagement then flows from the purpose and nature of the student engagement.

                I should probably stress that I’m not an academic or educator in any formal sense. I’ve done a bit of mentoring around board game design, and I’ve found that in that area online engagement forms a natural component. We speak on Skype regularly, and communicate via email regularly, because those are convenient forms of communication for those concerned. However, this is not to the exclusion of other methods of engagement. For example, we have regular face-to-face ‘game design days’ with a larger group of designers and the folks I’m mentoring participate fully in those days.

                Maybe ‘online engagement’ per se is perceived to be more important for some types of formal learning nowadays? My own view is that online should be used as a mechanic where it’s appropriate. Don’t force it!

            • 7th July 2016 at 11:04 am #381
              Robin Watkinson

                Hi all – I’ve recently undertaken two different online learning pathways. Having returned to learning after 30 years of working, I have struggled with the academic structure that supports assessed work – by this I mean I know what I want to say, I just struggle to say it in the correct manner and to evidence my arguments.

                For me the most useful discussion would be based around collaborative online study groups with on-going formative assessment from tutors – I’ve found support from other students on our informal Facebook page, but we are very wary of discussing original ideas in an open forum in case of plagiarism.

                Perhaps online learning (and methods of assessment) should be made more collaborative, the exchange of group ideas encouraged and formative feedback utilised to lessen the gap between learning in isolation and the dreaded return of grades! Surely the beauty of the internet and technology is its ability to connect individuals and communities, and to promote the exchange of ideas between different cultures and age groups, so I do feel that online learning has a way to go to truly embrace the possibilities.

                Don’t get me wrong I think online learning is amazing, but there are times when I feel I am still sat at my exam desk back in grammar school, my arm firmly shrouding my meagre essay from the prying eyes of my neighbours.



                • 7th July 2016 at 11:41 am #382
                  Lou McGill

                    Lovely post Robin.

                    I think you hit on a significant issue here – with all of the potentials that online learning brings, the formal course development and validation processes may be restricting new approaches to assessment.

                    So there is a temptation to take the traditional teaching approaches and make online learning activities mirror these rather than thinking in new ways about learning and assessment. So a good example is the way many online courses still adopt the lecture approach with talking head videos. I’m not saying these are not valid for many subjects. I think it is difficult for teachers who have to work within institutional constraints or within the confines of their subject’s traditional approaches to try new things. Being innovative means taking risks – and this may mean risking learner experiences or achievement.

                    But there are some great examples of collaborative and open courses that are accredited formal courses. see the US course http://ds106.us/ and the UK open media courses at Coventry University http://comc.loumcgill.co.uk/

                • 9th July 2016 at 12:38 pm #389
                  Robin Watkinson

                    Hi Lou

                    You are so right to mention validation and institutional constraints! When I was writing Foundation Degree & BA courses, the most stressful time came during validation, when the “Clash of the Titans” came – that of academia vs industry. We were often forced into the safe assessment option of an essay, when actually a group project or portfolio (peer assessed by industry stakeholders and fellow students) would better prepare the person and the learner as one.

                    Online learning is having to fit into the safe and traditional assessment model, and yet online horizons are so much wider than red brick walls that have enshrined learning as we know it.

                    With all the changes in education somebody somewhere is going to have to realise that the traditional assessments (and indeed the study models) are going to have to change, and let’s hope it will happen sooner rather than later. There’s a great interest in this, but many academics are scared to stick their head above the parapet, lest the Head of Faculty blows it off!


                  • 11th July 2016 at 4:34 pm #391

                      Thoughful posts, Robin and Alanepaull – which, to me, cover a lot of the points of what makes a good online course. I think it needs the “right” combination of subject matter, learners’ motives for learning, learners’ situations [I’m tempted to add “learning preferences’, but given the huge debate about that, I’ll leave that, and things like time, access, etc, etc., all to be lumped together under ‘situation’] – and the ‘right’ staff, who know when to leave the debate to run on its own, and when to step in. Then, next time the course runs it’ll be a different set of learners …

                      There are some things that I think are vital; it’s the taking note of the advantages that online gives, (e.g. ability to have asynchronous activities as well as synchronous ones); and to avoid as much as possible trying to replicate face to face teaching model (which isn’t without its own flaws). But, ultimately, we’re all different. What suits me, today, mayn’t suit you tomorrow.

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