H808: Reflection on online collaboration and social presence

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This post is a reflection on Core activity 6.3: Evaluating elearning practice

(Warning: Long Post)

Week 6 of H808 The Elearning Professional asked us to take part in a collaborative activity spanning a 2 week period. The task was to read a series of case studies and articles and, working as a group, develop a set of principles as to what constitutes effective practice in elearning. The principles  had to be illustrated by examples from the case study research. The group was free to choose the format of the output. The requirements were posted onto the week’s forum and groups of 6/7 people were pre-alloacted. So, I knew who I was going to work with and what I had to do in outline form. The readings and resources were provided. While there is much to reflect on, I am going to focus on the activity as it progressed and the idea of ‘social presence’ as an important factor for group motivation.

The activity proceeded along the following stages:

Setting roles and tasks and a way forward

The activity got going when some members posted messages and questions on the tutor group forum that developed into a conversation about how the activity might be organized, how roles could be allocated, and how how the activity could be carried out. After a little bit of stuttering and polite hanging about, a way forward was developed in the form of a ‘road map’ placed on the group wiki which was collaboratively edited to flesh out the skeleton road map with tasks and deadlines. Members allocated roles to themselves and set about the first task which was to select a few case studies and then write notes on the group wiki. The idea was to read enough as a group in order to make an informed decision on which case studies would be selected. A further parallel task was to devise a set of principles of learning based on readings. This was done individually and posted to the forums for the group to review. The group also chose to use Powerpoint as the output format.

Decision making

Through postings on the discussion forums, a consensus was reached on both the two case studies (through voting for two out of those researched) and on the principles. The nature of the agreement was largely through default and majority agreement. I felt that at times there was an attitude of just getting through it so that some decisions could be made – this is not a criticism but strategic decision making on the part of the group that agreement had to be reached if deadlines were to be met. In a ‘real world’ situation, I think individuals would have more input and discussion about these core principles and how to phrase them, although I personally was broadly happy with them. The decision making was inclusive in the sense that the group added more principles to help satisfy most group members’ opinions, so the process wasn’t really a critical review of what was in and what was out. A more critical review and discussion might have resulted in fewer principles as there was some overlap (interaction and community) which I found when putting together the content.

Creating and collaborating

Following the groups’ decision on the 8 principles,  the ‘researchers’ (and I was one) analyzed the case studies to pull out examples of key practice. Personally I found this intensive and time consuming, but I also got a lot out of it, as I was immersed in the subject matter. This content was reviewed by the research team by way of reading and amending text, and then sent to the presentation team by email. Up to this point, most group communications had been asynchronous. There was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing to get this done which also involved me waking up very early on deadline day to do a further edit and review.

Deadline day was when the fun began. Suddenly, the team were talking to each other on Twitter about the presentation. A period of near synchronous, spontaneous and unplanned for collaboration began using a common hashtag. This hashtag had been set up for tweeting evaluation feedback after the presentation had been completed, but a few members started test tweeting  earlier and suddenly almost all members of the group were talking to one other about the presentation. This was unplanned for in the road-map and made the process of getting the final stages of the presentation easier. Although this was slightly frantic and hectic, it was a lot better than waiting around for people to reply to emails which had been the case up until now.

Social presence and group dynamics

I realized as the activity drew to a close that what had been missing for a large part of the two weeks from the group dynamics was ‘social presence‘. Social presence in the context of online learning is the ability of participants in a community to project themselves, socially and emotionally, as real people through a medium of communication (Garrison and Anderson, 2003). I came across this in H800 when looking at the value Twitter can play for enhancing ‘social presence’ and therefore engagement between students and their tutors. I saw how social presence makes a difference during the tail end of the collaborative activity when the group started to use Twitter. While I was reviewing the presentation in its final hours and giving feedback, I felt the social presence of my colleagues on Twitter, which is quite different from sending an email into the ether or posting to a discussion group in the VLE and not knowing when a reply will come back. According to Dunlop & Lowenthal (2009) regarding the use of Twitter, ‘This sort of informal connection between and among students and faculty is one aspect of cultivating student engagement and social presence’. There was also humor and a sense of community building which had not been there earlier. It demonstrated the power of web 2.0 tools for changing the dynamics of a group collaborating online.

