Thursday, 13 April 2017

MoodleMoot-ivated - post reflection

After my first experience of MoodleMoot from the 10th to 12th April here is a brief, rough and ready reflective summary of some things I found useful over the 3 day event.  There were heaps of information to take in, but I captured what I needed to in my reflection here and by capturing nuggets of information and dispensing my knowledge throughout the event via Twitter.

Newcomer

It's been a while since I have been to a dedicated Moodle group/conference, however this was my first visit and experience of going to MoodleMoot.  I was unsure of what to expect (besides the hints from the program outline) and I wasn't disappointed.  It was a non-stop Moodle extravaganza happening around me and in my head.  The enthusiasm and passion that people showed towards Moodle and their own Moodle sites was empowering.  Years of being a learning technologist you hear the odd negative comment from users saying they are unhappy with Moodle and that it is dead and buried.  I knew it wasn't and know it as excellent tool (and usually the go to one) that relies on an existing enthusiastic Moodle expert to develop and maintain the site effectively.  Then throw in a learning technologist/eLearning developer (like me) for pedagogy and momentum then boom - you have cracked it.

When going to events especially ones like MoodleMoot, where there is knowledge not just in the sessions or presentations but who attends.  It's important to focus on what you want to get from the event and how that impacts on your professionalism and practice.  I had a think of some areas and questions I wanted to see and know more about over the course of the event - what learning design processes do organisations undertake?  The types of Higher Education (HE) eLearning content they produce and how.  But I was also intrigued in ideas for mobile course learning design - if it exists and how learner analytics and feedback can be used to inform Moodle course design.  Some of these questions did get answered, but I am still in pursuit of overall learning design.

Share and share alike

I did a bit of networking and had some good chats with fellow Moodlers - most of which I will be contacting in due course.  Although I should have networked more than I did and built some friendships for future events too - rather than floating around and perching myself in a quiet corner at times.  However, it was good to see and chat to some colleagues from my older days of the Yorkshire and Humber Jisc Moodle User Group.  I also re-connected with a colleague who ran the Digital Learning Design qualifications in the south of England.  They deal with aquaculture and land based industries courses too, so I will be getting in touch with them afterwards.

I attended a masterclass on online course design which included the following topics; content assessment, communication and structure.  I was given a good overview of the features and functions that could be used to deliver learning.  Groups around the table were asked to share their experiences and usage of Moodle's tools.  This day session has made me want to re-examine all Moodle tools for the new context I am now in as it is a different approach to Further Education (FE).  But most importantly to ensure why I am choosing the right tools for the pedagogical need.  So I intend on briefly evaluating and making a list on Moodle's activities and functions I can use in postgraduate and Continuous Professional Development (CPD) online courses.  It will also be a good exercise to get me familiar with course subjects I deal with.  I'm going to further explore plugins and blocks too, although blocks is being faded out eventually.  It's all about the pedagogy and enhancing the learner experience.  I need to understand our learners to determine the most effective pedagogy, which I have previously identified as HE, adult education, distance and workplace learning.

Delivering learning via mobile devices is a high priority and seems to be a key development initiative for Moodle to become more accessible and flexible through it's app.  So how can our online provision be adapted for mobile learning?  Development has already started with using the Moodle app and running our Moodle sites through it.  But what about the content, does that have a different design to typical online learning?  As I learned through my Tweets on the discussion, it's a compliment to the online course you are offering but not a means of delivering it entirely - not everyone learns effectively through mobile devices.

Learning analytics is still being discussed and debated on how it can be useful to assist learners in online learning and inform online design approaches.  I've yet to explore what data we can collect and how we can use it with learners and for course design.

