Blended Assessments of Learning #Blendkit2014 MOOC

I am running a bit late this time, but here is my week 3 post to highlight some of the content in the blendkit MOOC.  This week’s topic is Blended Assessments of Learning.  At the beginning of this week’s reading we were asked to ponder the question:

“How will you implement formal and informal assessments of learning into your blended learning course? Will these all take place face-to-face, online, or in a combination?”

That’s a great question and in this post I would like to share a strategy I use in the blended classroom to manage the collection of evidence for formal and informal assessment.  Let me start by setting the scene.  Most of you probably have a smart phone…. or even a tablet.  How snap happy are you?  Do you like using the built in video features?  Where do you upload your favoured digital assets to share with others?  In your mind you might be saying things like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or some other online platform.

In the blended learning classroom we can tap into the same types of platforms to make them available for others to see but in the context of assessment this may not be as appropriate.

To overcome this hurdle I use a free online e-portfolio system with my learners.  Have you tried http://foliofor.me/?

It has some very impressive features.  For example you can upload or embed your photos and videos.  Your learners can write reflective blogs and you, as the teacher can provide feedback and reflective comments.  Students can decide who they share their work with and they can even create an online work plan or resume to show how and when the work was carried out and what their experience is.

Some newly added features such as apps and themes can make their portfolio more attractive and functional.  I love it, but of course it does not some planning to make it a success in your classroom.

I suggest you have a play with it first so you have a good idea how it works and to help you on your way check out the tutorials created by others on YouTube.

 

Week 2: Reflections on designing a blended learning approach

Hi there blendkit2014 readers

In week 2 we have explored the design of a blended learning approach.

I found this really neat little video that compared strawberries and ice-cream to blended learning, an interesting analogy to say the least.

This week’s reading encouraged us to consider a quote from Dziuban, C.D., Hartman, J.L., and Mehaffy, G.L. (2014) “link the best technological solutions for teaching and learning with the best human resources“. This is so true.  No matter how you define blended learning, no matter what the context our goal is to have the best teaching strategies in place to support learners and to provide an environment that supports and facilitates learning.

The role of the educator in a blended environment was also explored.

Atelier Learning (this was very new to me).  Checkout http://www.johnseelybrown.com/CJKoh.pdf  if you want to know more. In model learners learn in full view of other similar to that of an art studio.  The master of learning can then observe practice, inform and guide.  The use of blogs is said to be very suitable to this type of learning.

Network Administrator where students are placed at the centre of a personal learning network. Checkout Fisher, C. (n.d.). Teacher as Network Administrator. Retrieved from http://www.evenfromhere.org/?p=374 to find out more.

Concierge learning where the educator directs learners to resources and learning opportunities. More information on Concierge learning can be found at Bonk, C. (2007). USA Today Leads to Tomorrow: Teachers as online concierges and can Facebook pioneer save face? Retrieved from http://travelinedman.blogspot.com/2007/10/usa-today-leads-to-tomorrow-teachers-as.html.

Curational learning under the guidance of a curational map.Siemens, G. (2007). 10 minute lecture – curatorial teaching. Retrieved from http://learnonline.wordpress.com/2007/09/20/10-minute-lecture-george-siemens-curatorial-teaching. A great online tool to help learners curate content is Pinterest.  If you are interested please feel free to watch my Connect recording on how to use Pinterest in Education.

Are these terms familiar to you?

 

References

Blended Interactions Second Edition  Edited by Kelvin Thompson, Ed.D. “New Learners? New Educators? New Skills? “ in the Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning by George Siemens and Peter Tittenberger

Dziuban, C.D., Hartman, J.L., and Mehaffy, G.L. (2014). Blending it all together, In A. Picciano, C. Dziuban, and C. Graham (Eds.), Blended learning: Research perspectives, volume 2. NY: Routledge.

Blended Learning

I am currently doing the BlendKit MOOC through canvas.net.  Our first task has been to read an introductory article on what is considered blended learning.  The authors of this reading highlight that there is no agreed definition for blended learning in the Higher Education sector.  This really struck a cord with me, those of you who know me will know I often say the same when asked for a standard definition for e-learning.  Personally, I think context plays a very important role in what we do as educators and there is ‘no one-size fits’ all approach to training and education so it is not surprising we can’t always agree on a standard definition.

