The Early Days of an Online Teaching Course

It’s day two of LI501 and all is rather eerily quiet so I would like to take some time to reflect on where I am as a tutor at this point in time. LI501 is the online teaching module that I’m currently co-ordinating at DCU. We got off to a flying start yesterday (with a three hour orientation session) and signs are very promising that this is a chatty bunch with plenty to say about their knowledge (or perceived lack of knowledge) in relation to technology. Whether this enthusiasm for talk will translate to the discussion boards remains to be seen.

We have a fantastically mixed group of schools (Business,  Health & Human Performance, Engineering, Science & Languages) were all represented. It was fascinating to hear the participants talk about why they have signed up for this course. Issues with large class sizes, differences in levels of understanding, and a desire to do ‘more’ with technology were all mentioned. But it was a feeling of lack of engagement that seemed to run through most of the comments and drove home to me how important that particular theme will be. While it is ‘officially’ due to start in several weeks, I see the activities that we engage in in the run up to that theme being highly relevant to the engagement objective too.

For my part my biggest challenge for now is to start building up that all-important sense of instructor presence and learning community. Through my meetings/conversations with the participants, the face to face session,  photos, videos, and even emails,  myself and Pip are doing our best to create a supportive and welcoming environment that invites participation. But will that be enough?

While I did emphasise the importance of discussion during my presentation, it remains to be seen if it actually occurs and I am nervous that participants just won’t engage. I should mention a ‘moment of doubt’ that occurred to me earlier. I became conscious that one of the students seemed confused about how the discussion would take place online (wondering how it would happen in reality). I think they were also wondering about when to do the discussion. As I write this I realise that I am in the fortunate position of having a video recording of my talk so I can go back and look at that and confirm what was said. Very useful indeed and since this was my first time using that camera, the benefits for both the students who had to miss aspects of the session  and for me are quickly becoming apparent. Getting over my discomfort at being recorded for this and the introductory videos will have to happen sooner rather than later  and I can see myself using more video technology for my own teaching into the future.

But for now, to go back to the question of discussion, I have made one tweak to the layout to make the discussion forums less ‘buried’ in the page. I felt I needed to make the discussion tasks very prominent so I’ve included some intro text and links to those tasks at the top of the theme to make sure participants have a clear idea of what to do when they login. That’s about all I can do for now, it’s a bit of a waiting game but for now, I’m happy to wait and see… .

 

 

 

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Preparing to teach about teaching online

In this long overdue post, I’d like to talk about LI501 – an online teaching module that I am very excited about co-ordinating at DCU with the kind help of my colleague Pip Ferguson. The infographic below is my depiction of the module and indeed my teaching and learning philosophy. Feedback from my TEU colleagues about the use of a poster-like infographic for this purpose has been very positive. (Thanks to Piktochart for providing the template which made it a rather easy exercise.)

LI501 Overview Infographic

 

A conference, a camera, and a collaboration

I’ve recently come back from the European Conference on eLearning (ECEL) hosted by the University of Hertfordshire so I thought I’d pen a few words to describe how it went and what I learned from it.

First of all, I have to mention how fortunate I feel in being facilitated to go to an event like this. It’s not cheap visiting the UK at the moment (makes Dublin seem like good value!) and it certainly costs DCU a few quid to fund a three-day visit. As a former self-employed contractor who had to pay for any form of professional development (not to mention self-fund any sick leave and maternity time), I’m grateful to have this cost funded by my employer and facilitated by my manager, Mark Glynn. I wasn’t told that I had to go this conference, it was something I wanted to do once I saw the mini-track on wearable technology, so I think that’s something very positive to reflect on. I won’t harp on any further about the dismal financial ‘entitlements’ of the self-employed in this country but suffice to say that it won’t escape the ears of any politicians calling to my door come election time. But I digress, and for now will stay in my happy place and think further on the conference itself…

The main difference between this and other educational technology conferences I have attended were that 1. the audience was truly international, and 2. I was, for the first time, co-presenting a paper at the conference itself.  Three of us from DCU (Dr Tatyana Devine from the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute, Patrick Doyle from the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, and me from the Teaching Enhancement Unit) had a paper accepted for the conference for a mini track on wearable technology. Our interest lay in the use of head-mounted wearable cameras for videoing laboratory practicals.  For this project, our lead academic used this type of camera to record the steps involved in performing a particular biomedical test so that students could view this procedure in video form. So far, feedback has been very positive and you can see the slides from our joint presentation below:

On a personal note, I found speaking at the conference extremely valuable, and compared with events which I have attended (but not spoken at), the difference was very striking. I felt much more involved in the conference itself, rather than skirting around the edges as an observer. And despite being fraught with nerves beforehand, the discussions that ensued afterwards were well worth it.  As for the presentation itself, which included a brief demo of the point-of-view video, it went well and the conversation afterwards was very active, which we took as a good sign.

As always, there is certainly room for improvement and attendees seemed to nod in general agreement with the students suggestions to add subtitles/annotations on chemicals used and volumes to the video. Amongst the comments and suggestions made on the day:

  • It would be useful if the academic showed the inevitable ‘glitches’ that occur while performing the experiment, which would also represent useful learning for students (so it doesn’t have to be all about modelling the ‘perfect’ experiment)
  • It would be helpful to see the ‘dos and don’ts’ of using this type of camera in education, perhaps in the form of guidelines for academics
  • Care needs to be taken to avoid ethics related issues if students come into frame

One biomedical science lecturer from Denmark spoke to me about how she is planning to try the technology in her lab and  – and even better, she is going to get students to try it out which is a logical next step. She immediately recognised the space and physical limitations of recording in a laboratory so that will be fascinating to hear more about how that pans out. Another UK lecturer, who uses video extensively, said that she now planned to try it out and hadn’t realised it had become (relatively) inexpensive.  Another attendee (Stine Ejsing-Duun) and I chatted on Twitter about the need to break the video down in to short sections (our one being a little over the mark at approx 10.5 minutes).

So in all, an excellent trip which as well as being thoroughly enjoyable, was also very informative and fruitful. There are a number of wearable camera-related projects underway in DCU’s School of Nursing so here’s hoping we’ll be seeing more use, and indeed more research into use, in the months ahead.

Open Educational Resources – are we really open to the idea?

Open Educational Resources. Only one careful owner. Completely free to all interested parties. Terms and conditions apply.

As sales pitches go, you would be hard pressed to find a better bargain – well in theory at least.  Who wouldn’t be lured by the promise of something free? Wouldn’t we all like to avoid the old chestnut of ‘reinventing the wheel’ in teaching?  What’s not to like about contributing to a shared understanding and a global community?  But something isn’t quite adding up. Although the OER Research Hub has found that faculty who use OERs are very positively disposed to them (OERRHub, 2015), there appears to be a gap in awareness (Allen & Seaman, 2014) or perhaps worse, a fundamental disinclination to use them or contribute resources of one’s own.

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