TELTA Module (Week 1)
The following is the continuous assessment work that I carried out during the week immediately after the Tuesday afternoon webinar that took place on 10th January 2017 from 13:00 to 14:00.
Key Reading 1: What’s the use of a VLE? (Reponse)
Response from Gerard Kilkenny to the following academic paper:
O’Rourke, K.C., Rooney, P. and Boylan, F. (2015). What’s the Use of a VLE? Irish Journal of Academic Practice, 4(1),11.
The paper refers to the low level of use of collaborative educational technology, both within and outside the VLE, by the DIT lecturers surveyed . These include messaging tool (26%), discussion boards (19%), wikis (12%), SMS texting (11%), BB mobile app (7%), webinars (5%), and chatrooms (2%). This does not mean that the students of these lecturers in DIT are not using this collaborative technology independently of the lecturers in whole class groups or sub-groups. As a second level Maths teacher, I have discovered that students mainly use Facebook as their method of communication. Currently, I have a class of 30 students in 3rd Year following the Junior Certificate Higher Level Maths course who have their own Facebook group for communication purposes.
The school that I work in does not have an institutional VLE. In the absence of such a VLE, I set up the Schoology LMS for my 6th Year Higher Level Maths class and for one other teacher in March 2014. Schoology is very user friendly and cloud based with excellent mobile apps. However, I discovered a major problem with this LMS is that a student can sign up as an ‘Instructor’ which gives them the administrative rights to set up classes. Consequently, I reluctantly discontinued using Schoology after one and a half years. Currently, there are at least two teachers in my school using the Edmodo LMS while others use email and Twitter. I have tested the installation of the Moodle LMS on my own personal website.
One of the main problems I perceive with Blackboard and Moodle is that they are bloated pieces of software originally designed for client/server (desktop) systems. This has resulted in fragmentation rather than integration of the various pieces of application software that constitute a LMS/VLE. Students in 2017 appear to use mobile apps much more than their desktop equivalents (when they exist). In my opinion, the challenge for the two main LMS suppliers in the higher education market (Blackboard 41% and Moodle 23%) is to develop their mobile solutions. In the meantime, the fragmented app landscape whereby lecturers and students use different proprietary solutions for email, instant messaging (binary), instant messaging (group), file repository, file sending, file sharing, group conferencing, whiteboard sharing, etc. will persist. The MSc in Applied eLearning course is a case in point, using a mixture of email, Blackboard, Slack and Twitter to communicate.
Finally, I have written an annotated bibliography of this academic paper that can be found at http://gerardkilkenny.ie/index.php/2017/01/10/m3-week-1-home/
Key Reading 1: What’s the use of a VLE? (Annotated Bibliography)
O’Rourke, K.C., Rooney, P. and Boylan, F. (2015). What’s the Use of a VLE? Irish Journal of Academic Practice, 4(1),11.
This 2015 paper by O’Rourke et al (who work in the LTTC based in DIT Aungier Street) is based on research carried out by them between February and April 2013. This research was conducted via a phone call survey of 200 randomly selected staff working in DIT followed by an additional three-question anonymous online survey.
The study sought to
(a) find out how our academic staff was using the VLE as part of their teaching practice
(b) find out if academics were aware of emerging eLearning tools outside of the VLE
(c) gain an insight into factors inhibiting or preventing staff from engaging with eLearning technologies.
The paper begins by providing evidence that when it comes to actual teaching, learning and assessment practices, very little has changed as a consequence of the introduction of VLEs such as Blackboard and Moodle. (Zemsky and Massy, 2004; Weller, 2007). The authors note that eLearning progress has been cautious in publicly funded third-level institutions with an opt-in rather than mandatory approach for staff members who wish to use technology in their teaching practices. “In the main, however, it is clear from the emergent patterns that VLE usage is best categorised as supplemental to traditional, didactic teaching methods as evidenced by the relatively low usage of tools which foster and promote interactivity.” (O’Rourke et al, 2015, p.11).
