Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Making teaching a systematic process

Michael SankeyMichael Sankey, Director of the Learning and Teaching Support Unit at University of Southern Queensland gave a brief talk at the ANU in Canberra today on the way that USQ undertakes course development. USQ has a very systematic process for Learning and teaching design. USQ use Moodle, Mahara and other tools common to the ANU. What is different is the priorities of the two institutions, with the ANU having an emphasis on research, rather than teaching.

Michael mentioned that USQ have found audio enhanced slide shows the most popular delivery method with students, particularly overseas students with English as a second language. Formative quizzes are also popular. Some of the reading I have done suggests that while these are popular, they may not provide any better teaching than plain text. But it might still be need to to keep the students happy, or spend a lot of time convincing them it is not needed.

USQ student alumni can keep their Mahara e-portfolio online after finishing their courses.

USQ see Moodle 2 as being used for core activities and then
referring students out to external social networking/web app/web 2 sites. They also have some "Second Life" islands (which I am sceptical of the value of).

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Learning e-learning in Canberra

Sir Roland Wilson Building at ANUGreetings from the GAGGLE @ The Australian National University. This is a free meeting of educators at the ANU in Canberra, on e-learning and distance education. The program had to be changed to put the expert panel debate on first, because, ironically, the data projector is missing. Yoni Ryan, Allan Herrmann and Robert Fitzgerald are debating about the detail, standardisation and precision needed for describing university courses. What will be interesting is if universities will swallow their pride and ask for help from the vocational sector and industry bodies who have been doing this for years.

Robert Fitzgerald talked about the importance of the notion of presence with technology such as Twitter (his presentation is on Slideshare). He cited "The Social Life of Information", "The Wealth of Networks" and "Opening Up Education". He argued that Facebook had a symmetrical relationship (I would call it binary), where you have friends and not friends, whereas Twitter allows more complex relationships. It would seem to me that technology like Mahara would suit this.

Allan Herrmann talked about the effect of learning spaces on learning and how to design flexible learning spaces, both physical and virtual. He started with a quote from Alice Through the Looking Glass, the point of it was you need to know where you want to get to when designing the physical spaces and learning materials. He recommended the latest EduCause on designing learning spaces.

When someone finds the data projector, we will have Karen Visser and Jenny Edwards on the best of EDUCAUSE 2009.

Topics include the implementation of the open source Moodle learning management system at ANU (which I am using next semester to teach Green ICT around the world).

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Social Networking for Education and CO2 Reduction

I will be talking on "Learning to lower costs and carbon emissions with ICT" at the ACS Victorian Branch 2009 Conference, 15 May 2009. In this I am arguing that applications such as the Moodle e-learning and Mahara ePortfolio/social networking can reduce carbon emissions. These tools replace travel and classrooms for education and so reduce the carbon footprint of education. Also they teach the students how to work this way, so that in their workplace they can replace meetings and meeting rooms with web based tools.

I find online tools very useful for business, but the impediment is to find people to work with who are able to use them effectively. The idea that young people just naturally learn to use the web is a myth; they still need to be trained on how to use it effectively. Even IT professionals, who know how the tools work, do not use them effectively unless shown how.

Another example of using the web for CO2 reduction I will use for the conference is getting there. I have been using the web for "Finding a green way to get to a green conference". So far I have managed to find trains from Melbourne to Ballarat, with a side trip to Box Hill Institute to discuss vocational sustainability training for computing students.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Moodle and Mahara in Adelaide

Greetings from the Australian Computer Society office in Adelaide where I am taking part in an e-learning course. The ACS is using Moodle extensively for its professional certification course and is intending to use Mahara. While conventional distance education courses using Moodle on the web are working well, the issue is how to introduce more reflective learning and self assessment. The students report what they are doing at work and reflect on its role in their future development. E-portfolios are frequently cited as the way to do this, but up until today no one has to explain to me exactly how they would be used.

Moodle Journals

So far we have been introduced to the Moodle Journal feature. This seems to be a lightweight e-portfolio which might be used for a single course or even a brief part of the course, such as a week. However this is not the sort of long term ongoing record of work, which some thing like Mahara would be used for.

The interesting part for me is how to introduce structure to the journal and how much structure should be provided. To just give the student a blank text editor window doesn't seem enough. The journal can be pre-loaded with a list of topics, but there is no support for an analysis of what the students put under those categories.

Moodle Workshop

The next activity addressed was the Moodle workshop module.This allows for peer assessment; that is other students assess the student's work. A random group of students can be allocated to assess others work, so for example each student might be required to assess the work of five others and be assessed by five (but five would be a lot).

