Saturday, March 28, 2009

Useful stuff from Gráinne Conole

I am reading through "Describing learning activities - Tools and resources to guide practice" by Gráinne Conole. The point is made that the shift is from focus on the content of learning (images, text, media etc. and how it is presented) to the focus on the social approaches involved in learning. I have pulled diferent parents out of the text to create the bulleted, levelled list below. The black text is mine.

Learning Design (as defined in the Introduction to this volume) specifies
the teaching and learning process, along with the conditions under which it occurs
and the activities performed by the teachers and learners in order to achieve the
required learning objectives.
The article also helped me to understand some key terms:
digital assets – normally a single file (e.g. an image, video or audio clip),
sometimes called a ‘raw media asset’;
information objects – a structured aggregation of digital assets, designed purely
to present information;
learning activities – tasks involving interactions with information to attain a
specific learning outcome; - this is where we consider:
  1. what the learners should know, or be able to do, after
    completing a learning activity
  2. The pedagogy (learning and teaching approaches) - I believe this would influence the type of "mediating artefacts" used, as the tools or resources provided would be considered useful only within the approach being applied
  3. The tasks undertaken. This specifies the type of task, the (teaching) techniques
    used to support the task, any associated tools and resources, the interaction
    and roles of those involved and the assessments associated with the learning
    activity. The tasks have a range in them too, which I have summarised:
  • assimilative tasks - reading, viewing or listening
  • information handling - gather and classify
  • adaptive - modelling or simulation software
  • communicative - such as pair dialogue group-based discussions
  • productive - something is made
  • experiential - practising or investigating

learning design – structured sequences of information and activities to promote
The pedagogy and learning design parts are where I believe I concentrate on the Communities of Practice theory or approach, designing learning opportunities that are shared with others, performed in a real content, have impact on others/self and the learning can build on previous understandings (my nod to constructivism), while also being not too great a leap in ability required (read here 'Vygotsky').
I have inserted the video below as it describes building a community of practice - or interest - and is generic enough to be used by educators.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Guidelines

The following is my first cut at choosing some elearning guidelines that would be useful to apply to, or review with, a project I am involved in.

Then I realised I was getting confused between:
  1. The organisation I work with, implementing an LMS and developing blended learning strategies for presently operating courses (7000 learners), also creating an NZ first for a new course delivered 75% online, and,
  2. The non-profit that I am working with 'for love', creating a single new course from the ground up for NZQA approval, developing courses to put on the Moodle install we have, with my understanding of the types of people working in the OSCAR childcare sector.
CUT ONE - the key ideas for me are bold, the ones that grabbed my attention. My thoughts are in red after each guideline.
TT13 Does the teacher evaluate the e-learning during the course
to identify its effectiveness and how to improve it?
TT2 Does course assessment relate to intended learning
outcomes and to student learning needs and situations?
TT5 Do students get clearly defined and documented
assessment criteria at the start of each course?
TT15 Are you able to measure and monitor student activity in a
learning management system?
MD1 What systems are in place for monitoring the quality of study material, including its periodic review and or
MO11 Has the institution collaboratively developed a vision for e-
learning that is aligned with its overall vision for teaching
and learning?
MO20 What systems are in place for ensuring that teaching and
support staff have the knowledge, experience and ability to
match the objectives of the institution? Is there even any recognition of this match and the potentially signiicant returns for the organisation?
SD2 Do students have any choice in terms of what they learn,
the particular resources they will study and / or the learning
activities they will engage in? A self-selected course of study, with learning activities chosen as desired ust be really powerful - how do I do this an not burn out developing 3 different learning opportunities and potential assessment activities for our non-profit?
SD3 Do students gain knowledge relevant to employment and/or
current thinking in their field? Wafle will not be tolerated in the organisation, especially when a core motivation for the elearning development and the LMS deployment is to save 'man-power non'effective' time in class getting spoon fed content. We have to be 'precise'.
ST2 Do the students know at the start of the course what is
expected of them? How many times and in how many ways do we explain this - I guess a good evaluative measure, asking the right questions in the right way will show it. Like the study of different media types

ST5 Have activities been identified that allow individuals and
groups to learn through experience, including opportunities
to demonstrate, reinforce knowledge, develop
understanding and practice skills? Some course may be revision that improves practice, because the person is already doing a good job but is motivated to get another 'nugget of wisdom'. A preenrolment measure that captures this will be important for the non-profit.

