Monthly Archives: May 2009

Wk 13/14 A3c comparison

The following questions are based on student interviews from the course Software requirements for business systems

  1. Does the interview data offer a different perspective from Minocha and Thomas?
    Absolutely, it highlights how artificial the activity was and how this limited its use

“The other thing is that we were being assessed on our contribution, so that puts a bit of pressure on you to say something first. In an actual working environment it does not matter who picks up that something is a duplicate requirement as long as someone picks it up”

  1. Does it affect your perception of how the wiki functioned in any way?

Yes, particularly as it defeats the main objective to “emulate requirements engineering practice”

  1. Does it provide more documentation of the student experience?

This direct first hand student voice is alot more powerful and gives alot more information than the report which has been interpreted and filtered by the authors

  1. If you had access to accounts of learner experience for a course you were responsible for, would you be able to make direct use of those accounts in revising your course?

    Absolutely, the learner should be the main focus of a learning activity and their input essential, if not for modifying the current course then for adapting it for future cohorts.

  2. What other data might you benefit from?

Data such as retention rates and pass rates are also a useful indicator of course interest and relevance.

Wk 13/14 A3b Collaborative learning in a wiki environment

  1. What was the rationale for the use of a wiki, in terms of real world practice and in terms of the learning outcomes for the course?

“On a software development project, team members often work remotely from one another and increasingly use wikis to collaboratively develop the requirements specification. In order to emulate requirements engineering practice, the course has been enhanced to include group collaboration using a wiki.”

“We also hoped that the wiki activities would help to facilitate learning and the acquisition of various skills including:

  • the creation of explicit knowledge from tacit understanding of course concepts;
  • learning through discussion, disagreement, and consensus building;
  • team working; and
  • effective communication of ideas to others through networked knowledge environments; articulation, analysis and synthesis of ideas and knowledge-sharing.“
  1. Which areas of learning theory do the authors draw upon specifically?
    “Social software tools such as wikis and blogs enable the generation of social constructivist scenarios wherein a group of learners collaboratively construct shared artefacts, create a culture of dialogue, and negotiate meanings.
  2. In what ways did the course designers seek to persuade students to view the wiki positively?

The Salmon 5 stage model was applied to the course design

“The model shows how to motivate online participants, to build learning through appropriate online activities and by support from the e-moderator. Since we were not expecting our tutors to perform the role of e-moderators on the wiki activities, we decided that we would indirectly support our students via: comprehensive guidance notes on the wiki activities, regular e-mails of encouragement and addressing any queries that the students raise with their tutors or on the course discussion forum or in their e-mails to the course manager.”

  1. How effectively did the wiki function in relation to key features of the learning requirements; e.g;
    the need to track individual contributions,
    “It [the wiki] allows a history and audit trail of documentation to be automatically maintained and referenced in the future therefore enabling traceability of requirements through to development.”
    to publish written contributions, “
    It is difficult to see how our group could have produced and reviewed a set of requirements in the space of 2-3 weeks without the Wiki. “
    to edit a single, collaborative text
    to discuss and collaborate
    ”I found the group discussion pages useful to make suggestions to other members of the group and to make arrangements for editing the TMA Wiki.”

  1. What role did the assignments play in shaping the students’ use of the wiki?

“I found the collaborative [activity] very difficult to participate in, with the job I have I travel a lot and the collaboration relied on you being available for the last 5 days or less before [the TMA] deadline to see everyone’s contribution.”

  1. What conclusions do the authors come to in relation to:

a. the ways in which the wiki worked well?
In terms of collaborating on an OU course, the benefits seem to outweigh the disadvantages; it is difficult for all people collaborating to be able to arrange a pre-determined time to collaborate, so using the wiki as a collaboration medium is quite effective.

b. the main disadvantages of the wiki?

The… Wiki is a poor tool for keeping a sense of order to these multiple discussions. The Wiki does not create a ‘thread’ that can be followed. The Wiki does not clearly identify the contributor. The Wiki does not clearly time stamp contributions. The Wiki does not separate discussions about points so a great deal of searching is required before a thread of a discussion can be followed.

  1. c. the software changes that would improve the wiki for this purpose?
    “The editing window in the wiki was small and did not provide enough context and content for the document being edited. Students had to scroll the content up and down while they were entering text in the wiki via this editing window.

The wiki navigation was poor because the user always has to return to the root page before reviewing another branch.

Users had to check the wiki on a regular basis to see whether there had been any contributions from other group members. As one student said, “It would have been good to have some mechanism for requesting alerts on certain pages to save you constantly having to check”.

“A major technological obstacle was the absence of a locking mechanism on the wiki to avoid the problems of concurrent updates.”

Wk 13/14 A3a Learner Experiences case studies Reading vignettes

The following questions are based on two vignettes based on findings from the PB-LXP project

As you read each vignette, look out for statements illustrating each of the six themes.

Utility and ease of use are key factors in the appreciation of ICT tools provided by the course

. You’re reading through something and you want to work out the output for something and you think, oh I’ll check on that and you can fire it up and within 15 seconds you’re logged on

The relevance of ICT tools to the work context can fuel study commitment
Interviewer: So you thought simulations are quite a good way forward?

Student:Yes definitely … as long as they are kind of realistic such as Netlab is and you know that’s realistic. A lot of simulations I’ve used in the past just don’t really accurately mimic what they are trying to mimic. So I think that element to it is quite important.

ICT elements in courses introduce a practical element into study, which is much valued by students

I think they’re [ICT tools] essential … I was chatting to somebody the other day … and saying how a lot of people I’m sure just read the book and pass the exam but then put a router in front of them and they wouldn’t have the slightest idea

Online study methods are valued where they support students’ feelings of control and being able to make progress

I am much better now with problem solving with the TMA stuff and the labs that they do – they actually are problem solving. Then you often find yourself problem solving for your own configuration.