It was interesting to me that the paper traced the history of the VLE in DIT from the introduction of WebCT in 2001 to its replacement by Blackboard in 2012. I wasn’t aware of how the Learning, Teaching & Technology Centre (LTTC) in DIT came into being. It was informative to read that it was created from an amalgamation of the Learning & Teaching Centre and the five-member team who were employed for an initial three-year period with a remit to embed eLearning practice in DIT with a focus on mainstreaming the use of WebCT.
The answers to the survey question seeking to elicit how Blackboard is used by lecturers in DIT is consistent with a longitudinal survey conducted among students across several third-level Irish institutions which discovered that students mostly experienced the VLE as a content distribution platform. (Risquez et al., 2013, p.103). The DIT survey established that that the top five tools used by lecturers in Blackboard were: file sharing (93%), email tool (71%), announcements (70%), learning module (59%) and YouTube (52%). The use of other Blackboard tools dipped below 50% for each of the other nineteen tools. O’Rourke et al 2015, p.11 conclude that “…it is clear from the emergent patterns that VLE usage is best categorised as supplemental to traditional, didactic teaching methods as evidenced by the relatively low usage of tools which foster and promote interactivity.” The level of usage of collaborative learning tools was discussion boards (19%), Wikis (12%), Webinars (5%) and chatrooms (2%). Google Docs (now Google Apps) had a 25% rate of usage among lecturers but its Microsoft equivalent (Office 365) is not listed which appears to be an important omission.
The additional three-question anonymous online survey was designed to discover why lecturers in DIT generally didn’t use personal websites or tools such as twitter, audience response systems (clickers), mobile apps, open educational resources, ePortfolios, online games, lecture capture and social bookmarking. Lack of time to explore and become confident in the use of such tools was cited regularly by the DIT lecturers surveyed as a reason for not using these technologies, both within and outside the VLE. One lecturer said staff should get timetable reductions for engaging in distance learning over and above their face-to-face lectures.
In my opinion, a weakness in this piece of research is that the students of the lecturers involved in the survey were not also surveyed. Just because these DIT lecturers have a low use of collaborative technologies, this does not mean that their students are not independently using these technologies in whole class groups or sub-groups especially outside of the VLE. As a second level Maths teacher, I have discovered that students mainly use Facebook as their method of communication.
The paper concludes that a move away from the individual opt-in approach towards a system of planning and incentivisation at programme, school and institutional level may be what is required for lecturers to use the more interactive and collaborative tools within the VLE.
Survey Result 1 – Tool usage in Blackboard/Webcourses
The telephone survey included a section whereby participants were asked how they used Blackboard with their students by listing out the individual tools available within the VLE and asking them to indicate whether or not they have used or were aware of each one. Figure 1 gives an overview of the responses.
(1) Sharing files (Word, PDF, etc.) (93%)
(2) Email tool (71%)
(3) Announcements (70%)
(4) Learning Modules (59%)
(5) Weblinks (54%)
(6) YouTube / other video (52%)
(7) Surveys / polls (incl. online Q6) (47%)
(8) SafeAssign (47%)
(9) Assignment dropbox (41%)
(10) Calendar (33%)
(11) Quizzes (26%)
(12) Messaging Tool (26%)
(13) Discussion Boards (19%)
(14) Wikis (12%)
(15) SMS Texting (11%)
(16) BB Mobile app (7%)
(17) Slideshare (7%)
(18) Private journals / Blogs (6%)
(19) Webinars (Wimba / Collaborate) (5%)
(20) Publisher Content (5%)
(21) Wimba Voice Tools (4%)
(22) Campus Pack (4%)
(23) Chatrooms (2%)
(24) Lockdown Browser (2%)
Survey Result 2 – Other Technologies Used
The telephone survey included a section about tools available to lecturers via the DIT applications suite but also extended to social networking and other tools available online: which ones are they aware of and/or how do lecturers use non-VLE tools in their teaching? Figure 2 gives an overview of the responses.