Deadlines for submission of the student work and the assessment can be set separately. This way the students cannot see the other student's assignment before they submit their own. Text and files can be uploaded as part of the submission. It is important to describe clearly what the student is to do.

The proportion of grading from peer assessment can be set (so the peer assessment might be 20%). Examples can be provided to the students as to what to do. There is an option for the student to assess their own submissions. The assignments can be made anonymous and the assessor (which would be normally used).


Mahara is an open source e-portfolio products developed with funding from the New Zealand government. Mahara complements Moodle, by providing social networking features orientated towards the student, rather the instructuor. Mahara is similar to Facebook in its features, but has the advantage of being an educationally orentated facility which can be more safely provided within an institution.

Mahara has an export/import function so that, in theory the student can take their portfolio with them from institution to institution. It supports some interchange formats (such as LEAP2A specification). There are also discussions in Australia between education facilities for common portfolios. In the case of the ACS interchange with Australian universities would seem an advantage. The ANU is looking at Mahara and it seems to be favored by the vocational training sector.

Mahara appears to have limitations compared to products such as LinkedIn, as an example the user has to enter their employment history in cronological order as it can't be sorted automatically or rearranged. Being open source there is work going to to fix this and to alloow export and import to systems such as LinkedIn. An obvious one for Australia would be export and import to the systems which the ACS and unviersites provide and to systems such as the Australian Government's GAM system used for assessing research grant applicaitons. At present the professional has to manually enter their details into each of these systems. Being able to enter the data once and export would be useful.

The information about the student is entered by the student in Mahara. A simple way to verify claims about educational and other qualifications mentioned was for the institutions to provide a URL on testimonials which can be entered to verify the details. This is a much simpler approach that proposals for digital certificates on e-portfolios which were previously proposed (and it is the technique I suggested the ACS use).

Mahara also includes facilities for blogs and to import from external bloggs using an RSS feed. One issue this creates is keeping your professional persona separate from your private one. In my case my blog has a mix of items, only some of which are relevant to my work. I would need to create a filter, perhaps using Yahoo Pipes, to supply only the professionally relevant material for the e-portfolio.

Mahara has provision to create groups of people with a common interest. ACS with its
ICT Environmental Sustainability Group and EdNa with its Edna Groups have used Moodle to create groups, but this takes some mangling of Moodle's functions. Mahara would seem to have more potential.Link


In passing dimdim was mentioned. This is an open source web meeting product, similar to Wimba Classroom. The comment made was that this was developed in India and so is designed to work with low speed dial-up Internet connections, whereas the commercial web meeting products emphasize video and require a broadband connection. This product might be of use for disaster management for this reason.


The training was provided by BrightCookie. This is one of two well known Moodle support companies based in Adelaide.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Future of Technology

Kate CarruthersKate Carruthers talked on "Future Technology" at the Australian Computer Society Canberra Branch last night. She is repeating the talk in Hobart tonight, and around Australian in the coming weeks. Kate explained she was discussing trends, not making predictions. Even so she gave some very clear views as to where she sees the future of ICT and how this will challenge ICT professionals and organisations.

The first part of the talk was taken up with a discussion of social networking and its impact on organisations. Kate made the point that younger staff will see tools such as Facebook as a normal part of everyday and will not understand if these are banned from the workplace. Organisations need to put in place procedures which allow for their personal use without adversely impacting the workplace. Organisations also need to work these tools into their operations, making use of them for business.

As Kate explained at the beginning, in retrospect technological trends seem obvious and inevitable. Even so I thought the description of social networking to be obvious and was disappointed that Kate did not go on to detail how organisations should deal with them. I kept thinking "Will this scale to be usable by the average office worker? Can it be made secure in the corporate environment?". However, this may turn out to be as significant as the ACS meetings I attended about 15 years ago where we were introduced to the wonders of the Internet and the web.

Along with other ACS members I helped bring the Internet and the web to the Australian Government.One job was writing the Defence Department's guidelines on the use of the Internet in the workplace and later the guidelines for the web. These were not abstract tasks as shortly after drafting the guidelines, I had a call from the military police saying that solders had been caught with Internet pornography and what should they do?

The smartphone is also something Kate sees as being big in the future, pointing out the average phone has more processing power than desktop computers of a few years ago. Unfortunately as with social networking, she did not go on to say what this would do to organisations.

RFID tags and cloud computing also got a mention. At this point the audience was probably suffering technology overload and perhaps some of this material could be dropped from future talks.

