Final words at the end of the module

I was reading Bledsoe and Baskins (2015) article about student fear in the classroom. I have a group just now who are adult returners and they are feeling a little fearful themselves so I thought this article would be interesting and helpful. It also helped me reflect on how I felt a little fearful at the beginning of this course. As online learners we don’t have the advantage of seeing body language or expressions to guide us in our interaction. We did have some tools though to help to get to know each other a little and the working groups helped to create a sense of belonging.

Discovering the literature on the community of inquiry (Palloff and Pratt 2010)and how we have set up communities by using asynchronous discussions, questions, games etc. has  rounded this first year of this course off very nicely. I feel that I have learned a great deal by being both the student and the teacher. I now have some sound research to be able to take this forward in my own role.

In the workplace and in this course I have experienced the benefits and drawbacks of using online courses as well as the development of materials for use online. In between I was fortunate enough to travel abroad and experience first-hand how the internet is used in education and its availability on other continents. Three of my co-workers were from South Africa, Ecuador and France and they brought their experience to the table too which enhanced my own learning.

I am now more confident in my approach to using the technologies available and have the research to back up what I am doing now and what I intend to do in the future.

Strategies for Addressing Student Fear in the Classroom. Bledsoe T. S and Baskin J

Palloff, Rena M., and Keith Pratt. Collaborating online: Learning together in community. Vol. 32. John Wiley & Sons, 2010.


Co creating and reflection

As the second semester closes it has been good to reflect on some of the elements of the course. To help design, deliver and moderate has been mainly a positive experience. I have found this second module more challenging as it has illuminated the scope of the use of technologies in my own place of work and how little the staff have had in training in online provision. It is fair to say that most use staff use the VLE as a depository for documents that that students will need rather than a tool for interactive engagement. I have supported two new lecturers who are also keen to use interactive technology for their students. They in turn have supported me in my studies as I have tried to pilot some innovations in the teaching model. As they are new to both teaching and the post they have had a lot to learn and at times I have felt that I have just added to their workload at this point so I have not been able to help them develop their VLE provision as much as we all would like.

They have however enjoyed seeing their students interact online as they are all apprentices coming from different companies and varied backgrounds and the students have been encouraged to think more, try harder and voice their own understanding on the blogs. This had developed their communication skills and has moved them along academically. (Palloff and Pratt, 2005). I too have had this challenge collaborating online in this module and it has been mainly a positive experience. I also found that taking part in the other student lead sessions has given me some ideas for use in the future. I also noted how active I was in the beginning of each new session and how it tailed off when I knew what I had to do and the time frame for it. There was also the challenge of being away and trying to connect from rural areas. The students from my colleague’s classes showed exactly the same behaviours.

Crompton (2015) in her discourse about emerging trends utilising mobile technologies identified that researchers have found that there is a definite lack of teacher professional development in schools and that this is the main barrier. Whilst this is a US research document it also applies to my institution here in the UK. Teachers would like, as I and some of my colleagues have found, the time to learn and explore the technologies available and trial them in some areas. There is a great deal of information and advice but having the chance to put it into practice is another dimension altogether. It is not the will it is the way. Cut backs do not allow for ipad provision or remission time to implement ideas. A great deal depends on the type of mobile device our students can afford and for all of us, the internet provision. Sometimes we have been in remote areas without even a mobile signal.

As staff we have to do thirty hours continual professional development per year and a whole week has been set aside at the end of this academic year. We all feel that whilst this is in principle a nice idea, it would be better to have allocated time each week to continually develop our own pedagogical interests and ideas as described by Cifuentes et al (2011) as the ideal. This would give us ownership and we now have a little time to hurry ideas along without real considered future planning due to the timing of the week.