Before I get too starry eyed about this, I am also cognizant that using social media tools can be exclusionary if all participants do not have access or are not there at the time, while there can be miscommunication afforded by 140 characters and the cognitive load of having so much coming in through different media. A tweet sent is immediately received and in mid conversation there is an expectation that there should be an immediate response. Despite this caveat, there is a growing body of research about the importance of social presence and engagement in online learning and group collaboration. Twitter isn’t the only option by any means; the same element of social presence can be achieved by being logged into Skype for example so that there is awareness of who is around and being able to check-in with others using the Skype chat feature is very powerful for remote team working.

Evaluation

The activity ended with a group evaluation using Survey Monkey, a Facebook page for capturing feedback and tweets to say the activity was complete and thanks to all who participated. The activity ended on a high for many participants and a feeling of relief of having met the deadline in good time and getting positive feedback from the wider student cohort and tutors.

Reflection

I learned a lot through this activity. The key points were:

  • Collaborative learning activity design is challenging. It can only be only be designed for a possible learning outcome, and the results may be unpredictable depending on a multitude of factors.
  • Collaborative working online is difficult especially if mostly asynchronous in terms of time (difficult to schedule if waiting for others to respond) and in terms of communication (due to lack of visble cues and
    potential for misunderstandings).
  • Motivation through social presence is important for groups to collaborate around a shared idea or goal.
  • Responsibility to the group is a motivating factor but it can also lead to ‘group-think’ behavior where strategic decisions are made to just get things done rather than do it correctly.
  • Group work can be surprising and satisfying but also time consuming. The costs-benefits have to weighed up in terms of learning design effort and the necessary outcome.

And the result of the activity? Here it is:

Key principles of_practice_for_effective_elearning

(Tip: click ‘View on Slideshare’ for a full screen experience)

References
Dunlap, J. C., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2009). ‘Tweeting the night away: Using Twitter to enhance social presence’ Journal of Information Systems Education, vol. 20, no. 2., pp.129-135; also available online at http://bit.ly/nMOzLG

Garrison, D. R., and T. Anderson (2003). E-learning in the 21st century: A framework for research and practice. New York: Routledge Falmer.

Gallery of Teaching & Learning ‘KEEP Toolkit case studies’ (online),
The Carnegie Foundation; available from: http://gallery.carnegiefoundation.org/gallery_of_tl/keep_toolkit.html

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H808: Musings about effective practice in elearning

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This is a ‘response in progress’ to Core Activity 6.3: working collaboratively to produce principles of effective practice in elearning. (Warning: long post)

While the purpose of the activity is to collaboratively agree on ‘key principles of practice that you believe to be central to effective elearning’, reading independently I have come up with some initial musings to help put my thoughts in order.

When trying to get to ‘key principles of effective practice’ in elearning, I’m finding it difficult to determine the level of granularity or how specific a ‘good practice’ needs to be. In a previous blog post about defining the role of Learning Technologists, I discussed how the the profession is multi-facted with many roles and competancies ranging from teachers with Learning Tech hats to content creators, learning designers, educational managers, interactive content developers etc and so some of the specific competencies are relevant only within a specific elearning role or even within a specific sector of education and training.

In trying to find some sort of unifying factor to inform effective practice in elearning I came across this:

‘it is interesting to note how a number of the statements are colored by an educational philosophy, which is not necessarily associated with online teaching and learning. This philosophy values learner collaboration, a democratization of learning activities and roles, inclusiveness, and helping learners take responsibility for, and control of, their own learning.’ (Goodyear et al, 2001)

This suggests a broad pedagogical approach to effective practice in elearning: one that is learner centred, open and democratic.

