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.

 

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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!

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.

The tools are cool but it is all in the planning

All too often I go out to visit a site interested in creating e-learning courses and the focus starts with tools. Now of course, this is the fun part and if you want to get people on board this is one way to get them interested. It can also be overwhelming and be a reason they may not jump on board and embrace your ideas.

Good e-learning starts with a solid plan. This will ensure you have a sustainable approach that considers your organisation’s requirements, your teachers/facilitator’s requirements and very importantly your learners.

I recommend you take a project management approach to planning your e-design. To make this easier for you visit my Moodle e-book and login as a guest.

The e-book includes four different topics but the one I recommend you start with is Designing an e-learning strategy for your organisation.

There are a whole host of resources for you to look at but I really recommend you download the project management template and worksheets. Now don’t get confused this is not an e-learning strategy but it will help you and your team to work through some important questions and document what you learn along the way.

Completing the appendix worksheets will help you to identify your gaps and the areas you might need to explore further.

Anyway I hope they are useful.

to video or not to video…. that is the question

We are in our second week of #IDML13 and we were asked to play around with video using our mobile devices. The choice was to download some apps and create movies of what we were doing on the screen but as I have done this many times before I chose to use the inbuilt video on my iPhone and then manipulate several videos using an app on my iPad. If you are interested in my experience please read on and hopefully you won’t make the same mistakes I did.

Step one: find a suitable subject and record some video footage

Life has been hectic so I coerced a family member to be my subject during a recent family outing. Surprisingly there were no shortage of participants willing to be part of my experiment so I have quite a bit of footage I can play with in the coming weeks.

For my first video I decided I would explore how I could work with a combination of short clips and integrate them into one short video. I would also combine text and audio to make more interesting…. well at least that was what I was hoping for.

Off we went down the Shoalhaven River and I madly recorded everything that seemed of interest. At the end of the day I felt it was a job well done.

Step two: transfer the video from my phone to my iPad

Sounds easy, well no it wasn’t. First of all when I synced my iPhone to the laptop my videos were sideways :-).

Windows movie maker could correct this so I needed to do a bit of research to find how I could do this…. for free, because this is what my learners will want. Luckily it didn’t take long and I found I could download Windows Movie maker for free.

Tip: Google windows essentials 2012 and when you install make sure you take the tick off any applications you don’t want.

Once I flipped my video correctly I realised they would be quite narrow on the screen. I do highly recommend you video with your phone horizontally, I know I will next time.

While I was in Movie maker I took advantage of the cool media formats available for title pages and credits. I liked these better than the ones I had available in Pinnacle Studio for the iPad. Now if you don’t want to edit on your ipad you could continue to trim (start and finish of your video) and split your video into frames here. It was quite easy to do but I found I needed to continually split frames to get close to the content I wanted to delete. This part was much easier in Pinnacle Studio.

You can also download royalty free music from the iTunes store and attach it to your video. The great thing about Movie maker is it will automatically stop the music at the end of the movie. Pinnacle Studio didn’t do that and the music kept playing unti the end (you can manually delete it but that will take some effort).

Step three: Getting your movie onto your iPad

If you save your file in the Windows Movie player format you won’t be able to get it onto your iPad even by dragging and dropping via Windows Explorer. You need to save it in an iPad format. When you go to save your movie take the time to have a look at all the save formats (it is quite a long list) and as you scroll down you will see an iPad format.

Hint: save the file to your video library so it is easy to find
The next thing you need to do is to get the movie into your iTunes account on your pc. This was quite simple, go to the library and open the video while in iTunes. After that it should appear in your list.

Next sync your iPad with your iTunes account on your PC
Once you have done this you can begin to work off your iPad. Open Pinnacle studio and when it requests access to your pics and videos simply say yes. This will allow you to find your video and drag it onto your storyboard for editing.

Pinnacle studio is quite easy to use. It is also very easy to cut segments out using the razor blade. I suggest you have a go and make great use of the undo button if you need to. With some of your changes and insertions (such as title pages) you may also need to render the frame – use the first two options – they work really well.

Finally you will need to export your video to Youtube. You will need an account and your own YouTube channel. If you are unsure of how to do this there are plenty of online tutorials that can help.

Now for my finished product. As you can see it is quite amateurish but I learnt a lot and I have a deeper understanding of video editing on the iPad…. exactly what I was after!

Every wondered where technology will take you?

Honestly, technology is the most dazzling thing. I just read an article from Mashable about an app developed for the iPad that allows you to take an image of your face and then try on virtual glasses to see how they will look on your face.  How awesome is that!!!

One of the reasons I haven’t fully embraced shopping online is because … well I am a bit vain, there are just some things you need to try on.  The mobile app world and virtual technologies seem to get this and now it seems we can try things on. How cool!

Years ago there was a department store in the UK that allowed you to pick a model and put in your body measurements and your model would then try your outfits on…. so the technology has there for a while but it is somewhat lacking……  I want to see how the outfit will look with me in it rather than a virtual model (haha I did say I was vain but I bet you too would prefer to buy an outfit with the confidence it will fit and look the way you hope).

Anyone know of a cool app that allows the purchaser to try outfits on virtually? I would love to hear about it.

Back in the days when I used to teach Internet technology to new computer users they loved playing with a virtual model, how much more would they love the experience using their smartphones and iPads 🙂