Improvements I would suggest for later talks are:
  1. Address the organisation: Canberra is a government town and like many in the audience I was wondering how what was being presented applied to large traditional government organisations. The same question would arise with large companies.
  2. Use Local Examples: Kate gave some examples of organisations using these new technologies, but the examples were US based. At question time I asked about Australian examples and Kate gave several which could be usefully incorporated in the presentation.
  3. Use the technology: While Kate was talking about highly interactive technologies, she was using a very static non-interactive PowerPoint style presentation to do it. I suggest some demonstrations would help get the dynamic nature of these technologies across the the audience.

    Recently I attended a training course by Mark Drechsler of Netspot, who are supporting the new ANU Learning Management System. He was teaching us to use Moodle and as this is a web based tool he was not surprisingly had a web page open on a big screen for most of the course. What I found surprising was that photos of people kept popping up in the bottom corner of the screen, with short text messages. After a time I worked out these must be Mark's work colleagues, arriving at work, posting general queries to each other and leaving.

    It was a little distracting to have these people popping up every few minutes and I was getting a little annoyed. At this point Mark explained these were his colleagues and typed a query one of the students had asked into the system and got an answer from one of his colleagues. At this point I realised that these people were mostly in Netspot's headquarters in Adelaide and others around the world. This was the equivalent of staff popping their head into the training course to introduce themselves. These were people we would be working with at ANU to implement the new system, so it was useful to get to know who we would be working with, even if we never see them in person or talk to them face-to-face.

    Kate could similarly demonstrate the use pf some of the technologies, to show that these are not just abstract concepts to be discussed, but real and practical tools for the workplace.
Social networking in the workplace is a topic the ACS is indirectly dealing with via its Computer Professional Education Program. The students use online tools for their courses which are similar to social networking. The primary method of learning is by the students interacitng online, discussing, adding information to forums; the tutors are there to help the students learn how to work this way, not to teach them. A byproduct of this procvess is that these students will be well equipped to use these techniques in their workplace. One of the interesting tools the ACS is using is the open source e-portfolio software "Mahara", from New Zealand, which interfaces to Moodle.

ps: Senator Lundy is talking about how she uses a smart phone to help run the Australian Government, in Canberra on Thursday.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

E-portfolios for professional education in Australia

ACT CIT hosted an excellent free session this morning on e-Portfolios, as part of the Australian Flexible Learning Framework. The most important news is open source e-portfolio software "Mahara", from New Zealand, which interfaces to Moodle.
Thursday 14 August, 10.30am - 12.30pm - E-portfolios with guest presenter Allison Miller (E-portfolios business activity manager) hosted by the Australian Flexible Learning Framework.
To register > email Kerry Manikis before cob Monday 11 August
Further information > E-portfolios Network, RPL Online Network (RON), Leonard Low's E-portfolios slideshow and Mahara (open source e-portfolio tool)

From: Australian Flexible Learning Framework ACT, 2008
Before the session, I was sceptical as to if there were going to be standards and software for e-Portfolios and if vocational trainers and universities would cooperate to use compatible systems. I came away from the morning with most of my questions answered and ready to recommend the implementation of e-portfolios to my colleagues.

Electronic portfolios (e-portfolio or digital portfolios) are an electronic collection of samples of evidence of a person's experience and learning. They may be web based. There has been interest in E-portfolios from universities and the vocational education sector as a way to provide non-paper evidence of what students have done. This goes beyond the usual cryptic academic transcript. But the main interest from government is to have educational qualifications in a digital form which can be electronically verified.

There are business and technical overviews, software and standards available from the Australian Flexible Learning Framework. Also there is an e-Portfolio blog, with updates.

E-Portfolios are likely to come in different favours depending on the educational sector and discipline. The vocational (TAFE) sector and fine arts people at university are likely to use e-portfolios as a way for the student to show their work. Science disciplines at universities are more likely to see it as a way to provide an index to official transcripts and lists of publications.

The ACS already has a system it uses for recording qualifications and experience of its own members. With some open source software being available, it should not be too hard to offer an ePortfolio for each of the 13,000 members.

In its simplest form the ePortfolio could be an extra report generated from an existing database of membership information. The e-Portfolio could be presented on screen as a web page, in a printable format and electronic export formats. The printed and exported ePortfolio versions could have a web address in them which could be used to validate the information.

