So what do you understand by the term blended learning? What about an online course? A hybrid programme? Could you provide a clear explanation of what student wellbeing is? At the end of last week I published a blog post on language.
Last week I delivered two presentations, one was a planned presentation for a QAA workshop, the other, well it wasn’t supposed to be a presentation, but due to a lack of response from the audience in the networking session I was in, I quickly cobbled together a presentation based on the slides I had used for the QAA.
I pulled together the idea into a single blog post. It is a combination and an expansion of the presentations I delivered about my thoughts of what happened, what then happened, what we need to think about and what we could do.
So we know many universities are planning for blended and hybrid programmes with some aspects of courses delivered physically, but socially distanced. My question is this, where (physically) are those universities expecting their students to access those online aspects of their programmes, especially those which are synchronous? They will need a device and an internet connection, but they will also need a physical space to participate as well. This was the question I asked in another blog post I published this week. Though as the week went on we saw the government start to ease the lockdown restrictions. I suspect we will see some (or even most) universities follow suit.
I have been working on a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery.
One of the things I have noticed as the education sector moved rapidly to remote delivery was the different models that people used. However what we did see was many people were translating their usual practice to an online version. An example of this, is from Dave White in a recent blog post about his experiences at UAL, he called it practice mirroring.
So in the move to online teaching our initial instinct is to preserve Contact Hours by mirroring what would have been face-to-face sessions with webinar style sessions. What this looks like is exhausting 3-4 hour online sessions which must be almost impossible to stay engaged with.
As part of my work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff an students.
Before having 4-5 hours in a lecture theatre or a classroom was certainly possible and done by many institutions. However merely translating that into 4 hours of Zoom video presentations and discussions is exhausting for those taking part, but also we need to remember that in this time there are huge number of other negative factors impacting on people’s wellbeing, energy and motivation.
When snow closed campuses, you probably could have got away with this kind of translation from the physical to the virtual, but now we have lockdown, anxiety about the virus, and let’s be brutal, people are actually dying everyday due to the virus.
People may not be able to participate in synchronous sessions, they may have childcare or other dependents they need to look after, they may be other household challenges.
So how do you, and how could you translate the one hour lecture into an effective learning experience that happens online. The key aspect is to identify the learning outcomes of that session and ensure that they are achievable in the translated session.
Monday I was undertaking the final preparations for some presentation training I am delivering on Thursday. This included printing some postcards as well as designing activities.
I took advantage of Pixabay to find images for my postcards, this is a great site for images, and due to their open licensing, you can use them in a variety of ways. Though I often attribute the site for the images I use, it’s not a requirement, so if you use them later or forget, it’s not really an issue.
Tuesday I was off to London for a meeting to discuss some future collaborative work that Jisc may undertake. What are the big challenges that HE (and FE) are facing for the future. One comment which was made I thought was interesting, was how challenging it was to get people to think about long term future challenges. Most people can identify current issues and potential near-future challenges but identifying the really big challenges that will impact education in the medium or long term, is really hard. Part of the challenge is that there are so many factors that can impact and predicting the future is thus very hard.
Reminded of this challenge of predicting the future, this week with the imminent anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall thirty years ago. Watching the haunting nuclear war TV film, Threads in 1984, I had no idea that the Cold War was every going to end, it looked like it would last forever and we would always be living under the threat of nuclear war. Five years later on the 9thNovember 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. I remember watching it on the news in my student accommodation, thinking, what’s happening, how is this happening? Back then we didn’t have social media, mobile phones or the web, so the only way for news to filter through was by television and newspapers. A year later we had the reunification of Germany. A year after that the USSR was dissolved. Continue reading Presenting, presenting, presenting – Weeknote #33 – 18th October 2019→
However if the results of a slightly unconvincing study are to be believed then giving students a recording of the lecture would be better for the learners than them attending live!
The New Scientist reports on the study that was undertaken at State University of New York in Fredonia.
New psychological research suggests that university students who download a podcast lecture achieve substantially higher exam results than those who attend the lecture in person.
Why do I say unconvincing?
To find out how much students really can learn from podcast lectures alone – mimicking a missed class – McKinney’s team presented 64 students with a single lecture on visual perception, from an introductory psychology course.
This is a very small sample set and only covers one subject.
Now before we completely dismiss this study, there was also a recent article of interest in The Telegraph about Flip-thinking.
The article implies that education hasn’t changed much over the last hundred years…
Since it’s 2010, many of these students will see smartboards instead of chalkboards and they’ll turn in their assignments online rather than on paper. But the rhythm of their actual days will be much the same as when their parents and grandparents sat in those same uncomfortable seats back in the 20th century.
During class time, the teacher will stand at the front of the room and hold forth on the day’s topic. Then, as the period ends, he or she will give students a clutch of work to do at home. Lectures in the day, homework at night. It was ever thus and ever shall be.
