I am going to write a short series of Blogs posts laying out what I think should be considered when using Technology (particularly Virtual Learning Environments) to teach.
Some of this will be stating the obvious and (if you are reading this blog) will be something you already know or do, but I want to start from the very basics.
So – the very first thing is to plan what key messages you are going to tell your students during the course. You probably already know these they are the kind of things you would say at the beginning or end of a face to face session
e.g. Dont forget field trip next week, Remember we have a test on tuesday, there is a documentary on TV this week that you should watch
Some of these you will know at the start of the course, some will come up during the teaching cycle. You want to aim for 1 (or more) a week so your students have a reason to visit your course, which should help encourage student engagement with the wider course materials and build a sense of staff presence in the course.
Interestingly I was planning to link to some research/evidence that communicating to your students regularly helps with retention and attainment (see Ben Goldacre on why education should use evidence more) but I couldn’t find any – if anyone can please add it in a comment 🙂
I am guessing that telling your students things is so obviously helpful that no-one has ever thought to measure how helpful it is.
For the past 5 weeks my evenings have been taken up with the Elearning and Digital Cultures Mooc (Massive Online Open Course) and it has – for me – been a great learning experience.
It was a chance to reflect on the day job but at one step removed rather than “How can I use technology to improve the learning experience at Bristol” it was more “What is technology doing to learning (and to humans), and is it a good thing”. Also as a Sci-fi fan it was enjoyable to engage with my interests in an academic setting
It was a “cMooc” with the c standing for connectivism as opposed to an xMooc, which is about providing information in a structured form to the students (the “best” definition of x I can find is x = instructivist – never let spelling get in the way of a good acronym). The connections were – for me – what made the course so engaging, the reflections of others on the course materials were incredibly rich and interesting (the course materials were also good).
At the end of the course I had submitted my digital artefact, obtained a “Statement of Accomplishment with Distinction” and (one of my personal goals) extended my personal learning network by over 50 useful people.
So are Moocs the end of University as we know it? I would have to say no, and there are a lot of reasons why not which I dont have space to go into here, so instead I will close with a brief example of what can be so special about studying at University.
I was working with Dr Tamar Hodos in their office when a student came in to pick up their essay and feedback – having checked with the student that it was ok if I was in the room, the academic went over the paper with the student discussing what was good, where improvements could be made etc, the conversation moved to the teaching and time spent in the lab (student suggested longer lab sessions, and they discussed the potential benefits of this). This was a really detailed learning experience that (provided the student does take the steps suggested) will make a real difference to the students study.
Now I do realise you cant scale that 1 to 1 detailed contact with an academic up to a 40,000 user mooc, and I think that is why sometimes traditional is best (and yes I did tell Dr Hodos how impressed I was).