ICT tool usage can help to connect study with application to practice in the workplace

I probably took some stuff from work to be able to do it and I took some stuff from the exercise in order to develop myself in work.

Students’ different work contexts influence their attitudes towards the ICT in their course.

It’s made me realise that I could use online systems a lot more like that … I would strongly be more open now to doing something like a Netlab-style system or a packet tracer system to study with more, or to work with.

What do these vignettes suggest about the importance of the student’s work when designing courses where ICT plays a key role?

I feel that these examples illustrate that courses which are being designed for adult learners should build on the experiences of the learners and give them the opportunity to learn from each other.  From an ICT point of view this can relate to using  realistic simulations and situations as making use of communication technology such as forums and blogs so they can learn from each other and build networks.Wk

wks 13&14 a quick rant

I was really looking forward to wks 13& 14 as they focus an the learners voice and the related jisc projects, however after reading through the content in more detail, I am dissapointed to see we will be focusing more on the processes than the finding, before moving back to the net generation/google generation/digital native/digital imigrant debat….YET AGAIN!

okay, rant over

WK 12 A5: Technology in your context

  • Identify a form of technology used in an educational context.

For this exercise I will look at iPods and how they are being used at Lakes Colleges West Cumbria as a revision tool.
“Lakes College West Cumbria has piloted the use of iPod nanos to provide revision quizzes for Construction students, many of whom have learning difficulties and/or learning disabilities (LDD) and struggle with paper-based revision processes. The pilot has had a positive effect both on exam achievement and on the students’ feelings of independence as learners.”

  • What do you think is the likely impact of this technology on the students’ perceptions of the quality of their courses, their approaches to studying and their academic performance?
    At a recent workshop Paula Stephenson, Learning Support Manager at Lakes College, explained that they based the use of these devices on the TechDis model of accessible Mobile learning.  In which devices are only used if they meet the following requirements;

    • The technology supports the learner
    • The technology is accessible for the learner
    • The technology engages the learner
    • The learner values the technology

Although this model is specifically for accessible mobile learning, the model could be applied more generally to other forms of technology used in education.

The following quotes highlight how the students felt about using the devices and their impact on achievement

“The iPods were used in revision sessions in class, but the real plus for Paula and Jackie was how much the students then used them during break times and lunch periods. Students were keen to use them for revision outside formal class times, with the overall consensus that being able to use them was “cool”. They have asked if they could also take the iPods home to continue revision there;”

“A positive unexpected outcome from the pilot has been that it has helped students like Alex in feeling more independent; they can now undertake their revision without assistance in class, as well as continuing outside formal class times, and Jackie says this has given them a great sense of achievement.”
“Using the iPods to get the Construction students interested in doing revision has impacted positively upon exam performance. The hard work that Jackie had previously put into trying to engage the students in paper-based revision sessions typically led to around 85% of a cohort passing the exam, whereas the iPod pilot cohort has achieved a 100% pass rate – every student passed! It is also interesting to note that, just before they started using the iPods, the cohort did a paper-based mock exam, which none of them passed.”

  • What do you think is the likely impact of this technology on the teachers’ perceptions of their teaching context and their approaches to teaching?

Although Paula and the team at the college were positive and supportive of the use of iPods, some may see the use of popularist technology such as iPods as a gimmick.

“It’s a scandalous waste of taxpayers’ money.” Nick Seaton, chairman for Campaign for Real Education talking about giving university students ipods to be used for education.

The excellent results from the project at Lakes College have shown that the devices were a good investment.  A similar project at Ashton Sixth form college involved using Nintendo DS consoles with learners to improve memory and maths skills. Learners results were significantly better than those of a test group who just had paper based exercises instead of the consoles

  • Do you think this technology embodies particular assumptions about the nature of teaching and learning in higher further education?

Using devices such as games consoles and ipods embodies removing boundries between learning technologies and entertainment technologies.

  • Are these assumptions likely to promote more positive perceptions, more desirable approaches to studying and better performance on the part of the students?

Successful projects such as these often involve learners with learning difficulties and disabilities (LLDD) or learners who had not previously been successful in a traditional academic environment. These projects have not only encouraged learners to use these devices but also take ownership of their learning.  This changes their perception of learning being something which is done to them in a classroom, to an ongoing part of their live which they are in control of.

Wk 12 A4 reading Richardson (2009) Face to Face Versus Online Tutoring Support in Humanities Courses in Distance Education

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!    I wrote loads about this last night and somehow didn’t save it, so all that’s left is the title.


Wk 12 A3: Reading Price et al. (2007) face to face versus online tutoring

The findings from these studies illustrate that learners are find face to face tutorials of more value than online tutorials.  I personally find the online tutorials and discussions of more use than those of my last major face to face postgraduate course.  I found that entire course to be a bad experience for various reasons, and I think that bad experience has completely put me off face to face courses.

Then check what other students in your tutor group have written.

  1. Do you agree with Price et al. that online tuition is a pastoral activity and not a purely academic activity?

Absolutely although I think there is a relationship. Developing the pastoral side can encourage an environment (online or face to face) which is condusive to constructive academic learning.

  1. Do you agree that the absence of what the authors call ‘paralinguistic cues’ in an online environment can limit the effectiveness of online tuition?

I think this is true in some cases, however I think more and more people are conducting much of their social/working and educational lives online.  For some of these people communicating online may be a more comfortable environment and its benefits may outweigh the drawback of loosing paralinguistic cues