However the article then goes onto describe the work of Karl Fisch
…instead of lecturing about polynomials and exponents during class time – and then giving his young charges 30 problems to work on at home – Fisch has flipped the sequence. He’s recorded his lectures on video and uploaded them to YouTube for his 28 students to watch at home. Then, in class, he works with students as they solve problems and experiment with the concepts.
Now though that article talks about flipping publishing and movies, there is a connection between the two articles on the students watching and listening to stuff and then using lesson time to ask questions, undertake exercises and do more practical things.
I don’t know about you, but there is a kind of logic there, isn’t there?
Some I know will say that learners won’t be motivated to watch or listen to the videos and podcasts. But are they going to be any more motivated to undertake questions and assessments for which they may not understand the underpinning theory.
Also it is a lot more difficult to get someone else to do your “homework” if the “homework” is done in college rather than outside.
You could also use additional materials and resources to extend the topic for those learners that need it.
The more I think about this, the more I think it has potential.
The ALT Conference is always a good conference to challenge your assumptions, make new discoveries and question your practice.
This year’s conference was no exception, there was plenty to make you think, question, challenge and importantly learn from others. As with many conferences the discussions outside the sessions (either on the back channel or over coffee) are just as valuable as the content of the sessions themselves. However they can’t exist in isolation, the presentations and discussions are important and complement each other.
Last year, the VLE was a dominant theme, this year the lecture came under the spotlight. Donald Clark who opened the conference with his keynote riled people and annoyed them with a blanket attack on the lecture.
There are reasons to question practice, it is often too easy to fall back on what we have always done, because we have always done it that way. However while I think Donald was right to question the validity of the lecture, his approach was to attack, dismiss and offer no serious alternatives to the current lecture format. Donald’s only serious suggestion was to produce online learning packages. Yes there are historical reasons why we have lectures in the form that they are, however this isn’t necessarily an accident of history, it could be the evolution of a useful and efficient teaching process.
Having said that I do recall from my undergraduate days one lecturer whose lectures were word for word taken from his book. I bought the book and never went to the lectures. I guess at least I had a choice, though the book was very expensive as I recall! Though that was some time ago and you should never rely on personal experiences to reflect what is happening now across the whole sector.
After Donald’s keynote I was part of a session that gave delegates at ALT-C an opportunity to discuss and debate the keynote. One of the issues we did discuss was the impact learning spaces have. If we have lecture theatres then we have lectures and lecture theatres make it challenging to do other kinds of activities. So we hear lecturers saying they do want to do different kinds of stuff, but the space prevents it. Though it was interesting to hear from others that had created new types of learning spaces, lecturers complaining and wanting lecture theatres back. Sometimes it’s the space, sometimes it’s the practitioner.
The following day, Dave White, from TALL, gave a passionate defence of the lecture.
Dave with his extensive experience with TALL is certainly well qualified to understand the benefits and limitations of online delivery. However he discussed during his talk the importance of the social benefit that physical lectures provide for a community of learners. This is though not impossible to recreate online, is very challenging. Dave demonstrated through his delivery and content that the lecture in itself can be a useful way to stimulate discussion and debate.
In my opinion for some learners the lecture can be a useful method of learning. The problem arises when you start to rely heavily on the lecture as your main method of delivery. Using a lecture can be great for learners, only using lectures is not. It’s the same with any kind of learning activity, just using one type of process is not going to be effective, for most learners it will become boring and tedious.
There are other challenges facing the sector with the question of whether universities should focus on research or teaching and whether we should split the sector up into research universities and teaching universities along models found elsewhere in the world.
Another challenge is obviously funding and the inevitable cuts we are facing over the next few years. It will be seen as easy and “efficient” to give lectures to hundreds of undergraduates rather than break them down into small groups for other activities in order to save money.
Overall the conference did succeed in getting the delegates taking about the issues, the challenges and the possible future role of the lecture. I do believe as learning technologists we should question the effectiveness of not only what we do, but also look at existing practices to see if they are still valid and useful.
Donald Clark opened the ALT 2010 Conference with a controversial keynote on the lecture.
This keynote certainly got people riled and discussing the lecture on the Twitter back channel. I do think that Twitter has changed how we discuss keynotes now. In the last we would have discussed the keynote after it had finished, either over coffee or a reflective article like this one. Twitter allows discussion during the keynote itself and brings in people who are not even in the auditorium or at the conference.
So what was the gist of the keynote, well the lecture is dead!
Donald gave us a history of the origins of the lecturer, attacked the value of the lecture and showed us a clip from Ferris Bueller. He talked about the culture of research which pervades HE and that good researchers don’t necessarily make good teachers. I didn’t feel though he offered us any real alternatives though.
In my experience there are good lectures and there are bad lectures. However it would appear that the good inspiring lectures are rare. The key question is the norm of the lecture so ingrained into the culture of our institutions that any one questioning their value is seen to be questioning not just the value of lectures but also the value of the institution. Do we lecture because we have always given lectures?
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