Friday, 14 June 2013

Activity 5.2 and 5.3

Activity 5.2: Practicals

  • What is your current virtual learning environment or the main technology you use? 
    • Blackboard Learn 9.1.9 moving soon to SP11.
  • How does it differ from the ocTEL platform? 
    • It is a closed environment where the institution validates membership and access. The Course team decide on the look and feel of the course instance and use tools to create content. Students and staff are constrained by the LMS/VLE. In ocTEL there is more openness, the forum can be read by anyone without log in, blog pages are also public. This may be a concern for those students who are still feeling their way around the subject and may not want their learning experience broadcast publicly. 
    • Our LMS/VLE environment is not available to the student after they leave the institution :-( Students creating a personal portfolio of their digital learning would need to export course resources and contributions from course into another environment to save for posterity. I am also doing this for ocTEL so I have my own personal archive. 
  • What learning styles does it afford that ocTEL cannot? Where is it restrictive? 
    • Blackboard provides style sets for various teaching styles These can be used to structure the course to focus on different learning styles. The challenge however, is when schools create standard templates to provide a common visual presence for their students then the teaching style templates get forgotten so everyone is presented with the same top level options. 
    • The tool settings are restrictive. The limitation is that the content and interactions are within Blackboard and, anecdotally, some students find the steps for logging in to the environment and navigating to the activity too tedious to bother! The desired route would be a unique url for the tool activity with direct login so you can just click and post. 
    • The visual presentation is restrictive, our design and artistically driven staff find the visual layout uninspiring and constraining. 
  • Is it ‘open’ in the sense that you can develop or configure tools that fit your pedagogy (e.g. the learning styles above), or does it command a certain pedagogy? 
    • It is not fully 'open' you are constrained by the tools within the environment and limited to their configuration. However, anecdotally, that is probably a blessing for some as they still just about manage the basics. Too many options and people start getting lost in the set up. 
    • The limitation is that the content and interactions are within Blackboard and, anecdotally, some students find the steps for logging in to the environment and navigating to the activity too tedious to bother! The desired route would be a unique url for the tool activity with direct login so you can just click and post. 
    • To increase functionality and provide 
  • What are the wider implications of enforced platforms and technologies for higher education? 
    • I struggle with the term enforced, my assumption is that technologies have been piloted and selected by institutions as being the best thing at the price they can afford at the time. They seek something which they can handle, maintain and have a support and archive package. It takes a brave HE institution to say we do not provide a technology environment to support your learning you can use what you, like when you like, how you like, and fix it yourself when it goes wonky. And for the academics choose what you like to create and deliver your content, we will not provide any platforms or technologies. 
    • I think the challenge is the middle ground, better response from the product vendors, more customisation/personalisation/flexibility in the tools. Greater institutional support for students who want to build their own personalised learning environment which is joined seamlessly with anything the institution provides. Free access to a portfolio for alumni. 
  • How can your learning platform promote inclusion? 
    • The learning platform is the tool, it is what the academic does with it which counts. 
    • Accessibility needs to ensure the resources./ tools can be used by all students regardless of ability or technical skill. It needs to be accessible across all platforms and devices so students can engage with their own devices (if they have them). 
    • Resource needs to be made for students to access and engage where they do not have their own personal device. 
    • Activities need to be designed to bring students together, discussion, reflections, group work, in a respectful and valuing way. 
    • Most importantly the student must feel safe and a valued member of the class when using the learning platform. It is an extension of the real classroom, it is ok to ask questions and challenge each other and the academic must nurture and support this interaction to 'include' all the students equally. 

How I use Google apps - link to document here (Timestamp 14/06/2013 01:15:31)

My thoughts on synchronous delivery - view my forum enty here

Activity 5.3: What does Open Source mean to you?

For me OpenSource means, the creator has given the user (co-creatoe) free rein to adapt, modify, enhance their code. I have been a long time visitor to SourceForge to try things out for my own use.
  • Do they force a certain pedagogical approach? If so, what are the benefits or drawbacks of that? 
    • Depending on the design and architecture, the level of collaborative learning varies significantly from MOOC to MOOC. MOOCs have the potential to be flexible for the learner.
    • Each MOOC requires the learner to engage with different software and applications and learning object file types. 
    • I think that those learners who are less experienced or less confident with technology then the MOOC may not be their first choice, and there will always be the fun and need for face to face learning and skill development with the real object in real time, learning a craft, and art, etc.
  • What difference would it make if the platform were Open Source?
    • If we had sufficient expertise and resource we could have a platform with the look, feel functionality of 'what we want' rather than what it does out of the box.
  • How does it differ from past initiatives for open content such as iTunes U or Khan Academy (mentioned in Week 4)? I see these as OpenResources not Open Source.You use these rather than manipulate it entirely.
  • How does open content differ from open education?
    • Opencontent is the content is freely available, usually open license for reuse, repurpose (Creative Commons  CC BY) for learning and teaching activities. 
    • Open education is where the person creats their own learning pathway to meet their personal learning need, using existing resources, outside an 'educational' establishment. They set their learning goal and only they know when they have reached their goal. They may 'validate' their learning through communities, online reputation and badges, or through 'reputation'.
    • I have added a comment to this weeks forum on this - read it here.