You can never have too many proof readers

When I started this blog, I was a bit reluctant to share my reflections openly. Firstly, I lack(ed) confidence in my writing skills; the idea of others reading my personal reflections filled me with a blushing dread, akin to reading out loud at school. I had the option to make my blog private, choosing privacy felt like I was opting out and going against the principles of peer learning and open practices. I opted in and I’m glad I did.

So, what have I learned from ‘blogging’?

As mentioned in ‘How digitally literate am I?’ Social media spaces can be great for networking and learning. I found it helpful to define my social media identity. I questioned if my social media presence should be personal, professional or both. After engaging with Facebook for a number of years, I found it too personal and chose to opt out. In my experience, there was a lot of over-sharing, misunderstanding and competition for ‘likes’ on Facebook. Now I have a clearer digital identity; I have a twitter account and tweet in a personal capacity as a MATCEL student. Most of my tweets are connected to e-learning, instructional design and new areas of online learning such as OER and OEP.

Posting a weekly blog allows we to reflect on the week of learning; what topics were covered in lectures and discussion forums; and what assignments need my attention.

Overall, this blog has helped me to feel positive about my learning experience. Before starting to write this post, I flicked back through the last ten weeks of posts for inspiration. This blog is a catalogue of learning in semester 2 – strangely enough, I want to keep this blog alive and continue to post.

After each post, Alan (my husband) and Siobhan (my sister) read my posts and highlight mistakes. Thank you – I wouldn’t have been able to post without their help.

pint-1408906_640Time to switch off and take my husband for a pint!

Image: Pixabay

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Podcasting

Zoomar

Image: Zoomar (Creative Commons Licence)

Our final assignment for EL6082: Learning and Collaboration Technologies, provides a choice of creating a podcast or a digital artefact (using MadCap Flare or similar software). I have considered both choices carefully and have decided to produce a podcast. Although, I would like to know how to create a digital artefact using MadCap Flare, I have a greater need for podcasting skills within my job. The assignment is due on the 21st April – just under three weeks. Our e-portfolio assignment is competing for time – I will try to get this assignment finished by Sunday, 9th April and focus on the e-portfolio for the rest of the month (due the 30th April).

The word podcasting is derived from the words ‘iPod’ and ‘broadcasting’ and refers to listening to audio files or viewing video on a portable device (Forbes and Hickey, 2008). Podcasting is easy to use in an educational context with minimal technical requirements (Edirisingha and Salmon, 2008). Edirisingha and Salmon (2008) found that students who listened to lecture podcasts reported that flexibility was an important feature of their learning experience. I have been listening to lecture podcasts throughout this MA and also find the flexibility of listening ‘anytime, anywhere’ beneficial to my learning experience.

My curiosity with podcasting started last semester when I undertook a research report on: Lecturers’ Experiences Of Teaching Online Using Podcasts: What are the Barriers to Using Podcasts within an Online Course? In this study I examined the literature relevant to lecturers’ experiences of teaching online; studies of podcasting at third-level; lecturers’ experiences of podcasting within their online courses.  I also conducted a ‘podcast usability study’, to investigate the reasons why lecturers had not used podcasts within their online courses.

Participants in my small study, demonstrated a lack of confidence and/or had bad experiences with technology in the past which put them off trying new technologies. The majority of the participants expected the process of recording and publishing a podcast to be complicated and believed they lacked the necessary technology skills. To their surprise, all participants found the process of creating and publishing a podcast straightforward. Everyone expressed a high level of satisfaction when they played back the podcast they produced during the usability test. Participants also indicated that they plan to include podcasts within their online courses in the future.

In this assignment, I must create a ten minute podcast on one of the following topics:

  1. An introduction to an aspect of your MA programme for beginners
  2. Instructional content on a particular process
  3. A topic that interests you (for example a hobby)

Option 3 is my automatic choice; I want to create a podcast about Open Education Resources (OERs). Throughout this semester, my awareness about OERs has increased, although, I have a lot to learn. This assignment will help bridge that learning gap. I also intend to include some information about the Domain of One’s Own (DoOO) project, which I’ve mentioned in earlier posts. The workshop with Jim Groom will take place at NUIG tomorrow; Student as Partner, Producer & Assessor: Exploring Domain of One’s Own. I’m really looking forward to it!

In accordance with the assignment brief, I hope I can provide sufficient information so that those who listen to my podcast ‘will have detailed knowledge of OERs by the end of the podcast’. Also, I would like to include this assignment as an artefact in my e-portfolio; it has to be good.

