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Student Moodle Hub

July 10, 2012 Leave a comment

Following on from the only partially succesful development of a staff Moodle communication space, an equivalent has now been developed for the Mental Health Students in the School of Health Sciences. The devlopment followed on from the student common room space developed by the School of Arts and Social Sciences, so thank-you to Kate and Anna who allowed some cross Univeristy poaching of resources.

The purpose of the hub is to develop an on-line community of mental health nursing students and provide an interactive platform for communication between staff and students.

Key features of the web space are a Twitter feed from relevant mental health related organisations.  This is fed manually via the CityMentHealth Twitter account. There is also an RSS feed connected to Mental health news. In  addition to standard features such as information related to the course, and being a City University Student, we have trialled a number of discussion boards. So far these havent been engaged with well, but it is hoped when the new cohort of students come in September we can can embed the concept of communicating on-line at the beginning. Likewise the open surgery whereby a lecturer was available for on-line chat at a regular time each week has thus far not been used by a single student!

The hub has improved commmunciation with the student group as a whole, as previously information had to be uploaded to each individual module. We have a route to publicise events, and are currently compiling a list of staff publications for students to access. There has been some disucssin as to how the live chat could be better accessed, students have fed back that they don’t use it because they are either in class or on placement. Some thought has been given to offering chat sessions during the evening but this does set a precedent for accessibility.

The hub is in the process of being evaluated via an on-line survey and is throwing up some interesting comments, especially regarding students preference for using Facebook.

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Review of “Innovation in e-learning” OU course

June 11, 2012 Leave a comment

 

Over the past few months I have been under taking the innovation in e-learning module via the OU.

This course has taken us from considering what innovation is and how best to implement it, looking at models and theories relevant to e-learning, encouraging consideration of issues around privacy to finish up by designing and critiquing our own e-tivities.

Part of the value of this course has come from experiencing e-learning from the experts in e-learning. Whilst this course has a significant workload for one 30 credit module (15 hours per week and 4 essays!) the tasks and activities have been designed so that the majority of the work is a pre-cursor for the assessed components. It has been interesting to see just how much work it has been for our tutor to maintain the discussion forums. Whilst there are only 12 of us in our tutor group, our tutor must spend many hours per week responding to discussion forums and prompting engagement. It is also interesting to see the difference in engagement from students in a course that relies on participation in  forums in order for learning to occur when compared to my own courses where forums are an added extra. But despite an expectation of participation there is still a significant amount of lurking and catch up being played.

One of the essays we were given required us to reflect on 10 postings we had made in the discussion forums. I think this was a useful tactic in maintaining engagement but it did result in a lot of retrospective posting around the due date of the essay!

We used Elluminate which is a system similar to adobe connect. We used it as a group of students, but I think we would have benefitted from some lectures being delivered through this medium. Whilst discussion forums have their place I think it is  a mistake to rely on them solely. The disjointed nature of asynchronous communication really detracts from the learning as I found it quite hard to maintain the thread of an idea when it would be discussed over a number of days.

Overall I would strongly recommend this course It blends well,  theory and practical experience and the opportunity for experiential learning as an e-learner shouldn’t be underestimated.

Categories: Case Studies

A year in the life of the LDA

June 11, 2012 Leave a comment

The first thing I have learned in the past year is how to spell associate  a word I have always found tricky. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to take up this post despite not having a totally clear idea of what it was I was going to do and as such the role has evolved somewhat organically over the past year.   In some ways this year has been a lesson in what not to do. But by learning what hasn’t worked it has taught me some valuable lessons. Being an LDA has been a great opportunity in terms of meeting people outside of the School of Health Sciences, and having the thinking space to consider how communcation can be enhanced through the use of Moodle.

The less good aspects about the role have to be related to time. When only working two days per week it really hasn’t been feasible to give over a full day per week to the LDA role. Initially I tried to separate my time on a strict Mondays for LDC work. Unfortunately the rest of my roles and responsibilities frequently made that impossible. I would imagine for someone who works full the time the delineation would be easier.

