Archive for the ‘Online development’ Category

 If you are an e-learning developer have you ever found it difficult trying to articulate to someone the key stages that should be considered when seeking to move traditional resources into the online environment? Despite the best of intentions we have found that conveying the message is rarely as straight forward as we would like. Possibly you’ve been approached to develop e-learning materials by someone who has little idea of what is involved in producing quality materials in the e-learning space?

Little or no consideration may have been given to:

  •  the quality of the educational experience
  •  the role of the teacher
  • the degree of interactivity
  • relationship to accredited units of competence
  • how and if it will form part of a formal assessment process
  • options for delivery
  • etc……

This situation is understandable given that many teachers and or educational administrators may not have had the opportunity, or until now the need, to gain the knowledge and skills to integrate more flexible online approaches.

With this in mind we set ourselves the challenge of mapping a version of what this e-learning development  journey should look like. Many of the steps often happen in an organic way but formalising the process can ensure that no steps are overlooked and that all participants/contributors are on the same page. The most important steps occur at the beginning of this process. Examining the rationale for going online and asking a series of questions about the how, why, when of what is proposed being the most important of all. Setting out the details of all educational, financial, resource and hr implications, degree of industry involvement, learner needs and special requirements such as IT/software/access etc. as a foundation will form a basis on which the other parameters on the online experience can be explored and developed.  We were keen to show that effective development of engaging online resources requires a wide range of people coming together in a collaborative manner; each member bringing their own perspective and talent to the task at hand.   

This A3 draft document charts our thinking on the journey to date. We would be interested to hear from others who develop e-learning experiences as to their processes and to get some feedback on ours.

Clive Hutchison, Project officer

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In 2010 the Innovation Department at GippsTAFE developed the Online Learning Help Guides. These are a range of help guides to assist students and teachers when learning and teaching online. The guides are presented as PDF documents and made available using a LibGuide.

 The guides have proved to be a valuable resource providing teachers and students at GippsTAFE with easy to access information (no password required) using simple language and illustrated with screen shots. Having these documents centrally located means that documents can be readily updated when necessary to ensure users always have the latest information.

 Recently a number of guides needed editing and on reloading into the LibGuide it was noted that the URLs for the individual documents were not preserved.

 To overcome this problem it was decided to change the system and store all the documents on our server linking directly to them from the LibGuide. Now documents can be updated and their URL will remain the same ensuring easy access for users.

Recently the GippsTAFE Innovation Department presented two online webinars to explore the use of Photo-Sharing for Teaching and Learning. Both sessions were well attended and included interesting discussion about the topic. A recording of the Tuesday August 2 session is available via elluminate.

 Thank you to Davin Nicholas, from GippsTAFE painting and decorating, for assisting with the presentation at both sessions. Hearing about his hands on experience was very valuable. The presentation is available at slideshare.

A Gippstafe online help guide for using Flickr for photosharing is available. 

If you are interested in exploring the use of Online Photo- Sharing with your students please contact lynnh@gippstafe.edu.au

There are many Flash developers out there who are feeling pretty threatened at the moment with Apple and android not supporting Flash’s .swf files on their mobile device platforms. Conversion tools such as Swiffy from Google to convert existing  .swf files to HTML 5 have VERY limited capability for making this conversion except with the simplest Flash content.

With the creation of new Flash like content in mind Adobe have released a beta version of Edge, a software interface to author Flash style animations in the HTML 5 format. You can download a preview version. Today’s Ars Technica’s blog article adds much to the debate with its 51 reader comments and 169 tweets further extending the scope for those interested.

Like many RTOs GippsTAFE will be moving from Blackboard to Moodle over the next year (not absolutely sure of the timetable but it’s definitely imminent). In order to help prepare for this transition I recently attended Moodlemoot 2011 in Sydney. The conference was well organised with some sessions specifically relating to Moodle 2 whilst others were about programs in Moodle 1.9 and some were about e-Learning in general. People attended from interstate and overseas, including Hong Kong, Fiji and New Zealand. Although the TAFE sector was well represented it was not the largest group.

The keynote speakers were all interesting. The first was Mary Cooch, a British secondary school teacher who is very Moodle oriented. She aimed to show the flexibility of Moodle and that it is applicable to all age ranges. She talked about Moodle training for teachers giving an example of what could be done in an hour long session. She also talked about the Moodle community; it is very web 2 with everyone contributing and helping each other. The second keynote speaker was Jan Herrington. This session was not primarily focussed on Moodle. She talked about the idea of authentic learning environments in an e-Learning context. She stressed the value of supporting teachers to move away from content focussed strategies. The final keynote was by Martin Dougiamas, the inventor of Moodle, and was about Moodle, the community of Moodle and where to from here. One point of note is that in a future version there will be the ability to have different pages to combat the scroll of death that we see in so many Moodle sites. We were informed that an app for i-Phones is due for release any day.

