landing a jumbo jet on a postage stamp

image from  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal:Aviation/Selected_picture#/media/File:Inverted_Jenny.jpg

Some blog posts bubble and brew for months.

Others burst out of nowhere – like this one.

It started earlier today with a tweet…

HEPI (Higher Education Policy Institute) posted a blog piece on admissions How to land a jumbo jet on a postage stamp

Good title, great hook.

HEPI is a think tank; a research institutes with a remit to underpin policy with evidence. Some think tanks are funded by government bodies and clearly positioned left or right of centre. HEPI claims to be the UK’s only ‘independent think tank devoted to higher education’.

banner from HEPI blog site

The jumbo jet on the postage stamp was about admissions. Author Nick Hillman recently explored this in a Guardian peice which referred to ‘an explosion in unconditional offers, where a university wants a student so much it doesn’t mind what A-level results they achieve‘.  These days, HEI set admissions criteria and places can now be offered on the basis of predicted grades rather than actual ones (despite a 2016 report by UCL and UCU suggesting only 16% of predictions were accurate).

It’s the students fees wot dun it.

Admissions has become a market place. There, I’ve used the language of commodification, of students as consumers, or even worse, customers. Well, I believe, I really believe, there’s enough people working in HE who still see it as more, so much more than a product to be bought and sold.

What doesn’t help is uncritical use of language, for example the HEPI piece referring to institutions and prospective students as buyers and sellers.

So I tweeted so say I felt disappointed at what appeared an uncritical use of language.

The phrase in my head was ‘public good’. What happened to the discourse of ‘higher education for the public good’?

PG refers to services which benefit society without citizens necessarily having to pay for them. A university for the public good is an institution charged with developing the citizens of the future, in a socially democratic society, and upholds the principles of social justice and equality.

There was a time when going to university was free. Sounds crazy now but I took my first degree just as student loans began. It was 1990 and I was one of the first to take advantage. It made all the difference. I’d become a single parent; relationship breakdown being an unacknowledged side-effect of higher education which no one talks about. The student loan meant I could finish my degree and still feed the kids. So in a way I paid for my education but it was nothing compared to the debt students put themselves in today, and the debts my own childrn and their partners are paying off.

Commonly quoted examples of public good include municipal gardens, national parks and lighthouses. They exist to make our lives better, safer, more fulfilling. A university for the public good is about equipping  graduates to take up public office and care about a fair and just society, one with equal rights and opportunities.

HEPI replied saying thanks for the feedback. But wouldn’t it be wrong, this close to results day, to pretend we have anything other than the system we do when people need help making choices?

I struggle to accept the reduction of higher education to a buyer and seller’s market.

There’s a number of ways to look at 21st century society. They include the fictional lenses; 1984 by George Orwell (1949) and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932). There are many versions of the aphorism ‘fiction is the lie which tells a truth’ and both these novels contain resonance.

In Orwell’s dystopian vision, media messages were readjusted at regular intervals to suit the power structures of the day i.e. the construction of fake news and false truths, while wherever you were, whatever you did – Big Bother was watching you

OR

Huxley’s Brave Bew World of Hypnopaedia, sleep control aimed at persuading the population to remain in soma-induced highs, a drug freely provided by the government to induce semi-permanent states of bliss in a society where drugs and sex were the only sources of entertainment.

Which would you prefer?

HEPI says it’s an independent think tank but referring to universities as sellers and students as buyers sounds more like buy-in than reminaing neutral. Systems are constructed to support dominant mechanisms of power and control, in this instance capitalism and a free market economy. I don’t deny higher education is being commodified and HEI have to adapt to survive, but language is a powerful reinforcer of ideology and people in positions of influence should take care over their choice of words.

I still believe in the power of higher education to change not only individual lives for the better but as a proactive  voice calling for a fairer more equal society.

Thanks for the reply I tweeted back.  My worry is the risk of accepting ‘the system’ is to construct the degree as an ‘off the shelf’ product for purchase when knowledge acquisition can be complex and challenging as well as a potentially transformative life experience

HEPI ‘liked’ my reply but the conversation stopped there, but it’s still going on inside my head.

The stamp image at the top of this blog, the inverted jenny, was mistakenly printed in the wrong position; an error which became worth a fortune, showing how in the midst of darkness, there may be light ahead.