The projects I have undertaken haven’t in all honesty been roaring successes. Despite management being supportive of using Moodle as a communication forum, staff simply havent engaged with the Moodle space. This again is reflective of the limited amount of time we all have. If you don’t have time to chat around the water cooler in real life why would you want to do so virtually? I also wonder whether as we begin to deliver more courses via e-learning this attitude will shift. We simply don’t have an e-culture as yet nor do we have a particular need to develop one and lets face it necessity is the mother of invention, and at present this invention wasnt a necessity!

The thing I have enjoyed most about the LDA role is the fantastic support I have had especially from Olivia who has been a never-ending source of patience and sound advice. So whilst I may not have produced any ground breaking publishable research (yet!), I have developed a whole heap of experience in using Moodle as a communication tool, met some lovely people across the University and had the time and space to think about it all. All in all I hope a year well spent.

Top Moodle tips

April 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Top tips for using Moodle

  1. Get the settings right. When setting up discussion forums be very careful not to click “force everyone to subscribe “unless you really need to. This option is really only suitable for news forums. You have to allow people to subscribe to the forums they are  interested in and hope that they go onto your space to see that there are discussions , this is the price to pay so you don’t drive your colleagues demented.
  2. Chat rooms will only work if specific times are set for the room to be available. Its good practice to have a live chat space available. However unless you set it to open at certain times that your users are aware of, you are relying on them  to be coincidentally on-line at the same time. This results in a lot of people feeling lonely in the chat room, saying hello with no reply.
  3. Twitter is brilliant. It allows you to stream current relevant information to your students with a minimum of effort. It keeps your moodle space current and you can secretly keep track of what Stephen Fry had for breakfast.
  4. Discussion forums take quite a bit of work. Discussion forums are a bit like teaching students at 4pm on a Friday. You have to really work to get a response. Nobody wants to be the first to post so you have to work to get people to engage. Give them something specific to discuss. Students take a while to engage with each other so the teacher needs to have a role in keeping the discussion going.
  5. Discussion forums can reduce your workload. Fed up with keep being asked the same question? Put it in an faq’s  forum. This works really well for queries around essays and practice. If you only respond to these questions within a forum it encourages students to read the forum before sending you an email.
  6. You’ve got to love a lurker. It may feel if you set up a forum that isn’t being particularly well engaged with that its a bit pointless. If you go into reports you can see who has been looking at what on your space. It can be quite reassuring that whilst students may not be taking an active role on the space, that they are still there lurking.

Using Adobe connect for remote tutorials

February 13, 2012 1 comment

A bit more of a personal one today. Having had varying degrees of success using Adobe connect in the past I finally bit the bullet and found a volunteer student to do a remote tutorial with. I have to say I rather surprised myself with how successful it was. Prior to the session I uploaded into the chatbox some instructions to get her to run through the audio wizard prior to the session. As we were looking at an essay she had failed I wanted to have that on the screen. However if you do this as a word document it takes over the whole screen and you can’t see any of the adobe connect interface. To get round this I cut and pasted it into a powerpoint. This took quite a long time and was a bit of a hassle for a 2000 word essay, would have been ridiculous to do with any longer work. So if I were to do it again would need to find a better solution. the student logged on at the correct time and even with my lack of experience we quickly got it working. We opted for hands free and didnt get any interference, so after a few minutes it felt as if we were almost talking face to face. We recorded the session so she could then listen to it again at a later date.  The only slight hiccup was my shopping order turning up in the middle of it, however thats what you get for working at home on your day off!!

More importantly this is the feedback I got from the student;

How did you find the experience? —- Really useful once we got the sound sorted, would recommend the student has a print out of the essay so they can take notes of comments given

Was the software easy enough to use? —–As a first time user of this sort of software I found it dead simple to set up last night and then use this morning, the links/instructions were straightforward

Did you find it a positive way to communicate? —— yes I did and more convenient, though it also helped that I knew Lorna 

Anything you didn’t like about it,—– the microphone delay/ feedback but you get used to it quite quickly
 
Is it something you would want to do again? ——- I would be happy to give it a go again as it saved time and travel to uni

 

Moodle vs My City

February 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Case Study: Dr Emma-Jane Berridge senior lecturer in the Educational Development Unit in the School of Health Sciences.

Dr Berridge has been leading on the introduction of TEL into the new nursing curriculum. In this case study she discusses her choice of methods for communication and collaboration.