My SECOND CUT: I will focus on the non-profit as I have in many ways, more control over the process and the implementation of evaluation.

MD1 What systems are in place for monitoring the quality of study material, including its periodic review and or
redevelopment? I chose this because it covers more than one other question, as it includes scope for assessment criterial up front, support materials, content structure, accessibility etc.

ST5 Have activities been identified that allow individuals and
groups to learn through experience, including opportunities
to demonstrate, reinforce knowledge, develop
understanding and practice skills? I chose this one because I want to use a 'communities of practice' approach to course development, hands on, workplace based learning and this question's answers can be evaluated in this type of course.


Evaluation importance...

Evaluation is about feedback. Feedback provides valuable information that confirm the path we are on is effective, it can point to areas of improvement and it can highlight redundant activities or products. I define evaluation as feedback for the purpose of changing a practice.

I am familiar with diagnostic, formative and summative assessment, having used both as a teacher and business person.

Quality important in eLearning because:
  • student outcome may not improve
  • organisational benefits may not be realised
  • resources used may have been better spent elsewhere
It is important to acknowledge that quality of a learning process is not something that is delivered to a learner by an e-learning provider but rather constitutes a process of co-production between the learner and the learning-environment. That means that the product/ outcome of an educational process is not exclusively a result of the production process of an educational institution. Quality therefore has to do with empowering and enabling the learner. It has to be defined at the final position of the provision of the learning-services: the learner.

Here is a slideshare about evaluating using a rubric, imilar measures to Bronwyn's video.
Evaluating Distance Education: Focus on Online Course Evaluation
View more presentations from desertjul.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The eLearning Guidelines website

The eLearning Guidelines website
This resource is an excellent tool to use:
  1. prior to esablishing an online learning environment
  2. as formative assessment regaridng delivery
  3. to evaluate an ROI at milestones after delivery
  4. enabling good questions to be asked of the right people about the right things
Four of the guidelines discussed:

SO3 Are prospective students made aware of the teaching style
and course delivery approaches inherent to e-learning?

There is a fundamental shift in learner expectations that occurs when a learner moves from a face2face course, traditional delivery... into an online environment. I believe my organisation would benefit from:
  • making clear that elearning is new to the organisation and to them
  • they will no be penalised for systemic difficulties and in fact their contribution to growing the success of elearning will enhance their career prospects
  • the notion of force-fed, hand delivered content has died and a more interactive, self-managing, self-motivated approach will be the norm
  • the skills required to access learning opportunities may be new, and an investment of personal time is mandatory
ST6 Are problem solving skills addressed through project and
inquiry-based teaching & learning?

The idea of learning through a scenario, that is work-specific, challenging, where success is measured by completion ... has always been part of my organisation. Now, the new challenge for my organisation is to develop:
  • rich online scenarios that have
  • opportunities for team work,
  • for peer feedback and
  • supervisors to correct,
  • that is as challenging as real life situations,
  • where life and death could be the outcome.
MO17 How does the institution monitor the impact and
effectiveness of e-learning?

At this stage I am pretty sure my organisation has not considered effectiveness, has not considered what effectiveness actually means. Whether student outcomes, ROI or instructor capability are the measures, I have not seen the precise measures articulated yet. Cost effective (reduced cost and increased operational readiness) has been stated. Learning outcomes - no.
These guidelines provide a good starting point for measurement.

MD2 What guidance is available to staff for the design of student

The training development cell has a cadre of qualified, respected staff. Moving to an elearning, blended mode of delivery will require a great deal of discussion and shared learning to ensure we can:
  • design assessment ouselves that are reliable and valid,
  • encompassing the new tools available,
  • increase collaboration and community strategies...
....thus increasing our own effectiveness when guiding schools to design assessments.

