Topic 5: Lessons Learnt – Future Practice

  • What are the most important things that I have learnt through my engagement in the ONL course? Why?

From the start, I was slightly scared and apprehensive.  I was not clear as to what to expect.  The first thing that I learned is that I was not the only that was scared and a little apprehensive.  The next thing I learned was…just do it i.e. overcome your fears and embrace this new challenge.  I was fortunate to be part of a group in which we supported each other, everyone was in it for the right reasons and the perspectives shared was amazing.  Our learning was scaffolded and within a very short time we went from crawling to running.  Because of the amazing people in my group and the support and encouragement I learned how to use new tools which in my mind started a process of rethinking….how can I make things better for my students?  The whole experience sensitized me more to what my first year students might be going through as they recently embarked on a new learning journey of their own with new rules and new structures and new demands and how confused they might have been or still are.

  • How will my learning influence my practice?
  1. Be more sensitive…my students are new, to not only higher education but also each module they complete.
  2. I will place more emphasis on how I scaffold their learning.
  3. Set realistic expectations for them so that they feel more in control of what is happening.
  4. Create more opportunities for peer-to-peer learning so that they start constructing support networks for themselves.
  5. Consider the blend and obtain feedback regarding what happens in class to set in motion continuous improvement and thereby encouraging them to engage more.
  • What are my thoughts about using technology to enhance learning/teaching in my own context?

Technology in teaching and learning is empowering.  It enables students to, in a manner of speaking, study at their own pace.  Yes, I do introduce students to concepts in class but technology enables persistence of information which means that the student can go back to the content and re-engage with it, reflect on it and help them identify areas where they need additional help thereby making support from my side as a lecturer more focused.  I have learned to use so many new tools which can support collaboration and peer to peer learning.

  • What suggestions do I have (activities and/or in general) for development of eLearning in my own teaching or context? 

I intend on using Padlet for my assessment preparation classes so that students get a good overview of the concepts covered in a particular learning unit and how these concepts relate.

I am fortunate that my institution supports the implementation of eLearning initiatives and will make full use of the tools to actively engage in the learning design process and in turn learn from my students to ensure that they get the best I have to offer.

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Topic 4: Design For Online Blended Learning

  • Reflection on my current practice and reason about possibilities for development of online and blended learning designs:

In addition to lecturing at my current institution, I am also contracted to develop module guides and assesments, both formative and summative.  The one module I develop has a Portfolio of Evidence serving as summative assessment.  Looking at the purpose of the POE, which is to serve as testimony and showcase student’s knowledge and understanding of the concepts they learned about, I see the possibility of incorporating the use of a blog, rather than a hard copy submission of the POE only.  With this blog students can really showcase their talent, not only to the lecturers for a summative mark, but also to the world.  This can be viewed by prospective employers who will bear witness to the student’s understanding and capabilities rather than just seeing a CV.  By then opening up the blog for others to comment on, students can improve on their current way of doing and the process of continuous learning is ignited.

I have found that a lot of my learners are visual learners and love seeing their contributions made in class fit in somewhere, being part of something.  During the ONL course, I was introduced to Padlet.  It was fun adding my thoughts and seeing how everything came together.  I can definitely make use of Padlet in some of my classes, allowing students to add their thoughts, as Popplets, giving, even the silent learner the opportunity to contribute and giving all learners the opportunity to see the bigger picture, enabling them to reflect on what they have learned.

  • Reflection on how I can provide better support and scaffolding to students in online and blended learning environments:

Constructive alignment comes into play here.  Having been involved in discussions around constructive alignment, has reiterated the importance of proper planning and an early focus on what do I want the student to know/ understand/ do and early on identify activities that are best suited to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge, understanding and skill development.  By consciously applying constructive alignment to my lesson plans, I am in a better position to scaffold the learning process for my students in class.  One of my modules deal with the theoretical basis of programming.  I introduce the concept in very simple terms, this introduction is followed by a small exercise where students get to apply the concept to a very simple scenario.  I keep it simple and watch the responses as students find their feet first.  Once they have found their feet and they appear comfortable, I start building elements into the scenario, again followed by an exercise in integrating the concept into their first solution.  This continues until students have a complete picture of the what and the how.  I then build a bridge to their practical module by helping them understand how the solution they have just designed can be implemented using the programming language they are currently learning to master.  Students often compartmentalize their knowledge and when they do that, they seize to understand the purpose of what they are learning and as a result lose interest, setting themselves up for failure.  I help them integrate the various modules to the best of my ability through appropriate activities.  ONL has really driven home the importance of constructive alignment.  I have always tried to implement this, but since I have been part of this group, I have tried even harder.

  • Are there opportunities for further development in this area, that you have identified as a result of your own experiences as a learner in the ONL course and of your engagement in this topic?