Other readings have also sparked ideas. While quite detailed, Graham et al (2001) specify 7 areas of good practice principles and how those principles might be achieved in learning:

  1. Principle 1: Good Practice Encourages Student-Faculty Contact (Lesson for online instruction: Instructors should provide clear guidelines for interaction with students.)
  2. Principle 2: Good Practice Encourages Cooperation Among Students (Lesson for online instruction: Well-designed discussion assignments facilitate meaningful cooperation among students.)
  3. Principle 3: Good Practice Encourages Active Learning (Lesson for online instruction: Students should present course projects.)
  4. Principle 4: Good Practice Gives Prompt Feedback (Lesson for online instruction: Instructors need to provide two types of feedback: information feedback and acknowledgment feedback.)
  5. Principle 5: Good Practice Emphasizes Time on Task (Lesson for online instruction: Online courses need deadlines.)
  6. Principle 6: Good Practice Communicates High Expectations (Lesson for online instruction: Challenging tasks, sample cases, and praise for quality work communicate high expectations.)
  7. Principle 7: Good Practice Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning (Lesson for online instruction: Allowing students to choose project topics incorporates diverse views into online courses.)

While these are useful principles, they seem rooted in a quite specific role of online teaching, whereas elearning as a whole comprises a broader skills set and practice area. I’d put most of these 7 principles under a learner centered pedagogy and course design/delivery practice area.

Another useful resource is Dondi et al (2005) which taking good practice from another angle: that of what a practice should do to become ‘good practice’ (not what it is or how to do it). There are 9 criteria that need to be applied to a practice in order to retain it as a ‘good practice’. So, a ‘good practice’ should:

  1. come from the field of practitioners who already use it
  2. be contextualized to a given field, a given community of users and a period of use’
  3. address identified problems, needs and requirements
  4. be documented
  5. demonstrate improvement and effectiveness
  6. make consensus
  7. be reusable in the future in a new context belonging to a similar field
  8. support innovation
  9. lead to continuous improvement

So perhaps an approach to establishing some principles is to focus on the pedagogical approach (learner centered course delivery) and then also on the notion of practices that involve communication/documentation about practice so that it becomes ‘good practice’. This also means making tacit knowledge explicit, so ‘good practice’ can be shared.

So, effective practice in elearning might encompass:

  1. A learner centred approach to learning design with student-student (peer) learning built into design and approach. But other pedagogies (associative) may also be relevant to the task at hand.
  2. Pedagogical understanding of designing elearning for different learners and contexts (otherwise risks blind use of tools)
  3. Collaboration and networking as a professional to communicate good practice. This seems very important in this field as as learning professionals will most likely work in teams with specialisms (content, tools, IT).
  4. Knowledge of digital tools and networking skills (this will vary depending on role but familiarity is required)
  5. Demonstrable experience and ability to articulate and reflect on that. (evidence of practicing elearning)
  6. Ability to create artifacts, documentation and reifications of good practice. Even where it might not be ‘excellent’, the ability to represent and reflect on it in terms of ‘good practice’ furthers the practice.
  7. Operate as a participant in a Community of Practice where working knowledge in a rapidly emerging profession becomes good practice. A willingness to learn from other good practice so as to refine/improve working practice is also important.

There are of course problems with the notion of ‘good practice’ if that is what ‘effective’ means. Context is crucial; otherwise there is the danger of ‘good practice’ being a stifler of innovation. I have alternatively come across ‘next practice’ (rather than best practice) as well as ‘emerging practice’ as possible terms. I actually prefer this approach because the medium, industry and digital learning is constantly evolving and I am not sure it is possible to ‘reify’ good practice in an absolute sense. So in terms of establishing ‘good practice’ I would put heavy emphasis on a detailed level of granularity when documenting ‘good practice’, adding as much context as possible rather than making generalizations and trying to always strive for ‘next practice’ or ’emerging practice’ that can support innovation and lead to continuous improvement.

Another area of discussion is whether elearning practice sits aside ‘learning practice’ and so practitioners need to understand both to be effective. As elearning practice often feeds into or replaces ‘established practice’, good practice of using elearning is necessarily contextual and the notion of building in an ‘elearning advantage’ to learning design is another way of conceptualizing effective practice in learning (JISC, 2004).