The Importance & Purpose of Evaluation

So I watched Bronwyn's slide show about why evaluation is so important. The key idea I am picking up on is that formative evaluation is key to increasing the value to students in:
  1. their ability to access the information
  2. their ability to interact with the information
  3. their ability to interact with other for the benefit of learning

It can also provide value to the course provider to know whether or not the course has any value at all. It all has cost to a provider; time, resources diverted, real dollar investment and the opportunity cost (the investment could have gone into another area for a better return).

The purpose of the evaluation is key. The WHY? question being answered at the outset can save previous time and money, making the tools for evaluation more precise and productive.

"...students will only keep coming to an institution if they know they will receive a high quality learning experience"

A great example is the podcasting of lectures ( These course producers could have:
  • spent significant time, money, resources and intellectual property investing in videos and slideshows of course content,
  • spend much time talking with students about how this was a trial and not much was expected to be of benefit, ...
  • making it mobile ready or burning to CD or DVD and
  • offered multiple ways to download as a mutlivariant test, then...
  • making the fatal mistake thinking that new, recorded lecture content could replace scheduled lectures... only to find:
  1. 53% downloaded audio files (podcasts) as their preference - not video, not hard copy media
  2. 66% downloaded files to listen to as REVIEW of lectures attended - reinforce learning
  3. 63% listen at home - being clever with mobile device-appropriate recordings was not neccessary as home use meant likely a stereo or computer was used
  4. 69% liked the system being used
  5. A massive 73% thought it had a POSITIVE effect on their grades
Formative assessment, knowing why (purpose) they were asking and being clear on what (accurate) to ask reaped significant feedback that could be employed immediately on the same course and other courses that students thought could benefit from audio file support.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Vygotsky and Social Cognition

What children can do on their own is their level of actual development and what they can do with help is their level of potential development.

For our OSCAR services training we can apply Vygotsky's Social Cognition theory by ensuring the feedback and support loop is clear, consistent and timely.

This will help students to understand how their practice / application of learning can get better, become more effective and adaptable.

As we have so many venues for students to practice their craft, it is important to ensure that the feedback is delivered to a similar level of quality and based on the same standard expected.

Social Cognition = learning within a relationship

Communities of Practice

"Knowledge is inseparable from practice. It is not possible to know without doing. By doing, we learn."

Only in terms of assessing learning by an outsider, or by someone else in the community, does knowledge have to be embedded in practice. People can learn and not apply that learning, and this does not devalue the learning.

"Empowerment–or the ability to contribute to a community–creates the potential for learning. Circumstances in which we engage in real action that has consequences for both us and our community create the most powerful learning environments."

This has potential for a strong impact on developing our OSCAR courses; the practical experiences, application of learning, demonstrating new practices, refining present practices, contributing to others in the OSCAR courses/sector etc. etc. shoudl all occur within the real work environment as much as possible. This is good for the learner and the community of practice.

Multiple Intelligences

This theory of learning could be simplified into a how/where question, "how do you like to learn?' or "where do you like to learn?"

When I create online learning and assess it, I need to keep a mental or digital check-list to ensure I am not leaning too heavily on one type of learning process, context or environment.

  1. Verbal-Linguistic–learn with poems or song or discussion or speeches or debates an expression of ideas bringing clarity to thoughts
  2. Logical-Mathematical–find patterns in real life or something theoretical, and come up with a rule
  3. Visual-Spatial–good for measurement, sports contexts, lego
  4. Body-Kinesthetic–could be mechanical, or dance, tactile
  5. Musical-Rhythmic–sing a song to learn by rote or natural sounds
  6. Interpersonal–interviews or discussion
  7. Intrapersonal–Thinking, pondering, reflecting
I reckon the 7 above provide guidance to ensuring the learning environment has different spaces and resources, learning activities reflect different opportunities to take in new information or apply learning and assessment may be 'free choice' or has variety in terms of how learning is demonstrated.

plug: for after school care in New Zealand

Learning Styles

The quote below gives the summary of the four styles.

I reckon most of my education has been abstract and reflection - thinking about new ideas and applying it or reflecting on it, with another abstract situation.

I our development of training for OSCAR providers, this theory reminds me that I need to get a good balance in the types of learning opportunities and the assessments demanded.

