Talking with a manager today we were discussing how we could use various technologies to capture the learner voice. In the FE sector the learner voice has become strategically important and is part of the inspection framework.
There is a great focus in the Common Inspection Framework on involving learners in developing policies, provision and activities. This builds on the learner voice concepts and involvement strategies that are common in the FE sector. Ofsted are likely to expect similar strategies across all provisions, not just colleges and LSC provision.
It’s not as though we didn’t listen to learners in the past, we certainly did, but we probably didn’t have the systems and processes to effectively capture the learner voice and importantly feedback to them.
In my own college we have a robust system for capturing the learner voice across the college, however it doesn’t capture all the feedback. Sometimes learners want to provide feedback on their own curriculum area (which they can do as part of the college wide learner voice) but may not think it important enough to talk about at a college level, but want their voice heard at a “local” level. Also though the system is robust it may not always capture everything. There is also a need from a local perspective in capturing evidence that would feed into the Self-Assessment Report (SAR) and be used to develop a plan for the following year.
So back to the conversation with the manager.
We both knew that we could tap into the existing system, but wanted to allow learners to use video and audio. We already have the technology in the classroom and the library to capture video and audio (using the iSight camera and microphone built into the iMac). Learners could also capture video and audio using their mobile phones, these media files can then be easily moved to the computers or sent direct.
The key question then was where should the learners send their media files?
Using e-mail was rejected very early on, we have limited space for our e-mail and archiving and saving attachments seemed very clunky and time consuming. That was also the reason using gmail was also rejected.
We also wanted a simple system for learners, so using a service like Blogger or WordPress went out the window.
In the end we started looking at Posterous.
Posterous originally started as a service that allowed you to use a single e-mail account to send “stuff”. Posterous would then convert the stuff into a blog with separate postings for each individual e-mail. Posterous will also automatically encode the video and audio too. But this would only work (at that time) with a single e-mail account, so not entirely suitable for the needs of the manager.
However recent updates from Posterous have created a mechanism that would work for capturing the learner voice.
You can create a Posterous blog and then “anything” sent to a specific e-mail account you choose, firstname.lastname@example.org. So you can give that e-mail address to your learners who can then send their video and audio files to it. They can also send text, or photographs of handwritten comments.
Once received at Posterous, the e-mail (with the stuff) is held in a moderation queue, once moderated it will be published. Now you probably don’t actually want this content in the public domain (dirty laundry and all that) another nice feature of Posterous is the ability to make the blog private.
So learners can easily create media files, using college equipment or their own devices or phones. They can e-mail these to Posterous, which will encode it for the web. The manager can get notifications via e-mail and so will know when learners have posted stuff. They can moderate the “postings” so they appear on the blog. They can then view what the learners have said. The manager can also open out the blog to other staff who have an interest.
At this level the system works quite well.
To take a stage further, the manager can add tags to postings, making it easier to see if there are pattens or collate from different groups.
The learner voice is important, using technologies such as Posterous makes it easier for learners to use different media and for some learners a different mechanism that they prefer, to enable their voice to be heard.