Reflection of Supporting the Blended and Online Student Experience Units 1 – 4 (Part 1)

All of the seminar evaluation forms have been completed and the last student led seminar draws to a close. The past ten weeks have flown by and I find myself coming back to my blog to reflect on what has transpired and what happens next.

Unit 1 Reflection

From my own perspective this particular module is very relevant to what I do at work on a daily basis. Whilst working with the institutions academics in producing online modules that face to face and online learner’s access, a key part of the development process involves supporting the students. Obviously online learners will miss out on the face to face contact with their lecturer and fellow students; therefore it is important to not only make sure they have adequate support but feel as though they are part of a Community of Inquiry (CoI). To quote Kear, K (2010 p3) “Learners need to feel a link with others if they are to genuinely share ideas and exchange views.” I understand there is more to being an effective online learner than just an effective CoI, in Unit one we analysed what makes a successful online student and teacher. I found the readings from the e-book written by Palloff, R.M. Pratt, K. (2003) to be particularly useful in profiling an online learner. The e-book mentions several factors or traits that contribute to being a successful online student:

Open Minded” Palloff, R.M. Pratt, K. (2003 p6)
“not hindered by the absence of auditory or visual cues” Palloff, R.M. Pratt, K. (2003 p6)
“self-motivated and self-disciplined” Palloff, R.M. Pratt, K. (2003 p6)
“can and does work collaboratively”  Palloff, R.M. Pratt, K. (2003 p7)

I find it fascinating that the above factors of a successful online student also relate to those mentioned in a CoI, particularly those in the Social Presence. The student has to be open minded to share personal details, to work with other students in online environment, – these tie into the example mentioned in Kear, K (2010 p1) “For example: use of member profiles can help participants feel that they know each other better; and use of synchronous communication can avoid frustrating delays between messages and responses.”

Aside from the student factors, the e-book by Palloff, R.M. Pratt, K. (2003 p6) also mentioned the potential technology barriers that may present themselves; a lack of high-speed internet connection or inadequate PC or device which is not capable of displaying various forms of media like video. Another potential barrier that was addressed was people accessing the online module/content from their work PC, possible security restrictions like a Firewall may stop them from accessing their online course. Technological barriers are sometimes overlooked or forgotten – so it is important to at least make the students aware of the minimum requirements of IT equipment, this is mentioned in the e-book by Palloff, R.M. Pratt, K. (2003 p7), but is something I have been implementing in a professional practice as well.

I enjoyed looking at online learning from a student perspective during Unit 1, it allowed me to reflect on my professional practice as well. I’ve been able to assess if I have being doing enough as an eLearning Developer, in terms of supporting the online learner? I have discussed in this in previous blog posts (Reflection on delivering Student led seminar Parts 1 and2 (HEA Related), which reflects on my HEA project and Unit 2 participation. I will briefly discuss this in my upcoming reflection of Unit 2.

Unit 2 Reflection

I enjoyed Unit 2 as it allowed me take on the role of ‘teacher ‘during our student led seminar but also gain some new insight and knowledge relating to student feedback and digital literacy. To begin with, I very much enjoyed working with my fellow group members; Sally, Jo, Karen and Sam – I felt we brought different skills to the project and learned from each other. The other benefit of this seminar was that it tied into my HEA related work I was producing for the module – I was able to apply what we learned to my professional practice.

Digital literacy was an area I was familiar with, but lacked an appreciation of how varied peoples skill levels are within this area. The digital literacy quiz (multiple choice, 10 questions) we used in our seminar reflected this, as you can see in the results below, the nine participants all scored between 5 – 10.

student scores

The above graph shows the scores obtained by participants of our Unit 2 digital literacy quiz. Overall average 7.96

I think what I took from this module is, don’t assume everyone, especially young learners progressing from High School or college will be an expert in digital literacy. Digital literacy is defined by the European Commission as ‘confident and critical use of ICT [information and communication technology] for work, leisure, learning and communication’ (JISC, 2010), based on some of the people I’ve met or worked with over the years I would say they do not fall into the above definition of digital literacy. I wonder if since the advent of tablets that peoples skillsets are changing. For example some tablets do not have a file management system and lack the functionality of a PC, therefore some people are not equipped or used to using a PC or performing functions like organising content into folders.

With the above reflection, I began to evaluate what I could do to make sure students had the best support possible for an online environment. The eventual outcome of this, was the production of the student support object I produced as part of HEA project for this module. I have used this student support object in a number of different online/distance learning programmes to provide guidance from ‘netiquette’, minimum computer specs, to being an effective distance learning student.

I found the section on student feedback to be fascinating, this really opened my eyes to just how important feedback is and the various formats it can be delivered in. For our group led seminar I developed an interactive learning object and video which demonstrated to students three types of feedback; video, audio and text. The feedback was for the same piece of work, but showed the differences in delivery and tone. What this section did was highlight to me that in some ways the feedback given is more important than the question being asked. Quality feedback is very important to students as it will enable them to better understand the subject materials and where they went wrong. I’ve began to ensure that in my professional practice I reinforce to the academic staff the importance of giving quality feedback to students – feedback of simply saying ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’ does not provide sufficient guidance. I now ensure that there is reference to specific reading or web resources if the student gets a question incorrect they will know where to look for suitable answers, so they can better understand the material and know exactly where they went wrong in their previous attempt.

I found these unit’s like the rest to be most beneficial as they allowed me to reflect on the subject areas and develop a deeper understanding which allowed me to analyse the benefits of these practices.

References

Kear, K., (2010). ‘Social presence in online learning communities’. Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Networked Learning’. Ed. by Dirckinck-Holmfeld, L., Hodgson, V., Jones, C., de Laat, M., McConnell, D. & Ryberg, T. http://oro.open.ac.uk/21777/2/299A98F0.pdf.

Palloff, R.M. & Pratt, K. (2003) The virtual student: a profile and guide to working with online learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

JISC (2010, December) “Digital literacy”, [online], JISC InfoNet, retrieved April 2 2015 from http://www.jiscinfonet.ac.uk/infokits/collaborative-tools/people/digital-literacy/.

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