Below are other points I got from some of the presentations on the second and third days:

Course design

  • Make online courses that you can engage in and enjoy - not just passively download content
  • Deliver core knowledge better through right choices of online activities
  • Develop new online course templates that make the best and most of useful plugins and activities that increase the user experience
  • Re-design and implement quizzes and exams using Moodle Quiz and Questionnaire.  If possible create 'are you ready' ones
  • A lot of learning can occur socially through Moodle Forums (Groups and Grouping) - if designed, promoted and facilitated effectively.
  • Display all course information and deadlines clearly and logically - use Lambda theme to display types of engagement, levels of effort and instruction and Bootstrap buttons to condense information
  • Ask what staff are looking to achieve from an activity - then decide options
  • Engaging and supporting others in the effective use of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) - still a challenge but collect good practice, create examples and lead with educational benefits, especially learner perspectives and needs

Content

  • Innovate in eLearning content, test and evaluate it
  • Increase interaction in eLearning content - but not for the sake of it.  Just ensure its used for the right pedagogical purpose
  • Explore further potential of H5P plugin
  • Ensure eLearning content is optimised and compatible with mobile devices
  • Allow lots of content on a page, but important how it's released and presented
  • Use a variety of eLearning resources but with a consistent approach
  • Enable emotion (engagement and realism) through well written scenarios.  Case studies look at a single experience.  Scenarios enable to work across a number of situations and build competence.  Moodle can be used for learners to submit a scenario they come across in their work, then analyse and re-assess them.  Build in a loop that keeps going back and improve the outcome.
  • Consider; critical reviews shared to the class with peers and lecturers; group working - Moodle Forum and Wiki, Skype groups etc; feedback and peer review; submit presentations and assignments; reflection; test of knowledge; student recorded audio/video feedback; group choice for learning pathways in Moodle; Moodle User Tours - instructional overlays
  • Invest in some time to refine activities

Preparing for online learning

  • I've decided to task myself with a side project of developing a 'preparing for online study' course for our learners.  As our learners come from a diverse range of countries and vary in digital literacy skills, we need to support as much as we can in terms of their requirements and commitment from them as well as what is expected at academic of professional level.  So I am going to develop a range of short taster courses to build up learners online learning skills.  The first course perhaps starting with; what is online learning, being a successful online learner and communicating online - netiquette.  It can include a variety of activities that promotes what they will encounter in future courses.  Perhaps also including an area for study skills on how to source information and write assignments etc.  So maybe a total of three short courses; learning online introduction, study skills then lead onto a taster course to get to know the site, tools and services to build up online competence.

I knew Moodle was very popular, but after coming to this event I could see and feel the passion for this system.  Everybody seemed very proud to use this system and are very keen to keep innovating with and for it.  Perhaps it's due to the community that it was founded upon that provides a sense of ownership of it.  I've had a great time at my first MoodleMoot and I've experienced how valuable it is to anyone who uses and develops it.  I'm hoping to return next year and I may do a presentation myself!  As a result of this event, me and my colleague are now going to pull the rest of our team together to discuss and revise our current plan for the next 12 months.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Resource > reader > reviewer - a TEL-ing chapter

Early foundations

I first started my initial teacher training by completing the 'Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector' qualifications PTLLS (2011), CTLLS (2012) and DTLLS (2014) - now named 'Education and Training'.  Then later successfully completing assessing vocational achievement and lead internal verifier.  I referred to Ann's books not only for assessment criteria like demonstrating employability and later in my Technology Enhanced Learning MSc work, but throughout my job role in training and teaching and picking them up to remind me of things I had forgot.  It's ok to forget as you can't retain everything, especially in this diverse role of a teacher.  That's why books are here and Continuous Professional Development (CPD) to reinforce our professionalism when needed.

I first came across Ann's books as recommended resources for reading during PTLLS.  I found her books to be very easy to read and could to jump to any point where I needed.  As teaching is really heavy on pedagogical theory it is no easy feat to make it appealing and easily digestible to beginner teachers and trainers - without putting them off.  And with my simplistic mind, I needed all the help I could get!  Ann does a brilliant job in making reader friendly text through her choice of language, format and structure in her books.  There's no doubt in me saying that Ann has provided a backbone to my teacher education in my career.  Especially during my initial teacher training, where I acquired more from her text than face-to-face support as a lot of it was through self-help.  I had no 'official' mentor to support and guide me throughout my teaching, assessing and internal verifying qualifications, I became my own tutor and being proactive as I am, I knew who to ask and go to for information.  Especially when I delivered, assessed and managed my own course, L4TLD.  Plus, I knew where I was taking my education and career so I could tailor my knowledge and skills.  It all worked out in the end because look where it has taken to me.

