Digital Learning Spaces:
Lessons from the MSc in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh
Jen Ross, University of Edinburgh
Monday, April 15
Noon – 1:30 PM
Seattle Pacific University Library Seminar Room
Every course design is philosophy and belief in action. This is no less true – indeed it may be truer – in courses with a significant digital dimension. Online courses can be designed to invite particular kinds of participation, to take particular sorts of approaches to knowledge. But, like the physical classroom, they do more than embody the pedagogical values of the teacher – they are also greatly affected by the nature of the environments in which teaching and learning take place. In this talk, Jen will reflect on the experiences of teachers and students on the wholly distance MSc in E-learning programme, exploring issues such as how being at but not in Edinburgh affects students and how the values and educational philosophies of teachers on the programme impact, and are impacted by, the learning spaces they use and create.
Jen is the programme director of the fully online MSc in Digital Education programme at the University of Edinburgh, co-author of the Manifesto for Teaching Online, and co-organiser of the Coursera MOOC “E-learning and Digital Cultures”. Her teaching and research concerns digital education now and in the future, online identity, and how cultural and educational institutions are changing in the digital age. The evolving meaning of space and place is one of the most interesting topics in digital and distance learning at the moment, and Jen’s visit to SPU will focus on these and other issues relating to a broader theme of active learning spaces.
This summer I have enjoyed using Google+ in place of Blackboard‘s Discussion tool in two courses that I am teaching. Students were able to interact with each other, chat with participants in another course, and even learn with real-world education experts like +Holly Rae Bemis-Schurtz and +Larry Ferlazzo. An LMS (e.g. Blackboard) “protects” students by letting them only interact with those who are taking the same course.
I relied on Google+ to communicate with students so much that I failed to notice when links to my Blackboard courses were accidentally deleted one morning due to a system error. I only found out when a student reported that she could not submit homework because the course was gone from her Blackboard listing. Would my students have even missed Blackboard had it not been for the fact that they needed to post links to their work in the gradebook? (Don’t worry, the IT folks were able to bring back my courses so my students were able to finish uploading their assignments.)
For years, +Steve Wheeler, +Graham Attwell, and others have discussed the death of the LMS, or as they call it in Europe, the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). They see the LMS as top-down structure that stifles student and faculty creativity, and when the course is over everything is gone, including the community. In its place, they advocate for a Personal Learning Environment (PLE), where students control the digital learning tools they use. In a PLE, students control their own content and can continue to learn with their professor and peers even after the course is over.
Up until now I would have argued that many professors and students are not ready for PLEs. Instructors would struggle to keep up with the tools advanced students choose to use. Novice students would struggle to find ways to collaboratively construct knowledge with their technically advanced peers. However with Google+, I saw all students share articles, videos, docs, and their blog posts… pretty much anything they wanted from whatever tool they used to create it. Students gave each other feedback, and drew others into conversations, all without any coaching or training from me.
There is still plenty of room for improvement, such as an easy way to reference a previous post and a good home for static content. And oh yes, and we can not forget to include a secure place to access grades. As a professor, I think I could give up a lot of autonomy to students if we just agreed to collaborate using Google+. Heck, I might not need Blackboard at all. What do you think?
I’m looking forward to meeting the online teaching manifesto and Jen Ross in Vegas this summer @et4online. I have heard lots of good things about both of them. We can only hope that our little manifesto will grow up to be like its older sibling. 😉
and we’re going with it! We’ve been invited to run an afternoon ‘unconference’ workshop at the end of the Sloan-C/MERLOT Emerging Technologies for Online Learning conference in Las Vegas on 27 July. Jen will be there in person, and Hamish, Clara and Sian will be collaborating at a distance.
The workshop will be devoted to working with data crowdsourced during the formal part of the conference. Participants – and other attendees – will be asked to listen out for statements or assumptions they hear about being or having a teacher, and about what teaching means in an emerging technology context. Then in the workshop, we’ll use these observations to tease out some broad principles that will form the conference’s own manifesto for teaching with emerging technology.
Needless to say, we think this is going to be a lot of fun, as well as a great chance for stimulating debate and…
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In July, I will work with five other professors on a year-long Blended Learning project that will have us all create at least one Blended Learning course. This infographic provides a quick overview of current happenings in the world of Blended Learning.
The Seattle Pacific University Dean’s Cabinet asked me to put together a list of eLearning tools that faculty can use if classes are cancelled due to inclement weather. Instructional Technology Services provides training and support for all of these tools. In most cases, there are already professors in each school using these tools. Here is a quick summary:
- Asynchronous: Blackboard Discussion Board, VoiceThread
- Synchronous: Wimba Pronto Basic (Blackboard), Adobe Connect, Skype
- Assessments: Blackboard Quizzes, Tests, Surveys, Grade Center
- Documents, Video & Audio Content: Blackboard
- Asynchronous: Blackboard Wikis, Blogs, Groups
- Synchronous: Typewith.me, Google Docs
- Lectures, Presentations, Screencasts
- Asynchronous: Camtasia Relay, Adobe Presenter
- Synchronous: Adobe Connect, Skype
ITS also provides scanning and audio/video digitizing services. Although I hope we don’t find ourselves in an emergency that forced us to use these tools, the raised awareness may lead faculty to experiment and find out that these tools are useful for everyday teaching and learning.
- Describe the application of a semantic web technologies in a collaborative learning environment.
- Report the results on student learning.
- Provide recommendations for future research and applications of semantic web technologies in educational environments.
- What browser should I be using?
- What happened to the Control Panel?
- How can I see the course as students see it?
- How do I copy content from an existing course?
- How do I modify the navigation menu?
- Why do all announcements seem to be permanent announcements?
- Compared with Blackboard 8, how many clicks will I save when I upload a document?
- How do I see a roster of my students?
- How do I modify the window so I can see more content and fewer navigation options?
- How do I create areas for group projects?
- How do I create signup lists for student projects?
- How do I make my course available to students?