So at this stage, more questions than clea
r answers. It will be interesting to see what the Tutor Group and module cohort come up with. I am sure I have missed something obvious and this is where the value of the collaborative task will come in. As a further relflection on collaborative learning, one of the difficulties of engaging collaboratively is coming to a shared understanding of concepts etc and therefore how much individual work is required: I felt I needed to go through this process of readings and formulate my own understanding, so I am in a better place to move towards working collaboratively.

References

Dondi, C., Moretti, M., Husson, A.-M. and Pawlowski, J.M. (eds) (2005) ‘Interim report: CWA 1 – providing good practice for elearning quality approaches’ (online), CEN/ISSS.

Goodyear, P., Salmon, G., Spector, M., Steeples, C., & Tickner, T. (2001). Competences for online teaching. Educational Technology Research & Development, vol 49 no 1, pp .65-72.

Graham, C., Cagiltay, K., Lim, B.-R., Craner, J. and Duffy, T.M. (2001) ‘Seven principles of effective teaching: a practical lens for evaluating online courses’ (online), The Technology Source, March/April.

JISC (2004) ‘Effective practice with elearning: a good practice guide in designing for learning’ (online), JISC/HEFCE.

H808: Learning about learning technologists

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This post is a response to Activity 5.5: The profession of a learning technologist

While I am familiar with the term ‘learning technologist’, it was interesting to delve a bit deeper into what this means thorugh the required readings. Learning technologists (LTs) provide expertise that balance a pedagogical approach with the use of technology within a given environment and according to available resources. Working primarily in Higher Education but also in other spheres such as organizations, schools and external consultancies, LTs provide an ‘alternative source of pedagogical expertise’ which helps to distinguish them from teachers and other educational managers (Lisewski & Joyce, 2003). According to Oliver (2002), LTs exercise their professional judgement in response to requests to make sure that work is pedagogically viable and there is also a focus on interests of students. This is revealing as it might suggest that other educators are not working in the interests of students and perhaps hints that the LT could be viewed as a ‘Trojan Horse’ for new pedagogy.

Overall these defintions accorded with my previous view of individuals that exist both as a central resource for educational delivery where technology is required as well as experts who may specialize in very specific operations such as VLE management and operation or synchronous tutoring.

The definition is however a moving one and the ALT website itself states

Learning technologists are people who are actively involved in managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of learning technology. A very wide range of people in industry and in private and public sector education have learning technology as a core part of their role: you do not have to be called or to call yourself a learning technologist to be one!

This seems to suggest a diversely skilled profession which encompasses varying levels of specialization. The literature suggested that the profession is a developing one that has to balance the acceptance of frameworks such as Salmon’s ‘five-step guide to e-moderating’ or Wenger’s Community of Practice (which contributes to the profession’s credibility), with the other aspect of learning technology which is to constantly innovate and question pedagogical frameworks that may not be relevant in particular contexts. Lisewski & Joyce’s paper in evaluating the implemetation of the ‘five-step’ model in a particular context suggests that there is a danger of such frameworks being ‘reified’ (set in stone) and yet not being appropriate to a particular context.

However, some of these papers were written in 2002/2003 and feel a bit dated: there are constant debates about pedagogical approaches such as VLEs, LMS, or e-portfolios, while the role of social media and web 2.0 technologies in education are another current area of research and experimentation focussing more clearly on students’ needs. Wenger’s CoP paradigm is similarly challenged, questioned and developed by alternative conceptualizations of community or networked learning through Activity Theory, Connectivism and Rhizomatic learning. This is not to say all learning technologists are actively questioning and challenging, but as a field with a lively blogosphere and networked community, it would seem that Lisewski & Joyce’s fears have proved unfounded.

Further reflection on ‘elearning’ and ‘learning technologists’ as labels.