Students should be able to have choices between (Conc) delivering a real life application of a concept, (Abs) evaluating an idea from analysis, (Act)using new ideas to change behaviour or processes, and (refl) reflecting on the outcomes or judging value.

  1. Concrete and abstract perceivers–Concrete perceivers absorb information through direct experience, by doing, acting, sensing, and feeling. Abstract perceivers, however, take in information through analysis, observation, and thinking.
  2. Active and reflective processors–Active processors make sense of an experience by immediately using the new information. Reflective processors make sense of an experience by reflecting on and thinking about it.

Brain Based Learning

I would have thought that everyone's brain was a base for learning, however two points:
  1. Feedback is best when it comes from reality, rather than from an authority figure.
  2. People learn best when solving realistic problems.

re n.1 above... So, feedback systems should be part of the learning context (e.g. a statistical project to help a shop owner decide best times of day to sell flowers... let the shop owner or, even better, sales figures show the result or outcome as feedback - good or bad - rather than the classroom based tutor).

re n.2 above.... As in the example above, a life-based problem rather than something esoteric is better. Preferably something that provides a real life, value added solution like increased sales, purer water for a village or cheaper fuel for beneficiaries.


"the brain is better described as a self-organizing system." (

Notwithstanding the quote above, our brains need a little help.

Why do blogs have dates? So we know what is most recent.
Why are blogs archived? So we can search/review previous posts in a chunked manner.
Why do blogs have teasers and titles? So our we can choose whether to invest time ready it or not based on title and brief content.

It is about providing "context" for the content.

So, even a self organising brain can get some help from a well constructed blog, learning environment (LMS) or book (contents, index, glossary etc. are old-world technologies that actually work in the new 2.0 world).

plug: - NZ's nationwide listing of after school care providers

Piaget’s Developmental Theory

I don't think that Piaget’s Developmental Theory has much to offer my development of an online course for those working in the OSCAR childcare sector.
As most students should be well past the Formal operations (beginning at ages 11-15)
or at least able to think about concepts before application, there is not much that would impact my course design based on his theory.


While I am a constructivist educator, I DO accept that reinforcement aids learning new skills and can make observable (encourages demonstration) what is possibly only learned inside the mind.
For example, my kids my learn through a constructivist method how wash dishes (first cups, then plates, then big cooking pots etc. warm water, then hot), dry them and put them away. I want to see it.
They can describe how to do it. They tell me they know how to do it.
When I praise them for a good job or discipline & reteach small steps for a bad job, they get better - it is observable learning.
Behaviourism's reinforcement, combined with constructivist, small steps in building learning, is effective. I like behaviour to be demonstrated - like kids getting better at the dishes as this is evidence, observable.

The YouTube Videos on this Blog

For our non-profit's website I have been using to create some short movies on many of the pages.
The videos on the blog are not really about the topic of this blog, but one or two may be and I will highlight this on my blog when they are relevant to the courses I am studying this semester.


I am reading the pages for one of my courses (EDUCATIONAL DESIGN FOR ELEARNING)
I think that I am a constructivist. I think this because describes the things I do in managing learning like building on prior knowledge, assessing in a formative way, using strategies like getting students to analyze, interpret, and predict etc.
At Teachers' College I was taught to teach in this way, and working on adult learning programmes has reinforced this way of behaving.
Maybe when I read the next 11 (!) theories I will change my mind or come to a balance between the theories.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Educational Design for eLearning & Evaluation of eLearning for Best Practice

Greetings All

I have started two courses this semester and am really looking forward to learning stuff!
The two courses are:
  • Educational Design for eLearning &
  • Evaluation of eLearning for Best Practice
Time will be pressing for me, so this blog will now be used for both courses; assignments, course comments, reflections etc.

My expectations for both courses is to grow my network, engage with innovative thinking and to be more aware of the research out there for my future PhD - when that finally happens.


Feedback please


We are working on our after school care website, set up to give OSCAR services in NZ an easy way to find professional development, and for parents to easily find an OSCAR service for their kids.
Please check our and give us some feedback on this blog or from the website itself on the contact form.

thanks in advance

Craig and the NZSET team