Technically the ePortfolio is not difficult to implement. What will be harder are the procedures and legal implications from providing the information.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

E-portfolios for vocational education

There will be a free event on E-portfolios for vocational education, at the CIT Reid Campus, 14 August. This will feature Allison Miller, Business Manager, E-portfolios - Managing Learner Information and CIT Children's Services e-learning innovations project, Lisa Beattie and Aaron Pont.
Thursday 14 August, 10.30am - 12.30pm - E-portfolios with guest presenter Allison Miller (E-portfolios business activity manager) hosted by the Australian Flexible Learning Framework.
To register > email Kerry Manikis before cob Monday 11 August
Further information > E-portfolios Network, RPL Online Network (RON), Leonard Low's E-portfolios slideshow and Mahara (open source e-portfolio tool)

From: Australian Flexible Learning Framework ACT, 2008
Electronic portfolios (e-portfolio or digital portfolios) are an electronic collection of samples of evidence of a person's experience and learning. Usually they are in the form of a web page. There has been interest in E-portfolios from universities and the vocational education sector as a way to provide non-paper evidence of what students have done. This goes beyond the usual cryptic academic transcript. But the main interest from government (and fundingr) is to have educational qualifications in a digital form which can be electronically verified.

QUT ran an Australian ePortfolio Symposium in February 2008. The US approach to ePortfolios is to have companies or consortia of educational institutions provide them. An example is Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium (CTDLC)'s ePortfolio. EIfEL (European Institute for E-Learning), has been working with HR-XML.

Australian Universities are working as the Australian ePortfolio Project, with government funding. AeP surveyed me about potential use of ePortfolios. I pointed out that ACS is working on international accreditation for ICT professionals this has recently received support from Microsoft. The ACS already has a system it uses for recording qualifications and experience of its own members. It is likely that something similar will be used internationally. The ACS exposes some of the information in its system to other members and more limited information to the public via a member's list and consultant's directory. I have suggested the ACS provide an ePortfolio, as an option for members, from the same data, using the standard format. The ACS just needs to format the data in the correct format for this.

Professional bodies have have to check the experience and qualifications of members and many now have schemes for members to report their ongoing education (such a s ACS's PCP program). It would seem a small extra step to make this information available in an a e-portfolio format.

In addition commercial web services, such as Linked-In, provide the information which members provide , marked up in a machine readable format.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

How to convert handouts to interactive learning objects

A free series of workshops on e-learning is being sponsored by the Australian Government. The next is on how to create e-learning materials using free software, in Canberra, Thursday 24 July:
Do you want to learn how to convert you handouts to interactive learning objects for your learners?

e-pd in the @CT

In 2008, the ACT Framework Team will provide free e-learning professional development opportunities for the ACT vocational education and training community.

AREDv2 e-tools workshop - Thursday 24 July

Applications for rapid e-learning development version 2 (AREDv2) is a free Australian Flexible Learning Framework tool to publish or create media rich interactions.

To register for this free e-tools workshop on Thursday 24 July from 1.30pm - 3.30pm at CIT Reid Campus, email kerry.manikis(a)cit.act.edu.au by cob Tuesday 22 July.

e-tools workshops are free short and sharp hands-on afternoon workshops which enable practitioners to use e-learning tools and resources to create engaging learning content.

For more information visit the ACT Framework webpage at http://flexiblelearning.net.au/act

Kerry Manikis
Senior Project Officer, Industry Integration of E-learning and ACT E-learning Coordinator
Strategic and National Projects, Marketing and National Positioning Centre, Canberra Institute of Technology
Post GPO Box 826, Canberra ACT 2601
Physical Room A202, Level 2, Block A, Constitution Avenue, Reid ACT 2612

Supporting e-learning opportunities for the Australian Flexible Learning Framework

Later events:

12 August, 12noon - 2pm - Toolboxes at CIT: ACT Toolbox Champion webpage
14 August, time to be confirmed - E-portfolios with guest presenter Allison Miller
(E-portfolios business activity manager): E-portfolios Network, RPL Online Network (RON), Leonard Low's E-portfolios slideshow and Mahara (open source e-portfolio tool)
20 August, 8am - 9.30am - Toolbox showcase

27 August, two days - E-learning Explorers (Moodle) :
e-explorers webpage
28 August,
1.30pm - 4.30pm - E-learning Tools: Virtual classrooms : e-tools webpage
10 September, 8am - 9.30am - Designing online learning sequences with Toolbox resources

11 September,
1.30pm - 4.30pm - E-learning Tools: Audio and podcasting
18 September,
1.30pm - 4.30pm - E-learning Tools: Moodle on a stick
29 - Tuesday 30 September, all day - E-learning Explorer (Myclasses)

2 October,
1.30pm - 4.30pm - E-learning Tools: Precious Web 2.0 gems
6 October,
1.30pm - 4.30pm - E-learning Tools: Digital stories
12 November, all day - November online event:
configuration room

2 December, all day - ACT E-learning Showcase

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