I remember when Ann first set up a LinkedIn group for PTLLS, CTLLS and DTLLS learners and practitioners.  Ann facilitated this by sharing industry updates and good practices as well as replying back to others on their queries.  I joined the group to ask (too many) questions, build up my knowledge and to network for good practice.

When my previous learning technologist role expanded where I had the responsibility of line managing, developing and assessing the Digital Learning Design apprentices.  I used Ann's text and YouTube videos to introduce the teacher role to support the apprentices understanding.  Ann's materials were useful in getting the essential teacher role knowledge across to young adults - which is an extremely complex task to do!

I'm not sure when formal dialogue began between us both.  However, I think it was around the time when I shared my experience of 'Improving Work Based Learning' of our Digital Learning Design apprenticeship programme I was managing and the way I assessed our apprentices.  In Spring 2016, we shared a few conversations on eLearning and education - I remember being a bit star struck on one particular impromptu call; I was like 'I'm talking to the Ann Gravells!'  Following these conversations I then approached Ann for advice and guidance about writing my own book, which I had in my head for a while.  Being inspired by Ann's presentation of her books, I had the idea of writing my own book which I first described in last year's summary - also mentioned in my Learning Technologist of the Year Award 2016 and at the end of my postgraduate Technology Enhanced Learning student profile.  I sent her my proposal which she kindly supported me in before it was submitted to SAGE Publications.  Sadly it was rejected due to it having little business potential.  I then sent it to Critical Publishing as recommended by Ann and they suggested I reposition my proposal, which I have yet to do and re-submit.

Invitation to review

At the end of February 2017, I was overwhelmed when Ann invited me to review the 'technology' chapter for her new book 'Principles and Practices of Teaching and Training' - which is due late 2017.  I found it such a privilege that the author of someone I am influenced by was asking me to assist them in their new book.  Pinch me, is this real?!  In the past I have made a small contribution to Gilly Salmon's 'E-tivities' (2013) book on ePortfolios and last year I assisted in the development of a new level 2 digital literacy qualification.  However, I'm new to reviewing an entire chapter of a new book.  I saw that this would be a good opportunity to experience a small part of the publishing process, exercise my critical thinking and to reflect and test my own knowledge to date.

When I received the chapter from Ann, I particularly liked the practical technological elements; examples and activities of digital technology use, synchronous, asynchronous, eTutoring etc as these provide the understanding that is not always taught in teacher education.  Ann's technology chapter contained the following sub-headings which I was required to read and make comments on:

  • The role of technology in teaching, learning and assessment
  • Learning technology
  • E-learning
  • Social networking and social media
  • Digital technology
  • Online safety and security


As my background is Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), I was able to draw on my knowledge and own experiences of using digital technology in teaching and training - plus all of the resources I have curated over the years.  It allowed me to go back to where I started and how I was introduced to the role of digital technology in this challenging subject and skill that is teaching and training.  I put myself in the positon of a beginner teacher/trainer that was being encouraged to experiment with different types of digital technology to enhance their knowledge, skills and practices.  Due to this I contributed a variety of comments; relevant TEL theory, purposes of and approaches to TEL, internal experiences, learning technology and eLearning are different, practical activities - exploring own role and around the organisation, understanding and effective use of Virtual Learning Environments, eTutoring, online presence and authenticity, encouraged Certified Members of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT), suggested heading changes and links to some digital technologies.  It was also good to give some fresh knowledge that came off the back of doing my recent TEL MSc which was good to share with Ann.  I also sent links to further information and practice on blog and external web links I have.

Ready, steady, go publish!

After being involved in reviewing this chapter and further encouragement from Ann, I've had a good insight and influence into writing a book.  I feel I am now ready to give focus and return to writing my own book that I mentioned previously.  Inspired by Ann's skilful way of writing I hope mine to be as instant, readable and accessible as hers.