I will never forget my first year Systems Analysis and Design lecturer’s words “When you get to the point where you think your system is perfect and that you are done….you are not doing your job”.  I believe that this is also true for education, educational practices and blended learning.  An article I recently read in preparation for this topic mentioned the importance of involving students more in evaluating the approaches taken to ensure that, not only, one achieve a balanced blend but to keep on informing your practices in the classroom and online.  This implies that educational design is an iterative approach and since no group of students are the same as the next, there is always room for improvement…you can never be done….and if you think you are….are you doing your job or are you just a parrot regurgitating lessons from Christmas past?  I therefore believe, that room for improvement lies in providing more room for students to evaluate teaching and learning and emphasizing the employment of student feedback to inform teaching and learning practices.

Reflection On Topic 3: Learning in Communities – networked and collaborative learning

  • An occasion when real collaborative learning took place, that moved my own thinking forward
    • With a little bit of embarrassment I have to admit that this happened in a recent session of a programming module.  I used an example which I thought to have understood quite well and which I in class have been using for the past few years in a variety of circumstances.  The solution came naturally to me.  I explained the premise of the solution and why certain components were needed as part of the solution.  I then proceeded to explain the logic of the solution….and then the bomb exploded…suddenly my own solution (which works in theory and practice) no longer made sense to me.  What was I to do…my brain said no.  I decided to turn my embarrassment into a learning opportunity by asking the students…..why do you think this is not making sense?  Does this really not make sense or am I missing something? TRIUMPH!! A student in my class, who finds paying attention to anything extremely challenging…got a light bulb moment and in such simple terms explained why the solution does make sense.  The rest of the class’ faces lid up as understanding spread from the back to the front.  Students spontaneously started refining their understanding by directing questions towards me about the solution and alternative solutions, taking the solution apart.  This situation moved my thinking forward and reaffirmed that a successful class/ collaborative effort depends on a relationship of trust and give and take.  As humiliated as I felt (because I am, in my mind supposed to have all the answers)…I became very much aware that admitting to not knowing something is not always a bad thing, admitting to fault shakes our reality and resuscitates our awareness.  It also taught me to never underestimate students’ abilities for constructing their own knowledge.
  • My own Personal Learning Networks – how have they developed and how they can be taken further
    • First of all, I have to give credit to the institution I work for.
    • The institution has made me part of a team of academics, so varied in approach, personality and area of specialization that small discussions become big ones about topics ranging from the modules we teach to current events affecting the economy and everything in between.  Multiple perspectives are shared and debated with no one shying away from their opinion about the truth.  Problems are solved and solutions are supported.
    • The institution provided me with the opportunity to partake in the ONL171 course which meant that I now had two learning communities of which I was a part.
    • These opportunities that have been afforded to me gives me the courage to engage in more online courses and have highlighted the role of organizational support for the creation of personal learning networks.
  • Reflection on how I can use technologies to enable my own networks for learning processes:
    • Technologies as an enabler implies  having knowledge of the various technologies available.
    • I have learned about so many different tools as part of my ONL171 journey, that I have made it my mission to consciously find opportunities for the use of these tools in such a way that I support the creation of learning networks.

Reflection On Topic 2 – Open Learning -Sharing and Openness

Openness for me means sharing my knowledge..in which ever form will support the objective of the sharing.  The amount of openness in my own practice as a facilitator is determined by my motivation for sharing.  What I want to achieve by sharing the information determines how much I want to share and what objective I wish to achieve by sharing the information.

I was lucky to have been introduced to creativecommons.org quite early on in my career here at Varsity College and make use of openly licensed sources as far as possible as well as introduce my students to these sources.

Technologies and information resources can allow for the production and delivery of education to happen faster and cheaper.  MOOCs also allows for more people to learn a new skill.  The disadvantage is that the quality of the material cannot be guaranteed.  With technology and course resources that are heavily regulated by copyright, sharing and reaching of students are limited.  To obtain the necessary permissions to share this information can take time but quality can also be managed more easily.

The format of the MOOC needs to be determined by the objectives of the course and the degree of participation required.

The motivation of the facilitator for going open could be an indicator as to which type of model for delivery should be chosen.  If, for example, the facilitator just want to “test the water” or if the belief is that the understanding of a particular concept in his/her course could better be supported by enabling students to engage and collaborate online, an ad-hoc programme could be set up.  If the motivation is to convert his/ her course into a fully fledged course, the facilitator could opt for the ‘fully online programme’ model in which a multidisciplinary team creates a master course divided into segments with each segment presented by different instructors (Hill, 2012).

The course structure should support and promote the principles of inclusive education by first of all building partnerships with people from multiple disciplines so that the needs of a learner can be determined holistically.  These needs should be addressed in the course structure.  Also, do not only think of learners with disabilities but widen your thoughts to also consider any and all learners which might be at risk (for which reason ever) of being excluded from participating in a course (European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, 2009). The technology chosen to support the delivery of the course needs to conform to the universal design principles which means that if all participants cannot access the course and its resources in exactly the same way, equivalent means of access should be provided.  The design of the interface and how the resources are made available should be appealing to all learners and should not stigmatize or segregate learners.