As part of the reflective process of both the SBOE course and my application of it in the workplace I have continued to make entries in my blog and this I have found an excellent process. I have been able to reflect on my own learning and performance and identify my own strengths and areas for development. We have peer reviewed each other in the tasks so it will be interesting to see what other have thought about my input compared to my own evaluation.  It has been very different from keeping a journal that only my supervisors can see as this is much more public in that your peers can see it too. It has made me think of how to write positively and be objective rather than subjective. Foster (2015) in comparing traditional journal and blogs in concludes that students take more personal risks in a journal as they are less public. The posts generally were more likely to be emotionally loaded however students take intellectual risks in blogs and would include opinions or positions which are open to debate. Martindale and Willey (2004) show that blogs help create and sustain a community of inquiry. I am not sure that that has happened with my blog or with others I have followed as we haven’t really commented on each other’s posts. I would say though that the community was built via the asynchronous discussions via the tutor lead sessions and through the course supervisor’s direction. I would agree that by reading others blogs in addition to the tutor lead sessions that I have been exposed to more literature and therefore my learning has been co-constructed with my peers.


Cifuentes, L., Maxwell, G., & Bulu, S. (2011). Technology integration through professional learning community. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 44(1), 59-82.

Crompton, H., Brandon Olszewski, B. and Bielefeldt, T. The mobile learning training needs of educators in technology-enabled environments. Professional Development in Education, 2015 (accessed 20/04/15) Routledge

Foster, D. (2015). Private journals versus public blogs: The impact of peer readership on low-stakes reflective writing. Teaching Sociology, 43 (2), 104-114.

Martindale, T,  Willey, D. A. (2004) Using Weblogs in Scholarship and Teaching. TechTrends 49 (2): 55-61

Palloff, R.M., Pratt, K. (2005). Collaborating online: learning together in community. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass

Traditional Learning Tools

It really has been a busy few weeks all round. I didn’t realise just how much time getting together with family and friends would take up over the Easter holidays. Living away from my family means that they come to Scotland for holidays or I go back to Yorkshire in the academic holidays-these times punctuate the year and give us all a chance to catch up.

Of course there is always the intention to keep in touch with what else is happening in one’s life and nowadays it is easier with the advent of the internet and all its apps and services. Of course this depends on one’s environment and my mother does not wish to have any of these services. The Yorkshire Moors can get a signal in places but not enough power to write a blog.

I did manage to take a couple of traditional learning tools – books! Mainly about design and practice guides.

It would seem that in the current units for SBOE the pedagogy has borne out. Kirschner et al in Jochems (2004) discusses ownership of tasks and concludes that two pedagogical principles influence ownership in a group; individual accountability and positive independence. He addresses that skills and behaviours can be learnt by the individual from a group to progress oneself. At the same time be able consider one’s contribution by evaluating others skills and benchmarking oneself. He goes on to identify that the group as a whole is responsible for the learning of the individual group members. Well managed it can counter any anonymity. This management would point to the design of the courses being well thought out and social building taking place first.

In 2006, MacDonald conducted the Solace (Supporting Open Learners in A Changing Environment) project. Initially asking 40 tutors what they did then and how they could support students in the future she discovered then that the face to face element was still needed. I wonder now if that gap if filled with the use of Skype or equivalents. I am still intrigued about this aspect of human nature.

When some of the technologies on element 4 didn’t work I felt a bit out at sea. Before I went away some of my ticks did not show up on the Moodle page to demonstrate that I had completed a task but I did have a portal to submit my concerns. Whilst I was away I must have had buffer face a lot as my posts wouldn’t go into the files. Personally I still want to see a face, even a picture of the person(s) I am dealing with, whether it is my tutor or my students. However, whilst I have felt these frustrations I also know the limits of the technology.

Jochems,W. van Merrienboer, J. Koper, R. Integrated E-Learning implications for pedagogy, technoloty and organisation. (2004) RoutledgeFalmer London

MacDonald, J. (2006) Blended Learning and Online Tutoring A Good Practice Guide. Gower. England.

Blogs, trends, ideas and opinions

I was reading Weimers (2015) blog about what has been learned over the past 15 years in education. It struck me that I can now read a blog, unheard of 15 years ago. I can find out trends, ideas and opinions on the very day they are thought about rather than waiting for a “paper” to be published. Both means of information are useful; blogs for immediate access from around the globe and published papers for the scrutiny of the thoughts.