In a previous post about elearning professionals, I had mentioned that perhaps the term elearning may become obsolete in favour of ‘technology-enhanced learning’. Consequently, I noticed with interest the following on the ALT website:

ALT believes that as e-learning becomes embedded as a normal part of most learners’ experience the term will fall into disuse. In contrast we are confident that the term “learning technology” (i.e. the broad range of communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching, and assessment) will remain an acknowledged field of study, research and practice.

I am not sure that ‘learning technology’  or ‘technology enhanced learning’ has replaced elearning as yet in common or academic discourse, but it is a prevalent trend in more recent literature about where the learning technology profession is heading (Browne and Beetham, 2010).

For me, the term ‘learning technologist’ seems broader and stronger with the use of both words ‘technology’ and ‘learning’, while I am also seeing ‘educational technologist’ being used (Browne and Beetham, 2010). The ‘e’ in ‘elearning’ on the other hand feels like it might drop away rather like ‘e-marketing’ or ‘e-commerce’. Is it a case of ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’, or do terms matter?

References

Browne, T. and Beetham, H. 2010. The positioning of educational technologists in enhancing the student experience. Project Report. Association of Learning Technology and The Higher Education Academy. Available from:http://repository.alt.ac.uk/id/eprint/831.

Lisewski, B. and Joyce, P. (2003) Examining the five???stage e???moderating model: Designed and emergent practice in the learning technology profession. Association for Learning Technology Journal, 11 (1). pp. 55-66. ISSN 0968-7769

Oliver, M. (2002) ‘What do learning technologists do?’ (online), Innovations in Education and Teaching International, vol. 39, no. 4, pp. 245–52. 

 

H808: Creating multimedia instruction

This post is a response to Activity 4.1: Multimedia as evidence and creating digital evidence for an eportfolio

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We’ve been asked to think about relating media to different aspects of user engagement and how using different media relates to how people learn. I naturally veer towards creating text-based materials and prefer to use words, mindmaps, and flow diagrams to explain and instruct so creating multimedia content is a bit of a departure for me. However I wanted to try and create a screencast to demonstrate how I use a particular application and today I spent sometime getting to grips with Camtasia Studio for Mac and I created a screencast of how I use Evernote as a digital repository.

I found this activity quite difficult and time consuming because I was learning how to use a new piece of software (Camtasia) and how to produce an effective screencast. Trying to learn and do two distinct things was a bit of a strain, and I abandoned the trial and error approach as well as my initial time allocation for this activity. I managed to record myself but I could not work out how to edit the screencast. At the same time, I was conscious that I was speaking too slowly, stumbling over words and should have written a script. So first I decided to learn how to use Camtasia, and I found some useful videos about how to edit recordings. I watched all six of the getting started guide after which I was a lot more confident. Next, I wrote out a script and used it to guide my recording. I also set up some mock pages in Evernote, had some tabs already open on the web and decided to stick to a time limit which meant I only highlighted the essential components of Evernote. The result? Well it is OK and it’s here.

 

I didn’t have time to rework it too much. I still can’t figure out how to speed up my voice in Camtasia. On the plus side, my voice sounds less like Minnie Mouse than I had imagined.

If I compare it to writing out instructions in how to use Evernote or presenting static screenshots with instructions, I think a screencast like this can be really effective as it moves beyond verbal communications to non-verbal and auditory components. The act of creating this also made me think about how I do use this tool and whether I can improve my own use.

This activity reminded me that as an instructor and course designer, asking students to use unfamiliar software as well as complete a challenging task is a bit of an ask and that time constraints can be an important factor in student motivation and outcomes. However, there’s also a certain sense of satisfaction in producing something tangible, so I valued the process of self-discovery this activity enabled.

 

H808: Advice on what constitutes good reflective writing

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This post is a response to Activity 2.5 which is to write a piece of advice to students on what constitutes good reflective writing.

What is reflective writing?

When we talk about reflecting we usually mean thinking about and analysing an experience or event. Reflective writing means expressing these thoughts and analysis, so that it is of use to both the reader and the writer and helps track and demonstrate development of skills and experience over time.