The article encourages to ponder the question

“Is it most helpful to think of blended learning as an online enhancement to a face-to-face learning environment, a face-to-face enhancement to an online learning environment, or as something else entirely?”

Again, context plays an important role in the answer to this question. If you are a teacher who teaches mostly in a face to face learning environment, offering blended learning solutions might be an enhancement to your current teaching strategies.  You might find your learners can’t always attend classes at the time they are scheduled. They may increasingly be seeking more flexible ways to complete their learning outside of the classroom.  If this is the case you could use a learning platform like Edmodo (free, quick sign up and has some excellent strategies for keeping our youngest learners safe in the online environment) or a learning management system (LMS) like Moodle to make your class resources available for those who are unable to attend.

In my world, blended learning allows me to customise my training solutions to meet the needs of the learners I am currently working with.  I tend to use a LMS, interactive PDFS or e-books, quizzes, videos, blogs and discussion forums (for self-reflection and feedback).

So my definition might be:

“Blended learning provides teachers, facilitators and learners the means to offer training in a way that best meets the needs of those involved in the training program.  It combines a combination of classbased and online learning teaching strategies and activities”.

How does blended learning look in your world?

But first…. let me take a selfie

Okay, have I got your attention now?

If you are a regular visitor to this blog you are probably wondering what on earth does this have to do with e-learning? Good question but before I answer I wanted to share with you some interesting statistics.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) at the end of June 2013 there were 12,358,000 internet subscribers in Australia, representing an annual growth of 3%. At the same time the ABS reported that there were 6.2 million mobile broadband connections in Australia.  The ABS also said that wireless broadband is the most prevalent internet technology in Australia. It accounts for half of all connections. Of these 6.2 million connections people are connecting via dongles, tablets, DSL, satellite and dial-up.

That is amazing don’t you think!

The next thing I found of interest was the number of users by age group (yes nearly there …. but first, let me take a selfie LOL).

The ABS found in 2012-2013 that the largest group of internet users were in the 15-17 years age group. Ninety seven percent of people in this age bracket were internet users. Close behind them were the ages 18-24 and 25-34, this continued to drop down (surprisingly not by much though until we get to age 55-64 where approximately 78% were internet users. In the 65 and over age bracket this figure dropped down to approximately 42%.

[if I could I would have that annoying record scratching noise here to get your attention, I would]

Hang on a second what did you say? ….. check out those age groups!…. Now who do you think would take the most selfies?

Now that you are thinking along those lines, let me get back to e-learning (or what I commonly refer to as the use of technology in education).  People love to use their smart phones and tablets and of course we know they have camera and video capability.  They also have the capability to record interviews, comments etc.

So how can you make your training more appealing to younger audiences…. but first, let me take a selfie

A strategy that has worked for me in the past  is to encourage learners to take photos and videos that can easily be added to an e-portfolio of evidence, report or presentation.  This can form part of their assessment evidence for a formal or informal training program.  Collecting evidence is especially appealing to young audiences… and increasingly some of us oldies too! It puts some fun back into learning and if combined with social media can provide quite a rich learning experience.

There are numerous apps on devices to capture these images and if you need to pretty them up too (just remember what it is the learner is there to learn, engagement is one thing but over emphasis on technology is another).

So why am I inspired to write this post.  Well I came across this catchy song and I just couldn’t get it out of my head. Some of you will automatically know the song I mean and well others may not so here’s your chance to hear it.

I will leave you with these words….. but first, let me take a selfie

I also found this cool blog post about the history of the selfie craze by @archivesmous. Hope you enjoy it!

Great news, I have moved into the analysis stage for the first survey

Happy New Year all, I trust you had a well earned break and you are now celebrating how amazing 2014 will be.

I thought for my first post in 2014 I would share my own news: very excitingly  I have moved into the analysis stage for the first survey in my research for my Masters in Education.  I will still post all things e-learning but I will also share with you my research journey along the way.

