22 maio, 2010

Transparency in NKI - Learning Object

With this final Learning Object for the course Pedagogical Processes of eLearning, I finish my research about Norwegian Knowledge Institute (NKI) Online Education model.

For Unit 1 I developed an LO about Cooperative Freedom in NKI explaining how the theory of Cooperative freedom influences the learning experience of an online student.

For Unit 2, I decided to explore what are the Online Teaching Techniques used by the teachers at NKI and how they interact with their students throw the NKI's LMS - SESAM.

For Unit 3 I explore the concept of transparency and describe how NKI developed a system of Learning Partners for students to cooperate, based on the principles of social networking sites.

(Click at Full Screen for better reading)

With this LO I conclude my investigation about the online education model from NKI.
If you're interested in the previous LOs, you can check them throw the following links:

Online Teaching at NKI - Learning Object Unit 2 

Cooperative Freedom in NKI - Learning Object Unit 1 

If you enjoyed my work, feel free to tweet or leave a comment.

12 maio, 2010

Transparency in Online Education - An annotated Bibliography

In this Annotated bibliography I want to share the research a made about transparency in online education. But how's transparency related with online education? To answer this question I organized several online resources that will guide you throw the exploration of the concept transparency and what does it mean in the context of online education.

I want to start with a funny but enlighten resource.

1. Figueiredo, José Carlos e Simões, Paulo. Transparency in Cooperative Online Education. Flv. Go! Animate, 2010. http://goanimate.com/movie/0t_WqQCZr6m8.

GoAnimate.com: Transparency in Cooperative Online Education by jcarlos

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

With this animated video we can start to understand what transparency is: The ability to share, as students, our learning paths and outcomes to a wider public beyond the closed sphere of teachers and colleges at school. The video underlies an important aspect essential in learning: feedback!
Feedback from colleges or random web user that are able to see and develop critical view of online students work. Comparing a close sharing environment, like schools, to a more transparent online educational environments, where openness provide a wider public view , this video gives us the base for discussing the importance of transparency in online education.  Openness in sharing self made resources provides more feedback. More feedback drives more quality and cooperative learning between students.

This is a good base for developing the concept of transparency and it's importance to learning.
To develop a more precise idea for the concept of transparency in online education I recommend the reading of the following resource:

2. Valente, Sónia, e Telma Jesus.Transparency in Online Education. Janeiro 2010. Issuu. http://issuu.com/telmaesonia/docs/transparency_work_soniatelma1

This document in the result of the research developed by the two authors about transparency. And it is really well done because it focus on several key aspects .
One of those aspects is the definition and importance of transparency in online education, explained by Dalsgaard & Paulsen:  "Transparency means that you and your doings are visible to fellow students and teachers within a learning environment (…) and to make participants available to each other as resources for their learning activities". I think this is definitely the best way to describe the importance of transparency. Individuals (students and teachers) sharing  knowledge and feedback in an open learning environment.
Then the work develops the importance between tranparency between students and between tutors, again based on Paulsen and Dalsgaard paper.
One thing I may disagree is the very optimist conclusion presented in the end:
"Transparency brings the opportunity to improve knowledge quality with less effort, because exist many people to work and sharing for the same goal: learn more, learn better, in less time!" I do agree that a more transparente approach in online education brings improved quality and a more engaging learning experience, but I do not agree with the "less time" argument. If you work on a networked environment with multiple sources of knowledge, how can you learn faster if you have more information to digest. I don't want to affirm that you  learn less. What I believe is that when you spend more time connecting with others, you can have more efficiency in producing new knowledge! That's my opinion. Networking gives you more information, more critical analysis, more quality, more efficiency and more motivation in the overall learning experience.

But how can universities develop this transparency and openness in their elearning framework?
To help answering this question I recommend the following article:

3. Dalsgaard, Christian. Social software: E-learning beyond learning management systems. Institute of Information and Media Studies - University of Aarhus. http://www.eurodl.org/materials/contrib/2006/Christian_Dalsgaard.htm.

In this papper, Dalsgaard argues the importance to "move e-learning beyond learning management systems and engage students in an active use of the web as a resource for their self-governed, problem-based and collaborative activities". Concentrating his arguments in a social constructivist view for online education, the author recommends an new approach for students learning activities and interactions based on social software and networks. The author don't want to "destroy" the LMS, a system that  integrates the necessary tools to manage an elearning course. What the author challenges is how can be possible to integrate social software within an LMS.
The author presents some tools classified as social software: "The examples of social software technologies (…) include weblogs, wikis, RSS feeds and social bookmarking". One very important and lucid argument the author makes is recognizing that "Although social software tools are not created for educational purposes, I will argue that they can be used to support learning.". This is very important to understand the importance of integrating social software in a LMS. In fact, it's possible to combine the best of both online environments and  I definitely agree with that!
Even more interesting is this conclusion:
"Using a management system, personal tools and social networks differs from the sole use of an integrated LMS. The approach differs in terms of focusing on empowerment of students as opposed to management of learning." This is major shift in actual educational models. To empower students instead of closing them in structured online course designed by a teacher. This is  especially relevant for the development of students skills that "not only learn a specific topic, but they are equipped with tools to navigate and make active use of the web to solve future problems." and "After the end of a course or an education, the networks continue to exist. Continued participation in social networks and creation of new networks give people access to a vast number of people and other resources.". Now that transparency working for empowering students autonomy, cooperation and lifelong learning. Isn't this the objective of modern education? Yes, definitely! 