Reflective writing is different from other forms of ‘academic writing’ such as essay writing; in reflective writing the writer is encouraged to:

1. Use the first person ‘I’.
2. Write about feelings and emotions.
3. Use descriptive language to show the reader what happened.
4. Write about when things went wrong and what you might do differently another time.

How do I do it?

One approach to reflective writing is to use a 4 step approach:

Step one: Describe the event or experience
Step two: Reflect and analyse the experience
Step three: Discuss the important of the experience or place it in context of another experience or relate it to something you already know.
Step four: Write about lessons learned and next steps as a result of this reflection.

Can you show me an example?

Yes! Look at the example below. The topic is ‘My first Skype tutoring session’

First, here is some writing with no reflection

Today I tutored through Skype rather than face to face. I sent the student the lesson overview by email and asked her to print it out. We worked through the lesson and I asked her questions. The skype feed went down a few times and we had to restart. The while lesson took much longer than a face to face but she saved time travelling to see me.

Now, let’s work through the four step reflection

{step one: describe}
Today was my first Skype tutoring session with my student. I was a bit concerned about whether she would think it was a poor substitute to face to face tutoring and whether there would be any drops in internet communication that might scupper the whole thing.

{step two: reflect/analyse the experience}
Overall the session seemed to work reasonably well as she and I went through the lesson plan and had a good discussion. I think I talked a bit too much though and perhaps a bit too quickly as she had to ask me to repeat things. The feed also kept dropping a few times, and we hadn’t established a protocol for who would ring back and how we would communicate when the feed dropped- I need to think about this for another time. The whole session took longer than a face to face session and I was quite tired by the end of it and I think she was glad it ended too. There was quite a lot of repeating information and more questioning which might explain the time overrun, but there were also some interruptions such as a family member coming into the room on her side and her internet feed dropping suddenly, which meant we had to re-start and review sections.

{step three: importance of experience}
Even though we could see each other, Skype tutoring is  different from face to face with some disadvantages (the same lesson takes longer online) although it is more convenient since we don’t need to meet up. I think Skype tutoring is not just moving the tutorials to an online environment but might be an opportunity to be able to do some different things . I have read about ‘flipping the classroom’ so that the student does the theory work and background reading and then the tutor-student interaction time is for working through exercises, and I wonder whether I should consider this for online tutoring.

{step four: next steps}
For the next session, I may ask her to do the reading beforehand to cut out my talking time at the beginning, ask her questions about what she understood, and then just work through the exercises with her. This will free up some time in the session and also it will mean I will do less talking/teaching and we can spend time interacting more.

{end}

Remember, you can work through this four step approach as many times as you want for the same experience. For example, if you were to reflect on this two months later, your reflections might be different as you will have new layers of experience to add.

 

H808: Case study of an eportfolio implementation

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This post is a response to Activity 2.3 which was to analyse and summarise issues raised in a case study of an eportfolio implementation.

The selected case study was the successful use of WordPress as an eportfolio system in a pilot programme at Dumfries and Galloway College (JISC 2008). The function of the eportfolio was Personal Development Planning (PDP) and specifically on the presentation of employability skills.

The rationale for using eportfolios to demonstrate employability aligns with Batson (2002) that ‘Students seem most interested in the ways ePortfolios can flesh out their resumes, …[if] potential employers can see an online resume that includes views of a student’s actual work, that student may be more likely to obtain the position’. This case study can therefore also be viewed in the context that eportfolios can help document authentic experience in a way that connects with the ‘net generations’ attitude to technology, since students are open to broadcasting their life experiences (Reese and Levy, 2009). Although the concept of ‘net generations’ as a homogenous entity of technically astute students is somewhat of a fallacy since there are significant differences between students; nonetheless, there  is ‘some moderate evidence that there are some differences in the expectations of net generation learners’ (Weller, 2011) if not in the actual technical skills.
 