I attended a hands-on workshop about using conditional activities which is a part of Moodle 2. In Blackboard we call this selective release. The neat thing about this in Moodle is that you can make activities conditional on a person completing an activity or series of activities as well as on dates or assessment results. For example they may need to click on a web page before they can see a forum. This was one of the highlights of the conference for me. The workshop was well organised and we worked through a short sequence of activities as a way of introducing the concept.

Many sessions were focussed on the move to Moodle including teacher training and support. A wide range of approaches were presented from the very traditional to a game-based approach. The University of WA has gone down the traditional line with workshops supplemented by one-on-one follow up training as required. They are concerned that some people have not attended a group workshop to get them started so are considering making attendance at a workshop a requirement for people to get any one-on-one training. They are also providing drop in sessions for teachers at various times. They did an audit of all their courses to see what tools in Moodle they need to focus on in the early stages of training and later on will introduce some of the other tools. They also gave teachers the option to clean up the course before the migration, e.g. delete files and activities no longer used. Some took this up but others decided to start again in Moodle.

The University of New England is working on the idea of a game-based approach. This means setting up a scenario and presenting the teachers with daily quests that are intended to be completed in around 10 minutes. This uses the conditional activities feature of Moodle 2. The rationale behind this is that if the teachers have to work out how to use the tools themselves they will become more independent Moodle users. Some support is offered as clues to the quest.

This takes a long time to set up and may be difficult for some of our teachers to accommodate in our GippsTAFE context. Also I am not sure that we have sufficient gaming experience to set it all up but it is a novel idea and has some merit. I think we should point out to teachers that much of Moodle is just filling in a form and once they know how to do the basics they can experiment.

ANU has gone down the path of setting up FAQs for the use of teachers and students. They run a Help Desk so this is quite a different approach. Their system is interactive so users can comment and add to the database. This led me to think that our current Help Guides might be more usable and accessible if we presented them in a searchable Moodle database.

Other strategies included that were presented at the moot include:

• “2 minute Moodle” – short emails about the Moodle tools and tips about using Moodle are sent out on a regular basis.

• 10 minute spotlight – a teacher shares the way they are using Moodle at staff meetings in a short presentation. This might be difficult to organise at GippsTAFE as we have several campuses but we could do a short video or Elluminate interviews with teachers and post them here.

Another topic that was regularly raised was the differences between Moodle 1.9 and Moodle 2. There are extra features in Moodle 2 such as the conditional release and others such as the lightbox gallery have not yet been converted. In migrating from Blackboard to Moodle most users will be first struck by the fact that here are also no course files in Moodle 2; files can be created in Moodle or attached to a specific activity. This is a different from the Blackboard approach and takes some getting used to. If a file is added to two activities there are two copies of the file in the course. If it needs to be changed it needs to be changed in both places. There was some talk that this may change in future versions. Another aspect of Moodle that will take some adjustment is that is has a flat structure rather than the layered structure of Blackboard. There are various ways to work around this but if we want teachers to set up and maintain courses themselves maybe we need to use Moodle the way it is intended or it will all get too complicated, at least initially. Maybe this means we accept the scroll. The terminology used in Moodle is also different so a discussion board is a forum, selective release is conditional activities….just more things to attend to in any transition.

It seems to me, after talking to other delegates, that the best way of solving problems in Moodle is by searching the forums to work it out for ourselves. I have tried this for some of the issues I have encountered and it seems to work.

What I found most valuable at the Moot was that I now understand more about how Moodle works with plugins etc. People can take the basic product and customise it by adding plugins or writing their own scripts which they often share and may eventually become part of the Moodle product. If users want specific scripts or plugins they may need assistance from a developer.

I have seen some good examples of how to support teachers in the migration to Moodle 2 and now understand more clearly that a variety of strategies should be used. A series of workshops will not be enough teachers will ongoing follow up and support as well.

Lynn Huguenin

Dale Duncan of the Innovation Dept. has been developing a highly interactive resource that addresses some of the key issues related to sustainability. The interactivity of the resource is constructed in Flash. This movie gives a brief preview of what’s to come as we are walked through some of the functionality that helps to measure our individual and collective impacts on the environment.

Using avatars in the e-learning space can be an engaging way to guide students through their online experience. Research from Stanford University indicates just how effective this approach can be. Codebaby is one of several available software packages that has the ability to generate an avatar character that “speaks” and gestures inline with a narrator. This ability was recently employed to guide students through online aspects of a GippsTAFE course on suicide awareness. Not only did the avatar introduce and explain much of the content but he also introduced and facilitated the format of the online experience.

Other examples of the potential of the software are available on the Codebaby site. One of the challenges of using avatar software is to choose a character that will most easily and effectively gain acceptance with your audience. Most of the charters currently available are from the mainstream and more appropriate to white collar applications. However over time the range (and their dress options) are bound to expand. Helpful links on using avatars in education include:

10 ways to use avatars in education

An excellent article on avatars from the University of Phoenix

Voki: Free avatar creation site