Technology has changed the way we do everything from finding out a bus route, shopping and of course learning. Weimer reflects that using social media has changed the way we connect with our students and also how the boundaries have had to be looked at because of it. It’s one thing having the information available 24/7 but are staff expected to do the same?

Whilst we are getting to grips with online and blended learning as a growth area in education we now find our students want mobile learning as part of that growth. Gaming used as a teaching tool is increasing in pace but Marquis (2015) for example suggests that we are not ready for it yet. Whilst our students are familiar with concepts learnt from gaming, i.e. game based learning – schools, FE and HE are not as the training in the pedagogy is lacking.

The Pew internet and American life project states that 95% of teens use the internet and nearly 50% have a smartphone. In the UK 82% of new university and college students own a smartphone and at least 20% have a tablet according to UCAS research. Naeemullah (2014) has already suggested that the mobile facilities are higher in terms of stability and that the move from E-learning to M–learning has a great potential. Whilst I would agree the same concerns remain. The ability of the staff to use the technology effectively and the quality of the delivery methods.

Our group has now finished the online delivery of a section of the course. We all had different levels of experience and confidence in the tasks and skills required. I think that some were able to demonstrate and practice what they knew and I certainly gained a lot of information from how to use more of the VLE system. Whilst there is a fair bit of research on group working I found very little on group working in the online environment. I think we all brought something to the project in the timeframe we were given. Ellis and Phelps (2000) illuminated that in their research face to face discussions were held before online projects began and that there were four stages of staff development to become confident online teachers: interest, focused support, development and acknowledgement. I think this project has touched on all of these aspects and I have a greater understanding of what is required to develop and deliver online.

Eight out of ten freshers have smartphones. (2015)

Ellis, A. Phelps, R. (2000) Staff development for online delivery: A collaborative, team based action learning model. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology. Vol 16. No. 1

Marquis, J. (2015) Game-Based vs Traditional Learning – What’s the Difference?

Naeemullah M (2014) Switching from E-learning to M-Learning in Higher Education. Scholarly Research Journal for Interdisciplinary Studies. Vo. II/XI

The  Pew internet and American life project (2015)

Weimer, M. (2015) What We Have and Haven’t Learned.

My own VLE’s

Our group project has now come to a close and there has been some time for reflection. In looking more closely at the community of inquiry framework (Garrison and Anderson 2003) has prompted further discussions from the participants on the course.

One of the themes was introduced by one of the group which looked at the emotional impact on learning in an online context. Stodel et al (2006) discussed that with a small group in their qualitative research students missed the face to face contact that they had been used to. Five themes emerged: robustness of online dialogue, spontaneity and improvisation, perceiving and being perceived by the other, getting to know each other and learning to be an online learner. As a student myself I can identify with some of these aspects particularly getting to know each other and perceiving and being perceived by the other.

In getting to know each other the teaching group put up different styles and used variable depths to demonstrate our “identities” and encouraged the participants to do the same. In the main the responses tried to be as detailed as they could be using the technology that they had and/or were comfortable with. Some added images, used audio etc. This would bear out Stodel (2006) research that getting to know one another is important in online learning. Of course in blended learning you have the classroom contact so getting to know each other can be found in other ways that you wouldn’t get in an online context. These include tone of voice, eye contact and body language.

Online communities would therefore need role adjustments to account for the transmission from the familiarity of the physical classroom to the virtual environment. Palloff and Pratt (2007) have discussed the important of building a community online and that whilst that was once thought of as “fluff” it is now an important part of the course design as online communities need to know one another as effective learning communities are the vehicle through which learning occurs. It was certainly apparent that those that participated in our course chose methods of introduction that would give them an identity in their community of learning.

Student perceptions include those of self and others. Piccianno (2002) study on perception showed some variable results from the analysis of how many times students posted in the discussions. The findings showed that the amount of interaction had no real relationship to the performance but it had a significant impact in the written exam. In the survey indications showed that how the students perceived their interaction in the course had an effect on what they thought of the quality and quantity of learning. In other words, the more they felt able to join in the more they valued the learning. Stodel et al (2006) and Piccianno (20032) research demonstrate that being able to have an identity, feel connected and comfortable in the learning environment does have an effect on the learning and outcomes.