Thank you Ann for sharing your wisdom; making the complex role that is teaching easy to understand but also allowing me to be involved in your new book.  I hope it is as much success as your previous ones!  I hope to maintain our contact for years to come.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Designing digitally-enhanced curricula

In January 2017 I was invited to guest speak (invitation only) at the next 'student experience experts group meeting on the 29 March 2017' which is organised by Jisc.  It was such a nice a privilege to be invited and be a part of.  In the past I have presented bits and pieces at many Jisc's regional Summer conferences and meetings.  So I am now returning to summarise some of the main things I have done during my previous role as a learning technologist, around the theme I was given; 'Designing digitally-enhanced curricula'.

Thank you again Jisc for the invitation and the time to present some of my practices and experiences.  It was also good to see familiar faces I have met over the years.  Below is the description of the session I did and a video of my presentation that I delivered with.

"Daniel Scott was awarded Learning Technologist of the Year 2016, by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) and in this session he will share his practices as a learning technologist.

Daniel will describe the methods and approaches of how he encouraged, trained and supported teaching staff to use digital technology in their practices.

He will also share how he coordinated and trained digital learning design apprentices to create attractive and interactive e-learning materials for Moodle.

Daniel will draw on the key points from his masters research (2016); 'Putting learning into learning technology: developing a pedagogical rationale to deliver eLearning', that studied how tutors use digital technology in a FE college, whilst exploring the purpose of digital literacy, being a digital practitioner and considering a digital pedagogy to support the college’s e-learning strategy."

Friday, 10 March 2017

A postgraduate Technology Enhanced Learning student profile

Because I have an interesting educational story and career to tell, in November 2016 I was invited by the University of Huddersfield to record a postgraduate student profile.  The profile is focussed on my recent completion of the Technology Enhanced Learning MSc (now Technology Enhanced Learning and Innovation MA).  The video is to be used to encourage and inspire future students to do the same.

Because it's a great professional video and invoked the emotional journey I have undertaken.  I had to give the video a caption and what came to me was; "never give up on your educational goals towards your passion."

I am extremely grateful for the University of Huddersfield for this opportunity and had a great time filming it.  Thank you.

My dissertation and journey can be found here.  I hope you enjoy the video.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Conquering learning design

Setting the thinking

Not long after I started my new job in January 2017, I asked out to the ALT community about designing for Higher Education (HE) distance learning.  As I recently started my new job, I wanted to refresh myself on the whole development process and the ways that people and organisations approach this.  I was interested to know the processes that they undertook when planning, designing and delivering their distance learning programmes.

I then thought it's a bit like writing a song; which comes first, the lyrics or the melody?  Which one do you start with first?  Attack the melody and lace with lyrics, or write the lyrics and wrap the music around the words?  I was trying to remind myself of a process I can easily follow and get into a routine with.  As there are lots of inspiring models, cycles and processes you can follow - which always appeal to me.  However, I struggled to find which one was suitable to my simplistic mind set and which I could jump straight into without reading too much into it.  This thinking then evolved into higher-level learning design (LD).  LD has fast become an area I want to specialise in, which I introduced previously at the end of this post.  I am keen to introduce LD into my new organisation as it would be extremely useful to us, especially being a fast-paced commercial organisation.  I decided to understand what LD is first then produce a brief report of  how it impacts on my new organisation.

Investigating and making sense of learning design

I began investigating LD by sourcing good practice done by The Open University and then came across a wealth of information by them and the learning design community.  However, I thought it was best to contact someone who is currently doing lots of work in this area; Sheila MacNeill who kindly responded to my questions below (off the top of my head) and briefly analysed and interpreted her responses into my own understanding using track changes in Microsoft Word.

  • What typical project(s) and the processes you undergo?
  • What theoretical and digital approaches do you use for LD?
  • Where and how do you enter a LD cycle/process?
  • Do learners get involved?
  • Are learning analytics used?
  • Do you have focus groups with both staff and learners to collect feedback and conduct evaluation?
  • How do you implement feedback?

The main thing I want to report back to my team is:

  • How does LD relate to and impact on our post/undergraduate and subscription CPD courses?

Framing my understanding of learning design

To consolidate my understanding I collected good practice from my research and ideas from the questions I asked Sheila.  Instead of writing up a dull report, I turned the information into something meaningful and relatable to my organisation through a presentation (below), which I then delivered to curriculum and quality members in my organisation.  I can say that it was well received and the process of implementing it has begun.