(1) Google Docs (25%)
(2) Ebooks (25%)
(3) Skype (16%)
(4) Digital Simulations (15%)
(5) Screencasts (12%)
(6) Twitter (10%)
(7) Clickers (10%)
(8) Personal Website (10%)
(9) Smart Board (7%)
(10) NDLR Materials (7%)
(11) Mobile Apps (7%)
(12) Flickr (6%)
(13) iPad / tablet (6%)
(14) ePortfolios (5%)
(15) Online games (5%)
(16) Echo360 (5%)
(17) Social Bookmarking (5%)
(18) Google+ / Hangouts (3%)
(19) Moocs (2%)
(20) Second life (1%)
Risquez, A., McAvinia, C., Raftery, D., O’Riordan, F., Harding, N., Cosgrave, R., Logan-Phelan, T., & Farrelly, T. (2013). An Investigation of Students’ Experiences of using Virtual Learning Environments: implications for academic professional development. In C. O’Farrell & A. Farrell (Eds.), Emerging Issues III in Higher Education: from capacity building to sustainability. Dublin: EDIN. Retrieved: 12, June 2015 from http://www.edin.ie/pubs/ei3-chapters/ei3-ch8.pdf
Weller, M. (2007). The VLE/LMS is dead. The Ed Techie, Retrieved June 12, 2015, from http://nogoodreason.typepad.co.uk/no_good_reason/2007/11/the-vlelms-is-d.html.
Zemsky, R., & Massy, W.F. (2004). Thwarted Innovation: What happened to e-learning and why. USA: The Learning Alliance at the University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved June 12, 2015.
KEY WATCHING – Daphne Koller’s Ted Talk: What we’re learning from online education (Response to Response)
Response from Gerard Kilkenny to Anne Mulvihill’s Response:
Anne, I think that this is a well-considered response to Daphne Koller’s 2013 TED talk. Your response is logical, well-structured and succinctly identifies the two main reasons affecting course completion: lack of instructor interaction and perceived effectiveness of content. I have looked at what has happened to the MOOC since that 2013 TED talk and it appears that by the end of 2013, the media’s infatuation with MOOCs receded.
Since Daphne Koller’s 2013 TED talk, attempts have been made to deal with the two factors affecting course completion: lack of instructor interaction and perceived effectiveness of content. Picciano (2014) refers to the four waves of online learning and opines that the latest (4th wave) began in 2014 and is a mixture of blended learning (2nd wave) and the MOOC (3rd wave). In December 2013, Sebastian Thrun (founder of Udacity) was quoted as saying that he was giving up on MOOCs and that Udacity have a “lousy product”. (Chafkin, 2013). In November 2013, Daphne Koller commented at Sloan Consortium’s Annual Conference that students who lack the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic would probably be better served by face-to-face instruction. Koller went on to say that MOOC companies should consider the development of more pedagogically sound course materials that can be used in blended online formats rather than fully online formats. (Koller, 2013).
Koller’s evangelical delivery in the TED talk reminded me of a similar delivery I witnessed from Mike Feerick during his keynote speech to the EdTech 2016 conference in Dublin. Feerick is the Galway based founder & CEO of ALISON, which was launched in April 2007 and is widely credited as the world’s first MOOC (despite the claims of Stephen Downes and George Siemens!). During this keynote, I remember Feerick telling his audience that his mission was to deliver free education to the (educationally) dispossessed and how ALISON does not charge for its courses. This is untrue – ALISON does not have a subscription model of payment but it does rely on Internet advertising. (Feerick, 2016).
Chafkin, M. (2013). Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun, godfather of free online education, changes course. Fast Company. Retrieved January 16, 2017, from http://www.fastcompany.com/3021473/udacity-sebastian-thrun-uphill-climb
Feerick, M. (2016). Keynote presentation to Edtech 2016. Retrieved January 16, 2017, from http://ilta.ie/edtech/edtech-2016/keynote-presenters/
Koller, D. (2013). Online learning: Learning without limits. Keynote presentation at the 19th Annual Sloan Consortium Conference on Online Learning. Orlando, FL.
Picciano, A. (2014). A critical reflection of the current research in online and blended learning. Retrieved January 16, 2017, from http://www.elmmagazine.eu/articles/a-critical-reflection-of-the-current-research-in-online-and-blended-learning