Cleveland-Innes and Campbell (2012) looked at research carried out on emotion and learning illuminating that the role of emotions in education has not gone without some inquiry. They took into account the range of emotions that students do have and would also suggest that their study is repeated to confirm results. They also advocate that the emotional response of online learners is part of their own learning by modelling, bring emotion to consciousness and make use of it in the learning situation. Providing environments that develop security, feelings of well-being and encouraging self-confidence is a challenge along with the original course design.

I am now looking at the design of my own VLE’s. Whilst I have mainly some face to face contact my work is moving more online and I have had a great deal of ideas and thoughts not to mention the technology that can be used to make my courses much more interactive, informative and involved for my students.

Cleveland-Innes, M. and Campbell, P. (2012) Emotional Presence, Learning, and the Online Learning Environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Volume 13. No. 4

Garrison, D.R., Anderson, T. (2003). E-learning in the 21st century. Routledge-Falmer.

Mezirow, Jack (1998) Learning as Transformation: Critical Perspectives on a Theory in Progress. The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series.

Stodel, E.J. Thompson, T. L., MacDonald C. J. (2006) Learners’ Perspectives on What is Missing from Online Learning: Interpretations through the Community of Inquiry Framework. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Volume 7. No. 3

Palloff, R.M, Keith Pratt (2007) Building Online Learning Communities: Effective Strategies for the Virtual Classroom.  Jossey-Bass

Picianno, A.G. (2002) Beyond Student Perceptions: Issues of Interaction, Presence, Performance in an online course. JALN Volume 6.  Issue 1.

At first it was intermittent

It has been a bit of a week. My old laptop had seen better days so for during Module 1 I purchased a newer faster model so that I would be able to do the course with more modern equipment. This didn’t really help this last week though as the phones and internet connections in my village “disappeared”. At first it was intermittent – then it all went off for a day. Apparently some streets in the village were connected very soon. My provider tried to reconnect me remotely with the usual give it a couple of hours and check. Eventually,  I, of course, needed an engineer! Then a “part.” This just brings to light how fragile online teaching and learning can be when what shouldn’t happen does. Normally I would have work access, but I was working in the community with no internet or Wi-Fi. When I was finally reconnected I was relieved to say the least. Today I managed to read through all the messages between the group and my final slot for moderating had been changed. None the less I went online as I thought I was scheduled but none of the participants came online in that timeframe to add any last comments. Today I am back at my desk in work and my home internet is working. I am going to go and purchase a fancy new phone so that I can actually connect and be able to read anything linked to my course.

What if they all agree?

It is almost two thirds of the way through our online seminar. At first, I wondered where everyone on the course had gone as there seemed to be very little engagement. By the end of the first weekend though there was the expected flurry of participants introducing themselves and making a few comments on the discussion forums.

We have taken  it in turns to moderate at evenings and weekends to fit in with our work schedules. Most participants though are working full time too so we expect them to be online at these times. As expected the main gush is on the weekend and it is a bit disheartening when you moderate on a work night and find only one or maybe two people have written something. Then you have to respond, or respond to the others in your groups comments to show that you are involved too. Responses and feedback is important and I usually use the pointers given in her book by Brookhart in  How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students. This is slightly different though as the posts are usually agreeing with someone else and not submitting written work. I have found myself going through research papers to find a comment or two to put another slant on what has been said. I would agree with Ormond (2013) who states that moving from face to face classroom teaching to online teaching isn’t easy. A different skillset is needed. I have had some experience but not a fully online course.

This is a real learning curve and I am already thinking about time allocations for lecturers when my courses go online. Listening to this weeks podcasts has also shed some light on this as to the models that can be used by lecturers who are working on the same course. The agreement that we made in the first module comes to light as to roles and responsibilities and also the “handover” time that may be needed between lecturers sessions. Some thinking to do!

Brookhart Susan (2008) How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students

Ormond S (2013), ‘Supporting Students in Online, Open and Distance Learning’, 3rd Edition