Hill, P. 2012. Online Educational Delivery Models:  A Descriptive View. [Online].  Available at:  http://er.educause.edu/articles/2012/11/online-educational-delivery-models–a-descriptive-view [Accessed 13 March 2017]

European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education. 2009. Key Principles For Promoting Quality in Inclusive Education:  Recommendations for Policy Makers. [Online].  Available at: https://www.european-agency.org/sites/default/files/Key-Principles-Matrix.pdf [Accessed 13 March 2017].

Centre for Excellence in Universal Design. 2014.  The 7 Principles.  [Online].  Available at:  http://universaldesign.ie/What-is-Universal-Design/The-7-Principles/ [Accessed 13 March 2017].

 

 

Reflection on Topic 1 – Online Participation and Digital Literacies

I studied IT, more specifically systems analysis and design.  My tuition revolved around problem solving and adapting.  We were constantly reminded that change is the only constant.  As such, as an individual in the digital age my journey has revolved around adapting and embracing new technologies and creative problem solving.

As an individual, I think in terms of processes: identify a problem/ challenge, identify and research possible solutions using which ever tool I have at my disposal, extract relevant information and solve the problem.  Then…reflect.  Could I have done this differently?  Was my proposed solution effective?  For me digital literacy slotted right in with how I operate in my personal life…it is just the tools that differ.

ONL, for my development means more tools that I can use to solve a problem and it provides me with possible tools to reach more students.

My experiences from ONL so far has been a positive one.  Because of the many perspectives presented and the many different personalities in my group, my perception of the world around me has changed and my point of view has broadened.

For Topic1 my focus was on why people are scared to participate and how to encourage someone to participate in an online course and my research yielded the following:

  • Considering how to encourage someone to engage in something new or participate in a change of some sort starts with understanding ‘ why ‘ people feel apprehensive or resistant to do something in a different way.

The reasons people tend to resist change according to an article by Torben Rick (2011) can be summarized and applied to our scenario as follow:

  • Misunderstanding about the need for change:

From the scenario it is slightly evident that the individual does not really understand why he/she needs to do this.  Why is this so important for the learner to engage in this course?  The learner’s motivation seems ill defined.

  • Fear of the unknown and perceived lack of competence:

There is great anxiety on the part of the individual.  There is a log of unknowns for this individual such as whether his/her group members will be more experienced than him/her.  Is he/she going to be perceived as stupid.  The learner is clearly scared and feels that he/she lacks certain competencies.  The individual is also unclear as to the expectations of the course.

  • Threat to an individual’s comfort zone

Comfort zones protect us, gives us control and helps us to reduce risks and anxiety according to Allan Henry (2013).  Our learner will need to be motivated to push the boundaries of her comfort zone to achieve a level of “Optimal Anxiety”.  Normal levels of anxiety creates steady levels of performance but “Optimal Anxiety” can lead to increased levels of performance and increased productivity for our learner.  The phrase “Optimal Anxiety” was coined and developed by psychologists Rober M. Yearkes and John D. Dodson (Changeminds.org,2017).

From the aforementioned it is clear, that the learner needs to clearly define and understand his/her motivation for her need to engage in this online course and participate in this experience.  The learner will also need to realize the benefit of moving outside of his/ her comfort zone.

Henry, A. (2013). The Science of Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone (and Why You Should). [online] Available at:http://ifehacker.com/the-science-of-breaking-out-of-your-comfort-zone-and-w-656426705 [Accessed 26 Feb. 2017].

Torben Rick. (2011). Top 12 reasons why people resist change – Understanding reactions to change. [online] Available at: https://www.torbenrick.eu/blog/change-management/12-reasons-why-people-resist-change/ [Accessed 26 Feb. 2017].

Changingminds.org. (2017). Yerkes-Dodson Law. [online] Available at: http://changingminds.org/explanations/motivation/yerkes-dodson.htm [Accessed 26 Feb. 2017].

Once Upon a Time…but not too long ago..

I became a member of a network of online learners.  The one thing that stood out from many of the conversations was that many, in their conversations with various people used the word ‘apprehensive’.  I understand that word very well and whether it is the space we find ourselves in that makes us feel apprehensive or the unknown….I must admit…I too was feeling apprehensive BUT…I carry the voice of a very wise man inside my head.  This man survived the holocaust and from his work about his experiences leaves a legacy of honorary doctorates and hope that made me choose differently.  I choose to be intrigued by the journey I am to embark on and I choose to enjoy every moment of it.  I choose to grow.

The wise man I will forever salute is Dr. Viktor Frankle who said the following: Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.