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The Other Side of Lurking Part Two, searching for explanations, digital imposter syndrome or digital self-efficacy?

9mage of a duck peeping over the edge of a cliff

In Part One of The Other Side of Lurking, I wrote about the #HEdigID #OEP discussion (13/07/18) on Twitter. Every day this week something new has been added to the debate. It’s good to talk.  Lurking risks being side-lined by the rhetoric of innovation and transformation. Let’s face it – digital shyness or resistance are usually less attention grabbing headlines.

Conclusions validate lurking as learning. It’s a valid strategy. So lurking’s not a problem, right?

…but if it’s your virtual environment and you’re dealing with silence, it can’t be ignored. Lurking flies in the face of everything we’re told 21st century education should be, namely active. We’re well versed in communities of practice and inquiry, zones of proximal development, social, cognitive and teaching presences, and so on – and they all require interaction.

Networks need people, don’t they?

We’re schooled to see communication and collaboration as the heart of active learning yet the data says otherwise. Whether we measure with Nielsen’s 90% or Pareto’s 80% non-participation rates – consumption without contribution is rife and suggests most of us are comfortable with digital isolation.

Are we creating a problem which doesn’t exist?

an office full of empty chairs

The scenario is familiar. I set up an online discussion, but no one used it, so I didn’t do it again.

Lurking can’t be ignored. Digital silence speaks but what is it saying?

Are the students ok or have they disappeared?

Are they managing their learning or are they struggling?

We wouldn’t run a seminar in silence.

image showing a group of sparrows

I need to know lurking better.

My research is about digital shifts. How staff who teach and support learning conceptualise their practice in a digital age. What influences individual attitudes and behaviours.  Data suggests the permanence of digital publication is frequently feared. Once words are in the public domain, they’re gone. No longer under control, let loose in an open arena, exposed to the responses of others and risking – many people believe – potential ridicule.

Damn Twitter’s lack of an Edit function. But its more than seeing carefully crafted ideas spoiled by typos. What if the ideas themselves are flawed in some way. What if you’ve used an incorrect reference, or inappropriate word or phrase. Worse, what if you’ve misunderstood the question or the reading, Suppose, just suppose, your thoughts are deemed incorrect and you’ve exposed your lack of knowledge about key concepts to the world.

image of a goldfish flying out of a glass of waer

From data collected over the years:

…what if I look foolish.

…what if I’m wrong.

…what if people think I’m stupid

The fear is once your words are out there you can’t get them back.

Sun, Rau, and Ma, (2014) categorise lurkish behaviours and under ‘personal dispositions’ they cite self-efficacy.  This is the inner turmoil which influences attitudes and behaviours. Jerome Bruner described it as ‘people’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives” (1994: 2)

Self-efficacy is our individual motivation driver. High self-efficacy fires you into action, underpinned by the ability to push yourself forward, believing you can achieve whereas low self-efficacy results in fear. It will come as no surprise, those with low self-efficacy have more self-doubt, spending inordinate amounts of time imagining 101 obstacles and 1001 possibilities of error.

They feel the fear and don’t do it.

person hiding underneath cushions

A quick google search brings up connections between self-efficacy and technology. Where there’s tech there’s emotion. Liz Bennett at the University of Huddersfield has written about the emotional work involved when adopting digital practices.  Technophobia might not be a top ten phobia  but fear of public embarrassment before students is a common deterrent.

cartoon showing a person facing angry technology with the caption The Battle we all Face

I’ve heard of academics not using PowerPoint in case the computer won’t switch on, and how many times have you seen a presenter unable to open their presentation because the file’s on their desktop, 100 miles away, or they can’t find it on their data stick.

It happens. Don’t laugh. Fear is real.

Lurking may be a valid learning strategy for some, but for others it’s looking like digital shyness.

In popular psychology there’s a condition called Imposter Syndrome (IS). This is about successful people feeling they’re frauds, believing it’s luck rather than skill or ability that’s got them where they are, and it’s only a matter of time before someone finds out. People with IS live in continual dread of making mistakes which they fear will expose them.

triangle with the words Fraud Alert in the centre

Imposter Syndrome sounds like self-efficacy by another name. First identified in 1978 (Clance and Imes) there’s an Impostor Phenomenon Scale (test yourself here) and while not an officially recognised disorder (IS is absent from any psychiatric diagnostic manuals) a whole IS business has emerged based on self-help and therapeutic interventions. Imposter Syndrome appears to provide a popular conceptual understanding of the underlying psychology. The phrase is in common use and I wondered if Digital Imposter Syndrome (DIS) could exist.