References

Edirisingha, P. and Salmon, G. (2008) ‘Doubling the life of iPod’ In Edirisingha, P. and Salmon G., eds., Podcasting for learning in universities, Maidenhead: Open University Press, McGraw-Hill Education, pp. 1 – 11.

Forbes, M.O. and Hickey, M.T. (2008) ‘Podcasting: Implementation and Evaluation in an Undergraduate Nursing Program’, Nurse Educator, 33(5), pp. 224–227.

Submitted at last!

I should start with ‘forgive me blog, it has been two weeks since my last post’; the last few weeks have been really busy. I travelled to London last week for a family celebration. I organised Sconul access to University Libraries in London (thanks to Mary Dundon,  UL library) and was feeling very proud.

Early Friday morning, I made my way to a yoga class at Euston and travelled on to Central St Martins, UAL. I chose Central St Martins library, as it’s easy to access via the Northern Line tube, I suppose curiosity also influenced my choice. Central St Martins boasts an impressive list of talented alumni, such as: M.I.A.; Alexander McQueen; Stella McCartney; Jarvis Cocker; and Paloma Faith.

I weaved my way through exhibitions, stairs and conversations and found a desk with a view (see below). I sat with my back to the art students to avoid getting distracted and also because I felt slightly out of place. I planned to pull together ‘draft 1’ of my proposal by the end of the day. However, I only managed a few uninterrupted hours of editing until a lively group of students arrived. I wanted to ask them to be quiet, fortunately I spotted the ‘group study area’ sign before saying anything.

IMG_0303.JPG

It was time to relocate.

I took the opportunity to explore the campus, which is an unusual mix of static art pieces and performance art. The table tennis area impressed me the most; an amazing open space with lots of natural light. I found my way back to the entrance and as a man jogged past wearing a luminous pink tutu, I decided it was time to leave. I continued editing on the tube.

I got back to the proposal on Wednesday and submitted this morning.

Last semester we completed a research report for TW5221: Technical Communication 2: Theory. Yvonne Cleary guided us through the process of preparing a research report/ minor dissertation. I really enjoyed the stages that led to the final report – particularly the usability study. I’m so glad we had that module in advance of the proposal; it provided me with a framework on how to approach the proposal.

The dissertation proposal is our assessment for RM6011: Research Methods. The module is worth 3ECTS and is assessed on a pass/fail basis. The purpose of the proposal is to demonstrate an argument or question and outline how to prove or answer it later (Cassuto, 2011). Strategically, I should have invested a minimum amount of time to ensure I achieved a pass. I have the summer period to complete my dissertation, with no competing assignments. However, my research includes student surveys, generally students stop checking their student e-mail accounts when exams finish. Therefore, I need to finalise my survey by mid-April and send it out in advance of the exams starting on the 24th April. Preparing the proposal helped me to clarify the information I want to elicit from students in the survey and usability study.

The proposal stage also helped me to piece components of my topic together. There are three aspects to my dissertation: first, to establish students’ learning styles, within an online learning environment; second, to examine the relationship between learning styles and preference for learning tools; and third, to use the findings to develop guidelines on how to integrate learning tools that facilitate students’ learning styles in an online learning environment.

It was a relief to submit the proposal this morning. I know we have a mountain of work to get through over the next 30 days (I’m counting). For now, I plan to enjoy the Friday feeling and take the evening off.

Reference

Cassuto, l. (2011) ‘Demystifying the Dissertation Proposal’, The Chronicle of Higher Education [online], 11 September, available: http://www.chronicle.com/article/Demystifying-the-Dissertation/128916  [accessed 31 Mar 2017].

E-Portfolio

In an earlier post (A nod to the Woolf), I discussed the project ‘A Domain of One’s Own’ (DoOO). DoOO provides students with an opportunity to build their own e-portfolios throughout their studies and take that data with them when they graduate. As a result of reading about DoOO, I’m genuinely interested in preparing my own e-portfolio  for EL6052 – E-Learning Theories and Practices.

An e-portfolio can be used for career preparation and advertisement before and after graduation. Donaldson (2012) explains that when students know their artefacts will be seen by potential employers and peers, they experience a change and move from consumers of knowledge to producers of knowledge. The idea of potential employers reviewing my portfolio is a strong motivator to invest the time and energy necessary to showcase my best work.

