Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Workshops on technology-enhanced learning

The last of the USQ/ANU workshops on on technology-enhanced learning is just ending. My blog postings about some of the these are:

The notes from my presentation yesterday is also avialable: "Mentored and collaborative techniques in e-teaching".

ps: I would welcome collaboration on e-learning. My ANU e-learning course details are at: COMP7310 "Green Technology Strategies".

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Moodle for electronic assignments

Ron Sharma from USQ is at ANU talking on "Using Moodle, electronic assignment and other tools to support Engineering students" (after a general workshop yesterday). USQ changed from Web CT to the Moodle Learning Management System several years ago. ANU is still making that transition. One difference is that USQ has a central set of standards, whereas this is devolved at ANU to the colleges (Oxbridge style). At USW assignments are electronically set, submitted, marked and returned to the students. This is necessary as the external student numbers are increasing rapidly. It is therefore infeasible to have students submit assignments on paper. Also USQ has to respond to the needs of industry, such as the energy sector, for engineering education.

At USQ the same Moodle template is used for all courses at the university, with the same standard information resources, such as contacts for the course and assessment. This is provided at the top of the main screen for each Moodle course. The specific course content then follows below. This looks to me a very good approach, so that students knew where to find the information for each course . Having standard conditions for assignment submission saves confusion.

Professor Sharma reported that using the LMS resulted in a reduction in lecture and tutorial attendance from 70% to 30%. This seems in line with my experience. He suggested that just putting lecture notes and audio recordings online was not sufficient: it was necessary to also provide online tutorial materials. This makes sense to me and I was assuming that about 25% of the students would still want to attend in person. The issue then is from a business point of view is if the university can afford to support those students. My suggestion for ANU was to replace the large lecture theaters (which typically easiest 100 or more), with small ones which seat about 24 students. This would be sufficient students to have a class and provide an audience for the lecturer to perform to for audio and video recording.

Professor Sharma teaching energy auditing to the engineering students. This is similar to he green ICT energy audit I teach in Green Technology Strategies.

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Providing a laboratory for students at home

Alfio Parisi from University of Southern Queensland is talk on "Remote laboratories and experiments, experimental kits supporting first year DE students" at ANU in Canberra. USQ provide Experiment kits, portable lecture demonstrations, remote viewing astronomical observatory.

Experiment Kits fit in a standard size box for posting and costs less than $40. First year students buy the kit through the bookstore and it is posted to anywhere in the world. There are now about ten experiments available. An example is to measure the spring constant of a spring. The kits have been checked for safety. See:Take-home physics experiment kit for on-campus and off-campus students (J Turner, 2008).

Instruments on to top of the university building measures solar UV in real time. This is then used by the students. Web based display show reading from the instruments for the students. One limitation is that the instruments are not effective after dark.

Portable Lecture Demonstrations consist of short video clips of physics demonstrations. These are similar to the demonstrations typically used in the classroom, but provided online for remote students and those who cannot attend classes.

The remote viewing astronomical observatory is located near Toowomba and has a remote controlled telescope, weather station and fast Internet connection. The project is with the University of Louisville, who can use the telescope during the day. In return USQ can use the Moore Observatory in the USA during the Australian day. A new telescope is planned to expand the facilities.

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Online laboratories for students

Alfio Parisi from University of Southern Queensland will talk on "Remote laboratories and experiments, experimental kits supporting first year DE students" at ANU in Canberra, 11am. This will be followed by Ron Sharma on "Using Moodle, electronic assignment and other tools to support Engineering students" at 11:30am. Staff from USQ are at ANU in Canberra to talk about technology assisted learning. Yesterday there was a general workshop and today there are some specific discipline talks.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Improving academics use of technology

The last presentation for the day at the workshop on technology-enhanced learning at ANU was by Romina Jamieson-Proctor (USQ) on "Learning to Design, Designing to Learn: improving academics' use of technology to enhance learning". She discussed how to motivate staff to use new techniques. This included providing examples of good practice and some competitions.

Romina's tips were good, but perhaps we need to treat e-learning as a core skill for educators. We then can prepare formal courses for educators to learn how to do online education. In response to a question along these lines Romina pointed out that new teachers in Queensland require an ICT Certificate.

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Online communities for post-graduate education

The speaker after my Green ICT presentation at the second workshop on technology-enhanced learning at ANU was Peter Evans (USQ) on "Using e-Learning technologies and online communities to support post-graduate education". He argued that educators have to be open to using the technology which their students already use, such as instant messaging and social networking.

USQ requires all courses to have an online component, with at least a description of the course, but Peter argued that so much more could be done. He questioned why courses were divided into 13 week blocks and suggested that e-portfolios could be used to pull the material together. I did not find this a convincing argument. If he course designers and educators have not built the courses into a coherent whole, it seems difficult to see why, or how, the students would do this.

What I found most useful was Peter's suggestion to use the students to influence the behaviour of other educators. He suggested that by showing the students how to use online techniques the students will then ask for these facilities in courses. Rather than confront staff, the learning techniques can be introduced as a technical option of the system tools.

Peter also mentioned is knowledgeGarden web site where he provides some materials for advanced learning technologies and learning communities.

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Students setting the examinations

Jerry MaroulisUSQGreetings from the high-tech Baume Theatre at the Australian National University in Canberra, where we are hosting a day of workshops on technology-enhanced learning, with alliance partner the University of Southern Queensland. I will be talking about "Mentored and collaborative techniques in e-teaching" later in the day. At the moment Jerry Maroulis (USQ) (is presenting on "Supporting science and education students with sustainable solutions by leveraging technology". He made the claim at the start that he gets the students to write their own examination papers. That got my attention, as preparing examinations is stressful for educators.

Jerry gets groups of students to each compose six questions. He then selects the best 84 questions and provides them to all the students. Then 60 of these questions are given to the students in an examination (which can be online). The idea is that the students will select questions that they see as important. The students then feel involved in the process. It should be noted that Jerry just gets the students to provide the questions, he prepares the answers.

What I found most interesting in this was that Jerry is teaching teachers at USQ. It is likely that his students will the go on to use these techniques when teaching their students at secondary schools. It may seem that such advanced techniques using student initiative and technology based learning are not feasible at school. However, those schools are now being equipped with the same computer technology as used at university and the students are no less responsive to being empowered to learn.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Mentored and collaborative e-teaching at ANU

The Australian National University is hosting a workshop on new teaching techniques with alliance partner the University of Southern Queensland in Canberra on 12 April 2010. I will be talking about "Mentored and collaborative techniques in e-teaching" and how I designed and ran a green ICT course. Comments, contributions and corrextions would be welcome.

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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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