Therefore using WordPress as an eportfolio for showcasing work could motivate students, as WordPress is a popular blogging and web-publishing tool. This assumption is supported in literature as according to an FE tutor ‘Learners say that they like the idea of e-portfolios and I can see that they now see it as an extension to the social software that they are becoming used to using in their personal lives’ (Becta 2007). The results of the case study showed that students were motivated especially with being able to upload video and image files to showcase particular achievements, while retention increased by 30% in a  construction class and 100% in a computing class (JISC, 2008). The case study showed that WordPress was flexible and extendible under a GNU General public licence and appeared to be easy to set-up, enabling students to customise but also use pre-set templates, which seemed to have contributed to the pilot’s success.

There were some important lessons for practitioners for successful integration:???

    1.    Introduce eportfolios early in the course and make it part of the curriculum.
    2.    Give structure (in the form of templates).
    3.    Practitioners to use the tool for reflection themselves to model good practice.

 
One area that is not discussed in the case study is employer feedback, especially since the Eportfolios were designed to help employability. The literature suggests that employers may not be receptive to Eportfolios ”Some students, … were concerned that employers, particularly in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), would neither have the time nor the inclination to view their e-portfolios’ (Becta 2009). I think this is a valid point; my personal experience is that often employers google potential employees and peruse social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook; there may be as much mileage in advising students how to make sure their google CV and social media presence is used to the best advantage as there is in implementing eportfolios.

References

Batson, T. (2002) ‘The electronic portfolio boom: what’s it all about?’ (online), Campus Technology.
 
Becta (2007) ‘Impact of e-portfolios on learning’, Becta, 5 June.

JISC (2008) Effective Practice with e-Portfolios: Supporting 21st Century Learning, JISC.

Reese, M. and Levy, R. (2009) ‘Assessing the future: e-portfolio trends, uses, and options in higher education’ (online), Research Bulletin, issue 4, EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, Boulder, CO.

Weller, M. (2011) The Digital Scholar, London, Bloomsbury Academic

 

H808: Experience of an online group collaboration exercise

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This post is a response to Activity 2.2 which was to discuss our own personal experiences of a group collaboration exercise.

Our first tutor group activity as a group was to collectively read a bunch of documents, use the information to fill in a template that identified drivers for the use of Eportfolios worldwide, and agree on the final version of the template.

On a personal note the timing of the activity was a challenge as I was personally stretched on completing the H800 EMA. However, this also helped me realise that in a group collaboration with adult professional learners, we don’t really know what constraints others are under and that that we need to account or allow for this.

The other challenges were that the group has only met asynchronously, has barely got to know the other members, and are part of a global cohort with different time zones as well as their own differing working patterns. The activity progressed reasonably well, but did not come to a closure with a perfectly completed and agreed-upon template since we ran out of time and other individual activities took priority.

However, there were some valuable lessons and gains, in particular efficient use of the OU wiki and an exploration of the google docs collaboration environment. Highlights were:

  1. One group member took the initiative to set up a wiki group reading page which not only helped with group note taking but helped my own use of the OU wiki; another took on the task of creating a google docs template and I initially kicked off a post about options for moving forward. All of these initiatives were supported and commented on by the group so we were able to get off to a good start.
  2. The group reading and commenting enabled others in group to share understanding when coming to similar conclusions about lack of clear drivers or not much information for ‘Elsewhere’.
  3. Being able to add and edit to a google docs template was a valuable skill.
  4. The activity was done with good humor and cooperation, which are huge positives in the context of this very new module since getting to know the  group and learning lessons for working another time are of immense value.

Some of the areas of challenge for group collaboration were familar to me and included:

  1. The distributed responsibility, no clear leader to drive the process, individuals’ difficulty accessing google docs, and lack of synchronous discussion made the process stutter along after a good start.
  2. Due to time commitments and other work on the week’s activities the activity did not really finish. Perhaps someone might have taken on this task just to catalogue the drivers in the template at the end as all the data was there.

Personally, this activity demonstrated proactivity (in setting out options for going forward) and enabled development in the technology competancy area (use of the OU wiki and google docs collaboration environment).