I googled but nothing came up. Not even a googlewhack.  DIS returned zero.

word nothing written in chalk on a board

Woo hoo! Was this a conceptual gap? Should I push the digital imposter syndrome idea a bit further or return to Bruner?

I went back to Jerome. In the Narrative Construction of Reality (1991) Bruner writes about the situated nature of knowledge, via cultural tool kits and distributed networks.  Long ago, in a different university, I wrote about digital literacies being best understood as socially situated practices. They were personal, as individual as fingerprints, and determined how we operated online, but we all have differing amounts of digital capital, depending on socio/cultural/material locations. Maybe part of the solution to encouraging online engagement is to refocus on the development of literacies of the digital kind.

image showing the word start on a road

While competencies type training focusing on which button to click may have value, any change it effects can only ever be surface. We know learning requires deeper approaches so let’s start with building and supporting digital confidence in safe environments. Experiential digital practice can be transformative for both staff and students.

Where does this leave us with us lurking?

It’s a problem. We need to reduce the 90% and 80% consumption models.

Or do we?

If lurking is simply a reflection of ourselves, should we leave lurkers alone to do what they do best.

Assimilation in their own preferred way; to listen, watch, consume, absorb…. to learn.

Are effective online environments not about building and sustaining interaction after all? Should we rethink pedagogy and practice to support less active forms of learning? Or would that be a huge mistake?

This might need a Part Three, What do we do about lurking?


References

Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press. (Reprinted in H. Friedman [Ed.], Encyclopedia of mental health. San Diego: Academic Press,  1998)  https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Bandura/Bandura1994EHB.pdf .

Bennett, L. (2014) Putting in more: emotional work in adopting online tools in teaching and learning practices. Teaching in Higher Education 19 (8), 919-930

Clance, P. and Imes, S. A. (1978) The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention”  Psychotherapy Theory, Research and Practice.

Sun, N., Rau, P. P. L., & Ma, L. (2014). Understanding lurkers in online communities: A literature review. Computers in Human Behavior, 38, 110-117.

The Other Side of Lurking Part One; a unique distance from isolation

black and white image of soiral staircase

What is lurking anyway?

I call it consuming without contribution and we are all great digital consumers.

Truely, here and now in 2018, we risk Amusing Ourselves to Death 

When Nicolas Carr (20080 asked Is Google Making us Stupid?  interest in cognitive data overload was high. What happened to the CIBER research? The collaboration between Jisc and the British Library studied information searching behaviours in young people. Findings included short attention spans and reliance on surface browsing, with clear implications for universities in the future. Ten years on, those young people are likely to be our students. Today, I can’t even find the report online.

Show me embedded critical digital literacies and I’ll show you a dozen examples of uncritical acceptance.

Tell me why digital skills and confidence of staff who teach and support learning is absent from the ed-tech literature. We know how students learn as e-learners but staff who teach as e-teachers? Where’s that?

…and what’s all this got to do with lurking?

It’s scene setting. Part of the wider picture which starts and ends with our digital codependency and online habits.

Return to Lurking began Friday 13th July, 2018. The 24 hour #HEdigID discussion facilitated by @SuzanKoseoglu was still going strong on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday…

The hashtag #OEP (Open Educational Practice) seemed a good opportunity to bring in digital shyness and the politics of participation persuasion. I introduced the concepts and before long lurking emerged as a theme.

I lurk. You lurk. We all lurk.

Lurking has intention and purpose.

Lurking as Learning is a path well-trodden.  On 17th April this year, following the Digital Researcher run by my colleagues Mike Ewen and Lee Fallin, I wrote a post titled Sounds of Silence which addressed some of the emerging issues.

To lurk is to loiter, with or without intent, and not post.

Why?

Dunno.

We simply don’t understand enough about non-participation. We don’t know what’s going on behind closed screens.

Most of the time it simply doesn’t matter. We’re not expected to comment on every news article or blog post. The facility is available but there’s no pressure to use it.

It’s lurking in online courses which bothers me. Like in blended and distant learning courses where students consume without contributing. You can see content has been accessed but discussion or other collaborative activity fails.