My e-portfolio will present artefacts that demonstrate the skills I have developed over the two years of this MA programme. The assignment outline defines an e-portfolio as: a personalised electronic collection of artefacts that represent your particular interests and accomplishments.

Which artefacts will I include in my e-portfolio?

Four artefacts will feature in the e-portfolio. Artefacts can represent technical projects, essays, reports, proposals, slides, podcast recordings, and so on. In the assignment scenario, I am looking for a job in the area of technical communication or e-learning.

I wish to progress my career  in the area of e-learning within third level education. It makes sense to include artefacts that focus on my e-learning skills. However, technical communication skills compliment instructional design and e-learning content development. Therefore, I will include a mix of e-learning and technical communication artefacts. Here is a list of artefacts that I am considering:

  1. Development of a digital learning resource: Practice Ashtanga Yoga (EL6072 – Interactive Courseware Workshop). Skillset: This artefact demonstrates my ability to use Dreamweaver and Flash to prepare a digital learning resource.  This artefact also highlights my ability to apply theories and practices of technical communication and interactive media design.
  2. Research project: Lecturers’ Experiences of Teaching Online Using Podcasts: What are the Barriers to Using Podcasts within an Online Course? (TW5221 – Technical Communication 2: Theory). Skillset: Showcase my research skills, including my ability to conduct a usability study.
  3. Blog entries: Collaborative Project. Skillset: These blog entries demonstrate my collaboration skills within an online project setting. My blog also shows how my reflective practice has developed over a ten week period.
  4. I’m still not sure what to include as my fourth entry. I’m considering the podcast assignment (EL6082: Learning and Collaboration Technologies). The podcast should: provide sufficient information so that the podcast-user will have detailed knowledge of my chosen topic by the end of the podcast. I’m interested in preparing a podcast on OEP. Jim Groom will deliver a workshop titled: Student as Partner, Producer & Assessor: Exploring Domain of One’s Own, early April at NUIG. Perhaps I could interview Groom and include a sound-bite in the podcast.

CALPD plan to integrate e-portfolios into undergraduate programmes, using PebblePad. I will use PebblePad to host my portfolio, I have been provided with a test licence to allow me to check out the software and report back to my unit mid-May 2017.

Reference

Donaldson, J. (2012). Digital Portfolios in the Age of the Read/Write Web. [online] Educause Review. Available at: http://er.educause.edu/articles/2012/11/digital-portfolios-in-the-age-of-the-readwrite-web [Accessed 15 Mar. 2017].

4. Collaborative project progress report

macbook-apple-imac-computer-39284On the 17th February, I posted up the 5th draft of the instructions on ‘how to set up a WordPress blog’.  Over the following days the discussion board was buzzing with questions; the French students asked for clarification on various aspects of the document and the American students responded. When I checked the board on Sunday evening (19th February), I felt proud that everyone was working as a team towards a shared goal; true collaboration was in progress. Helen and Cody made the final edits to the document and the 7th version was uploaded on the 20th February.

The French team members assured us that the translation phase was underway; Karolin and Sylvie provided a schedule of the different stages of translation.

Overall, the discussion board has been quiet since the 20th of February. Although, the French team [tactfully] highlighted some grammatical and instructional errors in the English document last week! How did we miss those errors? I think we (UFC and UL students) felt a bit embarrassed that it took non-native English speakers to spot our mistakes.

I am confident that the French team will complete the translation phase in advance of the submission date; the 20th March.

Up-date on my proposal progress

Last week I posted about my need to start writing; I devised a plan to write 250 words per day for two weeks and leave a few days for editing and proofing. Within days of posting, the proposal submission date was extended to the 2nd April due to delays in processing ethics applications. I am conflicted about the extension; on one hand, I need the additional time as I’ve not quite met my daily quota of 250 words. On the other hand, my family and I are travelling to London for four days to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday, we leave on the 23rd March. In my ideal world, I would like to be free of looming deadlines when I take a break.

Although I haven’t reached my daily word quota, I am moving forward. It’s not always possible to park work and family commitments and sneak off to the library or study room. I have 1300 words in my proposal file, quantity wins over quality for the moment. My desire to focus only on articles that will feature in my reference list, hasn’t worked out so far. Some articles are stimulating outside the scope of the dissertation and relate to aspects of work or general interest, so I keep reading.

My dissertation aims to examine the learning styles of online learners and establish if a relationship exists between learning styles and online learning tools; does one learning tool facilitate one learning style more so than another? If this relationship exists (and I suspect it does), the findings can help improve the instructional design process of online modules created and delivered by CALPD* at NUI Galway.