So to start I will explain my research approach (and for your sake without the theoretical aspects of why).

To broaden my understanding and in an effort to prepare a practitioner survey that would ask relevant and reliable questions I scanned current literature and engaged in online conversations about e-learning across several social media networking sites over a period of 2 years.  More than 96 individual online conversations (such as LinkedIn and Facebook group discussions) were documented to capture key words, themes, problems and solutions for the topics discussed. The data collected did not identify the writer in anyway, it simply highlighted the main theme of the discussion and the key arguments presented.

Once I felt I had a clear picture of the trending topics and key arguments the data was analysed to identify what might be appropriate categories for the main issues discussed.  if you are interested in the categories you might like to visit my research blog http://www.tumblr.com/blog/gail-vet-tchr-methodology

I wasn’t surpsised that quality e-design and learner engagement were quite topical during this time. The categories were used to formulate a list of possible survey questions for this research. Once the list of possible questions was formulated each question was carefully considered to ensure it would contribute to the aim of the research, hypothesis and questions asked.  In the end a total of 50 questions were included in the practitioner survey. The survey was distributed to my personal online networks.  This included Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and WordPress.

I am now ready to start surveying students of online learning.  Even if you are a teacher who has undertaken learning using technology or totally online please feel free to complete the student survey (much shorter than the practitioner survey) https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/6NXKBDL.  I would love to hear about your experiences.

Future posts will expand on what practitioners revealed in the survey but for now I can reveal that I received 51 usable responses representing a cross section of the VET sector.

Secondary Education (high school)  2.08% Higher Education  12.50% Public training provider  47.92% Private training provider  22.92% Not for Profit  12.50% Enterprise training provider  6.25% Government  14.58%

Eighty six percent of the respondents claimed to be experienced VET teachers with varying experience with e-learning.

The survey moved into the respondents perceptions of e-learning starting with their own beliefs on how important it was for a teacher/facilitator of e-learning to actually have experience as an e-facilitator. Overwhelmingly 98.04% of respondents said it was important to have experience and only 1.96% said it was not.

Personally, I think this is a good start.  Stay tuned for insights into what the e-learning practitioners had to say about e-learning in future posts.

Back in touch soon.

The end of the year is a good time for reflection

Well its the end of another big year in my world, how about in yours?

As the NSW E-Learning Advisor, I can happily say 2013 has been big year and some great things have happened in the Australian E-Learning space. In this post I won’t spend too much time recapping all of those events but what I will do is reflect on what I have seen that seems important… maybe they are to you too!

Starting with the NSW VET sector, there has been so much talk about government reforms, reducing government funds and of course ‘Smart and Skilled’. The good news is Smart and Skilled has been delayed to 2015 to give training providers an opportunity to better understand the reforms and get ready for them. Smart and skilled reforms provide funding for subsidised government places in qualifications up to and including Certificate III.  Details about the types of programs that may attract funding can be found on the 2014 NSW Skills List.

In Australia, only registered training providers can issue Australian Qualifications Framework qualifications.  The body that has the responsibility of enforcing this is, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA). A core part of what  ASQA’s does is to regulate training courses and training providers to ensure they meet and comply with nationally approved quality standards. On 1 July 2012, the VET Quality Framework became operable in most states and territories in Australia.  This framework aims to provide a structure that will result in a national approach to the way providers are registered and courses are accredited (ASQA 2013). ASQA has the power to audit training providers at anytime and many Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) have undergone an ASQA audit in 2013.  The word audit can be scary but here’s hoping the experience was positive and there was lots of positive reinforcement for those who underwent an ASQA audit in 2013.

It is important to acknowledge that E-Learning can come under the microscope in any such audit.  In 2013 I was privy to many conversations between practitioners discussing how to better demonstrate and improve on e-learning quality and student participation. A tool you may not know that can help is the Flexible Learning Advisory Group’s  (FLAG) E-Learning quality model. This interactive model is a great tool to take to your next e-learning team meeting.  Start by examining the quality indicators.  Use the criteria as triggers for questions at your next team meeting.  For example, if you were looking at an existing course you could say ‘How do we know that… the e-learning experience effectively engages our learners’.  Having conversations around the quality criteria can highlight existing processes as well as identifying new opportunities for improvement.  If you haven’t seen the quality model I suggest you take a moment to have a look.  The end of the year is a great time to reflect on existing practice and to explore opportunities for continual improvement.