Social constructivism is where it’s at these days. There’s Siemens’ Connectivism and Cormiers’ rhizomatic learning, but the majority of academic practice assumes a Vygotskian approach to how students learn, one which support knowledge construction through collaborative activity rather than didactic transmission.

open book. glasses and movile phone from pixabay

Sometimes this takes place online and this is where digital silence worries me. Maybe it shouldn’t. But if students don’t talk, how can active learning progress?

So what next?

Well, maybe we’ve got it wrong.

The assumption (to borrow from Orwell’s Animal Farm) is participation good – non participation bad.

Yet we know from discussions, like those reported in Sounds of Silence  and elsewhere on Twitter et. al, there’s lots of positives to lurkish practice.

Some were highlighted during the #HEdigID discussions.

Yet we know from discussions, like those reported in Sounds of Silence  and else where on Twitter et. al, there’s lots of positives to lurkish practice.

Some were highlighted during the #HEdigID diccussions.

However, lurking as negative remains a common perception as shown in the tweet below

while a 2018 paper by Sarah Honeychurch et. al., Learners on the Periphery: Lurkers as Invisible Learners, explores the lurking research literature. and makes some interesting suggestions. For example, the dominant mode remains that suggested by Neilsen in 2006, namely the 90-9-1 rule.

This rule posits that approximately 90% of group members consume content, 9% participate by contributing from time to time, leaving 1% to contribute a lot on a regular basis (Nielsen, 2006).

Then there’s the Pareto Principle, known as the 80/20 rule. Applied to online participation this translates as 20% of participants creating content which 80% consume.

It seems likely that to lurk is to inhabit safe space. Places of safety. Silent participation without risk. If so, then constructing lurking as a wrong to be righted is inappropriate. It may cause guilt and exacerbate fear of contribution rather than encouraging it.

The majority of Lurk-Lit focuses on change. The use of language like ‘converted’ and ‘persuaded’ suggests students need transforming from no-shows to show-offs, from passive to active.

But is this correct?

If 90% don’t contribute, or 80% consume, maybe we should look at non-contribution and consumption more closely.

Learning online is fundamentally isolated and lonely, but rather than stressing digital participation as a solution, maybe we should celebrate digital singledom instead.

dandylion head from pixabay

When Philip Larkin wrote about the ‘unique distance from isolation‘ he was referring to a couple next to other in bed. The context is a difficult relationship, Something Larkin is so painfully good at.

If people can be so physically close, yet so far apart, maybe assumptions that distance means separation can also be challenged, Perhaps the isolated learner is more closely linked to a holistic experience of the module or programme, through the medium of digital resources, than we might think. It comes back to my introduction tweet to the #HE digID community.

We need a better understanding of digital shyness. Stop demonising those who choose not to express themselves, be it the digital public sphere or password protected university network. We need to look at lurking from the other side.

This was The Other Side of Lurking Part One; a unique distance from isolation

There is more in The Other Side of Lurking Part Two; dabbling with digital imposter syndrome.


Images from #HEdigID discussion on Twitter or pixabay.com

 

#EDEN18 to #uohlt18 from one conference to another

Image showing the University of Genoa

The week after #EDEN18 was the University of Hull Learning and Teaching Summer Programme, Empowering Our People. A conference on 25th June was followed by two days of workshops including a Master Class on Digital Identity and two more on Assessment and Feedback. The full programme is available here https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/ld.php?content_id=31769086

Image showng the University of Hull Venn Building with students in the forefront

A common thread tunning through my sessions on different aspects of teaching and learning, was the need for digital shifts in attitudes and practice. No suprises there!

For me, the #EDEN18 conference themes of Macro, Meso, Micro aligned well with the competing perspectives facing staff who teach and support learning in 21st century higher education. These have institutional, pedagogic and individual dimensions and all represent pressure to change. Narratives from Hull are no different from those presented at EDEN18 in Genoa.

Supporting staff and students to make digital shifts has the potential to bring institutions and individuals together in a supportive rather than dictatorial ways. Appropriate institutional reward and recognition are essential prerequisites of any change agenda, as is shared motivation. One of places where the institutional and individual can meet is through the pedagogic design of modules and programmes.

Learning, teaching and research, remain at the heart of higher education but aderence to traditional didactic tranmission pedagogies is strong.  We live in an increasingly digital society, with employers looking for digitally literate graduates, yet the gap between the potential promise of digital methodologies and the reality of day-to-day teaching practice is huge.

