E-learning, when well crafted makes a critical contribution to improving student and teacher accomplishment. But making changes in this field always happens at the leading edge which is why, in this end-of-year paper, I refer to the need to be heroic. Here are 6 suggestions for action that makes the best of e-learning possibility for equipping students for employability and maintains competitive currency with others. The 6 suggestions interact with each other and are not discrete activities.
In recent years e-learning has divided into the administration and the enterprise of learning. Administration of learning is now based in Central information systems, that includes student learning plans, targets, records etc. Putting all the administration eggs in the one data basket ought to allow everyone to make the best of the emerging learning analytics services.
being heroic then concerns the changes made by students, their teachers and their managers to the other part of the e-learning divide: The enterprise of learning.
The four main reasons for considering these changes are as follows:
Moodle is a tool designed for collaborative learning. Providers should consider how to help teachers re-design courses to encourage Flip learning and Directed Study that enables continuous learning beyond the classroom. In supporting collaboration, it would include design for project-based learning and enquiry-based learning. Flipped learning and Directed study is more than simply splitting cognitive and affective/psychomotor domains.
b. Curating learning accomplishments in portfolios, supported by Moodle
A more advanced application of VLE design for students who are following an e-portfolio based programme (both mapping and reflective types). We will need to help teachers redesign VLE communities to focus on the consequences of students having personal rather than shared learning space. In effect the primary locus of learning moves to personal from shared space and VLE becomes the residual technology.
Whilst there are many on-line portfolio options, they are currently either reflective or mapping in design. We need to offer students portfolios that allow reflection with mapping and vice versa to present professional competencies and personal accomplishments).
2. Designing a House MOOC in generic form
Providers will need to design a generic or ‘House-style’ Massive Open On-line Course (MOOC). MOOCs can be hosted on Moodle or other platforms.
There are two main and immediate uses for MOOCs:
a. Share knowledge
Knowledge is now ubiquitous because of the Web. Many Universities have responded by starting to place knowledge components of learning freely on-line in open but badged spaces. Altruism aside, knowledge is not owned by an institution or a course but it can be used as a means of persuading users to attend courses to develop understanding and skills, based on what is published. For providers, knowledge presented well is marketable in terms of enrolments. It is used to develop trust and familiarity with the institution. MOOCs also act as tasters and teasers by packaging open knowledge.
Prep MOOCs can include study skills, health & safety, Induction etc. all available and open to be completed prior to starting a course.
Conditional offer MOOCs include working to support a dropped GCSE grade, or satisfying an entry requirement.
b. Devise common learning objects and attributes
Using the House MOOC, in support of Collaborative learning, providers can produce (or buy-in) common study modules such as ‘Validity and Reliability’, ‘e-Safety and Risk Management’, ‘Study skills’ and ‘British Values’ for enrolled learners. These can be completed at some point during the course of study. An example of bought-in learning resources includes the Worcestershire Blended Learning Consortium. These are different from Learning Objects that teachers will devise for their students.
In support of a set of ‘student attributes’, students can study on-line at some point during their course, common units that should be completed by particular student groups (e.g. creativity, cultural awareness, respect for diversity, community work etc.) as part of a whole-college offer towards a ‘college alumni’ award.
3. Development of Personal Learning Space for students
Mahara remains the popular choice of reflective portfolio in FE although others are suitable for more personalised requirements of course, particularly among the creative arts. (Flickr, One Note, WordPress, Dunked for example). Teachers need to share and support each other in learning how to use Mahara to develop the presentation of learning, achievements, accomplishments and attributes. This is following a national trend towards the use of personal and personalised learning content presentation, utilising personal and mobile devices. (see Moodle design B. above). We need a merging of the mapping and reflection portfolios so that each provides access to the other in a more seamless manner. It also needs to be able to house a learning contract for every individual apprentice against which accomplishment can be assessed.
4. Revision of an e-learning Strategy in one of three ways
a. The ‘Education Table’ approach, with separate appendices for each campus
Firstly, e-learning strategies should not be manifestos for the use of technology but explanations of how the learning and learner experience will be affected positively through the use of technology. It starts by being based on a learning and learner approach and identifies the application of technology to what it brings to those experiences and how it contributes to purposeful pedagogy. This process of thinking through the next revision should be done with explicit involvement of teachers who should be knowledgeable enough to make contributions. The involvement of teachers can count as contributions towards their CPD.
b. A Digital Inclusion Plan to re-purpose e-learning as a skill in its own right
Secondly, rather than describe e-learning as a contribution to the learning experiences, it is possible to assign it value for its own sake. We can argue that e-learning is sufficiently well understood in support active citizenship and commercial independence. It would include life-long and life-wide learning. This utilises the interaction of digitally literatestudents, managing on-line reputation, achieved through organisation focussed inclusivity. The Strategy could reflect this larger picture of the purpose of e-learning that transcends 'the college life'.
Thirdly, it is possible to conflate these two approaches.
5. The development of web-based meetings of like-minds
for the Curriculum and for active citizenship
Notwithstanding the need to have MOOCs for common study modules, a particular area of importance is teaching all students about on-line socialisation in the curriculum and the use of industry specific methods of communication. These are Digital Literacy skills-in-action. It includes developing students from being ‘Tech Savvy’ to digitally literate. It includes teaching risk management, recognising that safety is built into the user, rather than relying on the technology to protect. This could be an over-arching requirement for all students and part of the distinct 'provider offer'. It is aimed at the broad development and management of a positive on-line reputation for every student.
6. Explore Google EduApps as next generation e-learning for the Group
Providers need to see where the journey towards personal and personalised technologies is heading and how that might affect what might replace the VLE and other provided software. Cloud based service is already in wide use. Google, Microsoft and Apple are already competing for users thereby attracting future students to their platforms, creating an expectation to use these when entering any learning episode.
and don’t forget…
The success of these changes depends on the attitudes of teachers to make the changes with their students. The imperatives listed in the Introduction might be incentive enough (unless of course teachers leave to work for private providers). Success is dependent on teachers understanding first and foremost the concepts in pedagogy. Using e-learning is simply an extension of those already mastered skills. If this is achieved, mastering the technology by teachers is less of a hurdle and often welcomed.
Geoff Rebbeck FSET QTLS