E-assessment remained topical in 2013.  Teachers wanted to know how they could create authentic assessment opportunities for learners as well as reflecting on existing practices for recognition.  The National VET E-Learning Strategy (Strategy) has some excellent resources available to you on their website.  These resources include National Guidelines for assessment through to a whole host of e-assessment case studies.  In the NSW 2013 e-capability program we had an exciting webinar on e-assessment, I am sure you will find it useful if you have some time to listen to it. For those of you working in TAFE NSW an exciting evidence collection tool was launched during Skills Week 2013.  Check out SkillsLocker and sign in using your DEC username and password.  If you are short of time, checkout my storify page to find out more about SkillsLocker.

E-Capability of individual teachers, trainers and support staff involved in e-learning received a lot of attention in 2013.  Both the NSW team and the National team coordinated an extensive free program to build the capability of those interested in e-learning.  If you have some time in December and January I suggest you listen to the recordings from NSW and the National Program.  Webinar topics included tips to help you get started in e-learning, gamification, augmented reality, cloud technologies…. etc.

So what will 2014 hold for the NSW E-Learning Advisor role?  Glad you asked.  I am busy working on a new and exciting webinar program with some talented guest speakers. Flyers and details on how you can register will come out in January.  I am also establishing an e-learning community for NSW with representatives from right across the VET sector.  If you are interested in being involved, enter your details on the e-community webform.

On a personal note, I have moved into the research phase of my masters.  There are three phases to this research and I would love it if you would stop by and check out my ‘how you can be involved’ research page.

If you love surveys and you are a teacher using technology in education you might be interested in completing  my teacher survey and if you are a student who wants to have a say about your experiences using technology in education, there is a quick survey for you too.

Have a wonderful and relaxing holiday period and I will be back posting in 2014.

References

ASQA (2013) ‘National VET regulation’ accessed online http://www.asqa.gov.au/about/national-vet-regulation/national-vet-egulation.html on 17 December 2013.

State training services (2013) ‘Smart and skilled’ accessed online http://www.training.nsw.gov.au/smartandskilled/ on 20 December 2013.

E-Learning survey now open!

I need your help!

I am currently completing my Masters in Education through UTS as a research student. I also work as an e-learning advisor for the National VET E-Learning Strategy.

I need your help with a very important piece of research as it will explore the perceived beliefs about e-learning by both teachers and students and highlight where the gaps are.

At the conclusion of the major stages of my research I will prepare a paper and make the findings freely available. 

My research comes from the position that successful e-learning must be done well and within sound pedagogical frameworks. It will combine mixed methods of data collection that includes surveys, small-scale case studies and interviews. The tools used allow you to exit at any stage of the research with anonymity and total confidentiality.

There are three stages in my research:

Stage 1: VET Practitioners complete the Practitioner Survey

Stage 2: A small number of case studies will participate in an online survey. Interested parties may be required to participate in a 30-minute interview to expand on their answers in the case study survey.

Stage 3: Data analysis and reporting

The first stage is open now. If you would like to participate, all you need to do is answer some questions in an online survey. The survey should take no more than 20-30 minutes to complete as all questions are multiple choice and can be completed quite quickly. Many of the questions provide you with a comment field if you would like to provide additional information. All answers are completely confidential and completely anonymous.

Please use the following definitions when completing the survey:

e-learning: learning that includes the use of technology to deliver an educational program. For example, web 2.0 technologies, mobile technologies, virtual worlds and completely online programs

transfer of learning: the ability for learning completed in a classroom, using mixed mode delivery or completely online to be transferred to other contexts such as the workplace, in our communities and our own lives

VET pedagogy: theory and practice relating to teaching adults in a vocational context

Ready to get started? Visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TMHST5Y