I had real high hopes for My City. At the beginning there were lots of communities set up and thought that this would settle down and a select few would flourish and survive. However very few of them have in actual fact flourished.Its turned into a bit of a graveyard for documents. Part of the reason I don’t visit the space is because I don’t think  the interface is particularly user-friendly.  I don’t find it very intuitive. The main problem with My City is that the initial flourish of activity overwhelmed people and put them off and also because it isn’t a comfortable tool too use.

For those reasons we chose to use Moodle  as a method of communication for the new curriculum design. Partly as a way to showcase some of the things we can do with Moodle such as discussion forums and Wiki’s, so it could become a model space. It also lends itself to organising information thematically whereas My City only allows for files to be grouped. I also find it quite difficult to search for past activity within My City. However the Moodle space hasn’t been utilised well and is that about Moodle, or the content or the fact that the people we are trying to communicate with are too busy and have too many pressures? At present the traffic is showing that the people who are coming to the space are coming and contributing. There is a worry that the people who feel they can’t contribute aren’t coming at all and yet those are the people who may benefit most from the space.

Part of the reason I embraced My City was a hope that this would reduce the flow of documents via email. But I think this needs to be championed by people to never send attachments and only ever put them within the relevant community. The reason people aren’t visiting these communities is because there is no purpose. I think that to revert to using central storage like  the N drive makes it difficult for people to access from home. However Moodle and My City are much more versatile especially for remote access.  As people’s working patterns change and we move to open plan offices  we need to find more digital communication methods as people maybe more likely to work from home.

We need to effect some cultural change around how we utilise email. The flow can be overwhelming and the time spent clearing out in boxes and filing could be better used.  Maybe we need a day zero from which everyone was then encouraged to put all documents into My City or Moodle. But fundamentally people need to be engaged with the information for these things to work.

 

Dr Berridge’s Moodle space for TEL can be viewed here; Use the code tel2012

Communication, Curriculums and Karen.

January 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Case study:

Communication in Curriculum Design .

Karen Rawlings-Anderson. Senior Lecturer. School of Health Sciences.

Karen has recently taken on the role of leading the design of the new curriculum to be delivered across the nursing programs starting in September  2012. This mammoth task has required the coordination of input from a large number of staff from across the school. I spent some time with Karen to find out what she had found helpful in promoting communication and collaboration within this project.

So how did you get started?

Initially I sent out an email looking for people who wanted to be involved in the redesign. The aim of this was to recruit people in who were interested in being part of this. We didn’t have  a formal communication strategy but hoped they would disseminate information from the curriculum development back to their teams/division/field.  I set up a community on My City which the University was promoting at the time. The aim of this was to avoid blocking up people’s in-boxes with attachments. It would be a one-stop shop for all the relevant information needed for the new curriculum.

How have you found using My City?

In all honesty it hasn’t been well utilised. I still get emails asking for the information that has already been put into My City. My City has its problems in organising information and have had to set up a separate archive for old versions of the documents. I am now considering setting up a Moodle space to use as a forum to communicate about the new curriculum and abandon My City altogether. I didn’t consider using Moodle initially because I thought it was just for students. I think that people just don’t access these spaces because they are simply too busy. It is an added task. The single log-in doesn’t automatically take us to these spaces, we have to go and actively look for them. There isn’t the time to do this whilst trying to actively manage the flow of email.

How have you dealt with these challenges?

When designing this curriculum it didn’t feel right to start trying to use new methodologies like document sharing etc, because there was enough stress in just dealing with the work. I didn’t want to add to it for people by adding in new ways of communicating. Just because we have these new technologies it doesn’t mean we have to use them or they will be any more effective. People have their own habits of learning and communicating, and during a curriculum design wasn’t the time for trying something new. At present we are using the central N drive to store documents and using email and face to face meetings. I wouldn’t want to move away from email entirely and rely on people to visit a communication space like Moodle or My City because I would be worried about communication breaking down.

Would you consider using some of the electronic communication methods like Adobe Connect?

I have had some experience of using Connect in virtual tutorials. I did find it quite difficult to use. It’s also disruptive for people sharing offices, especially if we are moving to open plan offices. If people can’t attend meetings in person, I doubt they would want to attend them remotely. We have generally had very good attendance at face-to face meeting so don’t see the need for a virtual option.

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