This divide between analogue and digital is where most of my work is focussed.

I often find myself on the fringes and edges of things.

I was struck by a comment from colleague Cristina Devecchi earlier this week. Cristina called an inclusivity group a ‘fringe’ group, going on to say ‘the fringes are like the lawless borders where innovation happens. The core is hard and resistant to change.’ I like the idea of ‘lawless borders’. Not in an illegal, criminal way but as existing outside policy and practice. It reminds me of the transformative moments. Discovering Foucault on social power and control, realising medical research was funded by drug companies,  reading Lyotard on postmodern fragmentation and pluralities, being introduced to critical pedagogy…

Living in Hull.

Our home grown librarian Philip Larkin is recorded saying how Hull ‘…is a little on the edge of things…’ but it suited him Monitor, 1964, 30 seconds in)

In terms of change, Cristina is right. How else can we move forward other than challenging outdated status quo from the borders, working towards achieving a tipping point, bringing people with one by one, bit by bit…

Dripping ideas…

Drip,

Drip…

Digital shifts apply to both staff and students.

book, phone and keyboard

If institutions are serious about their use of education technologies for enhancing learning and teaching, there needs to be a comprehensive and realistic step change, starting with establishing a digital baseline of capabilities and confidence with appropriate support for everyone to reach it.

The problem is establishing how far back the baseline needs to go e.g. new browser tabs and windows, cut, copy, paste functions, right click, naming files and organising file structures – the over-crowded desktop full of individual documents is a giveaway.

image showing the word start on a road

The problem – yes, another one – is conflict over how to understand digital literacies. The divide seems to be between competency based ‘training’ needs or socially situated knowledge practices.

For me, it’s the context which makes the difference between adoption and rejection. Change which is meaningful is best developed within context rather than outside of it. The publications below make useful reading around ‘situated’ approaches…

…while these links demonstrate the range and complexity of digital shifts in attitudes and practice.

It’s a circular conundrum.

Staff who don’t make use of technology in their teaching practice are unlikely to be encouraging students to transfer existing digital skills to their learning. If students are not prepared to make their own digital shifts, then the work we do in developing more digitally aligned forms of active learning will fail.

social media icons on a tree

We’re caught in a rift where the sides are ever further apart. I’ve been exploring the idea of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) people as constituting their own ‘academic tribe and territory as per Becher and Trowler’s analogy (link to2nd ed 2001,) or having ‘signature pedagogies‘ which act as a barrier. The vast majorty of staff who teach and support learning are caught in the middle of this chasm, cast off from being totally analogue but still far away from the land TEL people inhabit.

The problem is one of invisibility. TEL people can’t see them because they self-exclude from events and workshops.

Institutions need better bridges to support staff to step out with confidence from analogue to digital practice. This requires systematic and empathetic support. Without this, and realistic workload models, with suitable reward and recognition, the digital shift isn’t going to happen.

My contributions to the Summer Programme from an LTE perspective all involved digital ways of working. It’s 2018. Technology is expected but take-up remains diverse.

This is where you’ll find me.

Trying to understand difference, to theorise diversity, to make little bridges which might one day come together in a more intsitutionally recognised form.

On the conference day I presented a session called Digital Shifts: Academic Identity in a Digital Age. It was along similar lines to this blog. Something has to change and those who work in the borders between the old analogue and new digital practices are well placed to begin the conversations.

I’ve constructed blog posts for each of the three workshops I was involved in, two with colleagues who think in similar ways.

image showing a jigsaw where all the peices are white and one is being taken out

See, it’s not just me!

This is how change happens, as one by one a group of like-minded people develops.

Two conferences in two weeks.

One in Genoa, the other in Hull.

Both lookng at learning and teaching, one from a range of international perspectives, the other one local, so closer to home and day-to-day working reality, but both with so much in common.

Both facing essential digital shifts in attitude and practice which constitute attributes for a digital age. There’s no alternative to  getting digital but we haven’t yet found a way to bring everyone to the same starting point, or reached agreement on where that starting point is.