A good example of how this integration (LMS + social software) is been developed is the NKI model for online education. The following resource, offer a view of NKI strategy:

4. Paulsen, Morten Flate. Visualizing Student Profiles through NKI's Online Catalogue and Student Networks. Cambridge International Conference on Open Distance Learning, Setembro 23, 2009. http://www.slideshare.net/MortenFP/visualizing-student-profiles-through-nkis-online-catalogue-and-student-network.

With this slideshow is possible to see how NKI developed their approach for integrating social networks features in an online educational environment. By allowing students to developed a public profile (slide 15) and decide their privacy levels, students can involve with each other  by connecting as learning partners.  This strategy was well received by the students and the numbers of public profiles are increasing. More important is that this strategy allows individual flexibility and cooperative learning at different levels. Every students can decide how to progress and with who. This is only possible with transparency. And that transparency goes beyond the online education, as students use their profile as portfolio when seeking jobs. How many universities allow this?


Final note:

I can clearly defend that transparency and social networks are important features that any online education institution must think and develop. Empowering students with personal learning environment, besides the common LMS, can drive them to more engaging, productive and quality based learning experience. My experience as an online student in Universidade Aberta is a proof of that!

These readings were important to me because now I have a more wider perspective for the development of the elearning framework that I want to develop to portuguese universities.  Thinking beyond the LMS was already clear to me, but  now I have the arguments to develop a new pedagogical and technical framework for elearning.


Other related bibliographies:

04 maio, 2010

Tips for online teaching and workload management.

Developing and manage an online course it's no ride in the park. It's really hard work! 
As an e-tutor, I'm amazed with the amount of offline work a online teacher has when starts an online course. And I'm not talking about designing the course. I'm talking about the massive load of email reading and students assessment and support.
I recently had the opportunity to discuss this issues with colleges and professors in one of the courses I'm having in the Master "Pedagogy of elearning". Every student was invited to present thoughts or recommendations for online teaching and workload management.

I decided to share some tips  I developed has an online tutor and elearning trainer and I'm going to share them also here:

1. Prepare your course in advance:

It's vital that you have all the course planned in advance. Never produce learning material during the course, because it increase your time limitation for discussion with students. The activities must be well planned, although you might consider change some specific aspects according with the students skills. If you feel that they are more digital friendly you might promote more use of multimedia elements, but try not to chance a lot your initial plan.

2. Develop a quick assessment guide:
Beside the content and activities, it's important that you develop the assessment criteria that you want to use for the students works and participation. Don't get to much evolved in large and never-ending criteria. For each activity decide what competences and skills you want to evaluate the students. Don't forget that for each activity you may select a range of criteria. Do not use them all in just one activity or you will me suffocated with the assessment and don't have the time for feedback and support for the students.

3. Master the tools:
Before using a new tool for the course, master it. Do not attempt to learn a new tool during the course. Do it between courses!
Imagine you want to try a new authoring tool to develop a e-content or use a LMS tool for activities with students (example: wiki or quiz). You don't know if the end result it's what you wanted or if it is compatible with your LMS, for example. Result: you probably develop a bad e-content or delay your initial plan (read rule 1).
Use the time between courses to learn how to use the new tools. And master them! Know the full potential of that software or LMS feature!

4. Develop a personal FAQ

Students tend to express common  doubts and requests for help. If you collect those doubts and the responses you give in a personal document, it will be easier to answer each time a new student request your help. It'll save you a lot of time! Usually, students don't read a FAQ in the course page, but it's useful to have one, especially with answers regarding software and more technical doubts.
Also prepare some screencasts videos and pictures to visually give more impact to your answers. Sometimes, an image can be more powerful than 20 words!

5. Use webware to manage your email and quick content production:
I highly recommend Gmail to manage the massive load of emails that you receive during a course. You can access it anywhere with any computer. If you are on a trip or your computer dies on you, you still have access to the new emails and the older ones. Also use webware to produce quick content like video, audio or image.
If I need to create a quick screencast tutorial I use Screenr to create and share it online. Also it's always available and I can embed it on the course.  For audio and image I use Aviary suite. Again, all webware (online use) and embeddable features. This is a more geeky tip!

6. Promote cooperation between students.

Avoid getting in all the discussions. Promote the participation between students. Give extra credits for those students that help others and develop more complex ideas.
Also promote students peer-reviewing. This has two advantages: one, students can give a more personal view on each others works. Secondly, by reviewing others works, they develop a more critique analysis of their own work. This will increase the quality of their works and give the teacher more  ime for assessment.

These are some of the most important tips I can share with you. Hope they can be useful.
Personally, I've learned a lot hearing other teachers strategies and doubts, so my last advice is learn from others teachers and share your expertise!

Talking about sharing, I've a surprise!
It's an online debate I'm having with my colleges, using a great tool - Voice Thread.  
Using Kate Butler "How to Manage your Online Teacher Workload" paper has a background for discussion, several colleges have shared their toughs and ideias. Check it out and feel free to participate with your own recommendations!