If we could achieve this, it would be a useful first step.

footprint in the sand on a beach by the sea


images from pixabay.com


 

Designing for Diverse Learners

Image showng the University of Hull Venn Building with students in the forefront

The LTE Summer Programme (June 2018) included two days of LTE workshops where colleague Lee Fallin and myself took the opportunity to ‘launch’ an Introduction to Inclusive Approaches to Teaching and Learning, with specific reference to digital resources. This post offers an introduction to inclusivity with online content for anyone unable to be there.* 

The Home Office has an excellent poster series to highlight practices for developing content for users falling into one of the following six categories:

  • low vision,
  • Deaf and hard of hearing
  • Dyslexia,
  • motor disabilities,
  • users on the autistic spectrum,
  • users of screen readers (visual issues/blindness).

We we really impressed by these posters, but also overwhelmed with how we can support educators to use them in practice. For this reason, we developed our Designing for Diverse Learners poster, combining the essential practices for all of the above. The aim of this document was not to target any one group of learners, but to develop an outline of practices that follow the principles of universal design where changes for some benefit the vast majority of learners.

Why ‘diverse learners’?

The idea of ‘diverse learners’ is really important to the both of us. The practices outlined in our poster will benefit every learner, not just those who many require specific adjustments. The reason we are able to do this is that in applying the principles from the above posters to the educational context, we are able to look at them for the specific purpose of designing digital learning materials and opportunities.

One of the reasons for our initial focus on digital resources is our institutional context at the University of Hull where the majority of resources will be access via the institutional VLE, Canvas. The University of Hull has a set of ‘expected use of Canvas’ criteria which include the following:

Staff should ensure that all digital content supporting learning and teaching e.g. text, images and multimedia, follows inclusive practice guidelines.

Our poster does not claim to support every single learner or requirement an educator may come across, but we are certain that resources developed along these principles will meet the vast majority of needs. We are also keen to frame this as a working document. We are keen to get as much feedback as we can to help us make this resource event better. We’ve already had some feedback about including some text line spacing and would welcome any further ideas you all have.

Future developments

As a community, we can continue to develop this resource and make it even better. We welcome input from both educators and learners as to how we can make this any better. We have set-up a Tricider to help collect feedback on the poster and to enable to community to vote on individual ideas. If you have not used Tricider before, it is very easy to contribute. Simple visit our Tricider and either ‘add an idea’ or vote on the ideas of others. You can also place comments on Tricider or use the comment area on this blog post if your prefer.

The poster

We have made this poster available in two formats, the image below and a printable PDF. For best results, print your poster on A3 paper (portrait orientation) and trim the white paper to the sides.  


* See https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/ltesummer/conference for Workshop Abstract


 

Introducing Design for Active Learning (D4AL)

Image showng the University of Hull Venn Building with students in the forefront

The LTE Summer Programme (June 2018) included two days of LTE workshops where  we took the opportunity to ‘launch’ Design for Active Learning (D4AL). This post reflects on the session as well as proving an introduction to D4AL for anyone unable to be there.*

Design for Active Learning is an approach to learning and teaching enhancement, with or without technology but its 2018 – the technology is going to be in there somewhere! Ideally, a session would be blended with some prerequisite preparation followed by hands on time to develop a piece of learning, be it a module, programme or short course.

In the meantime, we’ve squeezed the fundamentals into this blog post…

One of our favourite approaches to discovery is the key questions underpinning any process of inquiry; Who, What, Where, When, Why and How so we’ve structured this post around these.

Who developed Design for Active Learning 

Sue Watling and Patrick Lynch, Teaching Enhancement Advisors in the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Directorate

Presenting at a LTE Summer programme session 

sue watling with a parrot

What is Design for Active Learning? 

D4AL is all of the following:

  • pedagogically informed approach to learning and teaching enhancement
  • evidence/data informed design and evaluation of student learning activities
  • philosophy as well as practice
  • Toolbox (activity templates) and Evidence Hub (resources, videos, literature etc)

D4AL is not about

  • auditing or quality control
  • telling teachers how to teach
  • supporting passive, didactic teaching methodologies

Where can Design for Active Learning happen? 

Anywhere where people can be together physically or virtually; technology is not required.

When can Design for Active Learning take place? 

Any time which suits staff who teach and support learning.

Why develop Design for Active Learning? 

‘Curriculum design in higher education is not a formal activity and there is little support, formal or informal, provided in most higher education institutions to help academics become better at designing learning activities, modules and courses (Nicol, 2012:4)

Nicol, D. (2012) Transformational Change in Teaching and Learning Recasting the Educational Discourse Evaluation of the Viewpoints Project, Jisc. https://www.reap.ac.uk/Portals/101/Documents/PEERToolkit/VIEWPOINTS%20EVALUATION_Final_dn.pdf

Alongside an absence of formal approaches to the learning design, LTE had observed a reluctance to engage with ‘Technology-First’ approaches to enhancement, in particular from staff who were digitally shy and resistant to making digital shifts, both in attitude and practice. We believed all staff who teach or support learning would have a vested interest in the design of learning activities for their students, and wanted to test if brokering discussions via Learning Design or ‘Pedagogy-First’ might take us where TEL-First had been less successful. Our conversations with staff this year plus experience co-leading Module Two of the PCAP ‘Effective Learning, Teaching and Assessment Design’, suggested this was indeed the case.

How does Design for Active Learning happen? (Part One) 

D4AL has three distinct processes.

  • Perspective: the philosophy of higher education e.g. its purpose in 21st century society (this might include widening participation policy, inclusive practice, being for the public good, social justice and sustainability etc) and pedagogic allegiance (this might include a social constructivist approach with an emphasis on active learning, reflective practice and critical thinking).
  • Planning: time to talk and to investigate the D4AL Toolbox and Evidence Hub for the most suitable approach to use. Questions to ask during the Planning might include the following:
    • What do you want your students to do?
    • What would success look like?
    • How will you know when you’ve achieved this?
  • Practice: Carrying out the plan and evaluating its effectiveness. Questions might include:
    • What went well and less well?
    • What would you do again?
    • What would you do differently?

We’ve tried several times to visualise Design for Active but been unsuccessful. Following the session last week, we drew these triple rings within a square.

 Also, we realised the toolbox and evidence hub needed to be defined more clearly.  The D4AL Toolbox is a collection of activity design templates while the D4AL Evidence Hub contains the supporting literature and resources.

How does Design for Active Learning happen? (Part Two) 

An initial teaching enhancement conversation might be brokered in a number of different ways. Institutionally it could be driven by red flags on a data report relating to any aspect of AMREP for examples NSS, MEQ, SEERS, or from a discussion by the water cooler, over coffee or a corridor chat. We would then meet with the programme, module or subject team to discuss requirements and plan the way forward.

Planning begins with Perspective. We’re finding asking staff to think about their rationale for teaching, alongside identification of their pedagogic beliefs, is useful CPD as well as a team building activity. After this, the team would be introduced to the Toolbox and Evidence Hub and discuss which of the activities and resources are the most appropriate.

The Practice stage will be dependent on each iteration. The idea of the Design for Active Learning Approach is it’s flexible enough to adapt to different situations. Whatever is needed, there should be an activity on the Toolbox or a resource in the Evidence Hub which fits.

Not every discussion will lead to a D4AL intervention while not every time the D4AL process is followed, will there be an automatic success. Teaching and learning are complex human endeavors and open to multiple environmental influences. What D4AL can offer, is a way forward, based on combined knowledge and experience. The processes are iterative and cumulative. The more we do with D4AL, the more we can collect evidence of what works well, less well, and what we would do differently next time.

So… this has been an introduction to Design for Active Learning.  The next post will take a look inside the D4AL Toolbox and Evidence Hub and share some of the resources to be found there.


*  See https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/ltesummer/conference for Workshop Abstract


Blended and distance learning

Image showng the University of Hull Venn Building with students in the forefront

The LTE Summer Programme (June 2018) included two days of LTE workshops. I took the opportunity to present an introduction to blended and distance learning. This post offers an introduction to the topic for anyone unable to be there.* 

Making the digital shift from traditional face-to-face, on-campus courses to blended or fully distance modes may feel like a challenge but when done well, it can offer exciting and motivational student experiences. Tearning and teaching in 21st century offers potential 24/7 access at a time, place and device of student choice. However, in many cases this transformative potential remains untapped. The lecture continues to be the primary form of content delivery. A consequence of this is similar didactic pedagogic models being transferred to virtual envrionments, and presented as online learning. VLE resembling repositories of files, frequently fail to become the centres of interactivity they have the potential to be. Successful bended and distance eduation requires digital shifts in teaching and learning practice. The tips on these pages cover some of the key changes in attitudes and pratice which need to be made.

Quotes have been taken from an online teacher education course where particpants were encouraged to keep a reflective journal. Here they wrote about the transfer of new learning to their own practice. Journal entries have been used with permission.

Tip 1: busting myths of digital confidence

Remember: When it comes to digital technologies colleagues/students might be less confident than you think but disguise it well. This quote shows blended learning

requires more than technical competence, there are social and emotional challenges too. Avoid making assumptions, the majority of students are NOT Digital Natives and nearly all need to develop critical as well as effective digital literacies.

Recommend: build in time for an online course induction with activities for sharing aims and feelings. It’s helpful for e-learners and e-teachers too know others might share similar hopes and fears.

Tip 2: be aware of the risks text mis-communication

Remember: the absence of face-to-face clues makes it easy to misinterpret messages. These quotes remind us online communication can be challenging. Prepare for silence! Reluctance to engage and mixed messages can affect retention.

Recommends: discuss the advantages of digital text e.g. pre-practice, reflect, edit, spellcheck then paste into the Text Editor when ready. Provide practice spaces. Have a ‘good manners’ guide, either prep-prepared or constructed during induction. Include CAPITAL LETTERS are like SHOUTING, use emoticons to help avoid misunderstanding   , don’t be rude or offensive – if you wouldn’t say it face-to-face, don’t say it online.

Tip 3: expect identity blur

Remember: e-teachers are tutors, moderators, facilitators, instructors but called rarely e-lecturers. Teaching online requires digital communication skills while e-teachers have to shift identities from ‘Sage on the Stage’ to the less visible and more silent ‘Guide on the Side’, a loss of visible status which can take some adjusting to.

Recommends: e-teaching can be complex and challenging but gets easier the more you do and when done well, it’s a powerful tool for widening participation and enhancing the student experience. Whether the course is fully online or blended the affordances of 24/7 access at a time, place and device of student choice means it’s well worth it!

Tip 4: adopt activity based content (ABC) designs

Remember: Online resources have guide, motivate and enthuse as well as retain students to the end of the course. Blended learning design follows socio-constructivist principles for example interaction, communication and collaboration

Recommends: create online groups with their own forums and a choice of activities based on key texts or themes. Agree tutor response times.  Ask students to share understanding of core ideas through posters, mindmaps, presentations, audio or video. Set up peer review with feedback summaries.  Avoid 50 minutes of talking heads with audience coughs and sneezes. Chunk lecture content into smaller pieces interspersed with formative assessment opportunities. Be inclusive and provide multimedia transcripts or text equivalents to suit diverse students cohorts.

Tip 5: effective signposting

Remember: online is a different experience to f2f seminars and lectures. Learners are often isolated and VLE look strange to new users. Without physical support, it’s easy to misread instructions or get lost so effective signposting is essential.

Recommends: ask critical friends to review your resources and give constructive feedback. Be clear about learning outcomes and their assessment. Be sure students know what is expected and  if interaction is assessed. Arrange synchronous meet-ups or activities. Give reasons for accessing links and directions for reading. Keep everything within two clicks from the Home page. Check links aren’t broken. Post weekly summaries looking back and forward.

Tip 6: do a MOOC

 

Remember: Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) offer free opportunities to get ideas designing content and enabling communication as well as experience learning Tip 7: Pedagogy of Uncertainty online. Open Educational Resources (OER) offer free resources through a Creative Commons licence support reuse and repurposing.

Recommends: in the UK FutureLearn, a consortium of UK universities, and the OU Open Learn offer free online courses. Visit Coursera, Khan Academy or Udacity. Look up Creative Commons licences https://creativecommons.org/licenses/ for more information about copyright free materials.

Tip 7: Pedagogy of Uncertainty

Remember: sometimes e-teaching can feel like communication with a big black hole. A major challenge is not knowing what to expect. You don’t know who your learners are or if they’re going to engage in your activities. Silence may be a sign students have got lost or lost interest through miscommunication or misunderstanding. Following these tips will help avoid common errors.

Recommends: online teaching and learning is not an easy option but done well, the advantages outweigh the negatives. VLE offer inclusive opportunities to widen participation in higher education. They can enhance on-campus experiences through encouraging independent learning.  The future of higher education will be increasingly digital and e-teaching/e-learning an essential craft.

For further information please get in touch Sue Watling


* See https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/ltesummer/conference for Workshop Abstract