On a positive note, I received ethical approval to conduct my research project. I can gather data via an online survey and a usability study – my application needed a bit of tinkering before the final approval came through on Friday. My target audience is NUI Galway online learners. The second semester of the academic year finishes at the beginning of April, exams will take place between the 24th April and the 10th May. I would like to circulate my survey before students switch off for the summer break.

The sun is shining today, but if I spend time sitting in the sun I will feel bad about my research proposal, my survey, my blog, my e-portfolio and my untidy home!

Sadly, I was happy with the rain earlier this week.

_________________________________________________________________

*Centre for Adult Learning and Professional Development.

I need to start writing

Now that I’ve posted e-tivity 5.1 and created a podcast – I have exhausted all MATCEL distractions. It is time to start writing my dissertation proposal. My research topic nags me daily as the submission date approaches.

The facts:

Due date: 20th March  (16 days away)

Word count: circa 3000 words

Words written: 0

I’ve met my supervisor and she helped me to fine-tune my research questions. I have submitted my ethics application and I’m impatiently waiting for ethical approval. I’m busy searching online resources and shamefully printing far too many articles that will never make it to my list of references. I’m frustrated by reading articles that conclude with no direct relationship to my research topic – the opportunity cost of lost time!

From now on, I will adopt a sandwich approach to reading articles. I will start with the summary, if it relates to my topic I will proceed to the conclusions and recommendations. If I can establish a clear connection to at least one section within my dissertation, then I will read the content in the middle.

 I need a plan

If I write 250 words a day for two weeks and leave three days for editing, proofing and formatting, I should be fine.

What could go wrong?

How digitally literate am I?

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Image: Ken Whytock (Creative Commons License) 

Pullman and Ventimiglia (2016) describe digital literacy as “knowing the effective practices suited to the dominant media” (p38). They also set out the digital literacy skills that a graduate student should have (p40):

  • Find and vet information online
  • Become self-directed learners
  • Obtain digital solutions
  • Learn software quickly
  • Design and create digital solutions”

I have developed my digital literacy skills through work, study and personal development. E-tivity 5.1 has given me a push to evaluate my skills and I have identify the following three areas that I would like to focus on:

  1. Social media skills: as mentioned in an earlier post (A nod to the Woolf), I find social media challenging. However, I’m enjoying Twitter (@oreganeilis) as I have a clearer digital identity; I am tweeting in a personal capacity as a MATCEL student. All tweets are connected to e-learning, technical communication and instructional design. I have chosen relevant people and organisations to follow and I am slowly developing my own digital identity. I feel like the ‘new person’ in an online learning community. My next social media step is to create a LinkedIn account. LinkedIn “is the new résumé” (Grubb, 2013) however, it is not just for jobseekers. LinkedIn provides an opportunity to identify and develop networks in professional capacity. My objective is to set up an account by the end of this semester and continue to develop online networks that relate to my areas of interest, as outlined above.
  2. Develop open education practice (OEP) skills: I mentioned Catherine Cronin in an earlier post and how she introduced me to OEP. Cronin (2016) defines OEP as “collaborative practices that include the creation, use and reuse of OER, as well as pedagogical practices employing participatory technologies and social networks for interaction, peer-learning, knowledge creation, and empowerment of learners.” Throughout this MA I have trawled the internet for information to help me solve problems. An earlier MA project involved creating a digital learning resource using html. I was daunted by the project because I had never used code before. I relied on others who openly shared knowledge via videos, tips, experiences and discussion forum responses. At the time I didn’t recognise this ‘sharing’ as OEP. I have benefited from OEP and I am so grateful to those who have shared and continue to share. I want to deepen my understand of OEP within higher education and see where the path takes me.
  3. Develop proficient statistical analysis skills using SPSS (a software package): I plan to conduct quantitative analysis (in particular regression analysis) in my dissertation research. I can import data into SPSS and analyse possible relationships within my data. Data analysis will allow me to produce robust research results. An ability to use this software effectively will also enhance my research capabilities.

Although I’m not up to Pullman’s and Ventimiglia’s level of digital literacy, I have a clearer idea of the gaps within my skillset and the areas I want to develop further.

References

Cronin, C. (2016). Openness and Praxis. CATHERINE CRONIN Blog [online]. Available at: https://catherinecronin.wordpress.com/2016/11/28/openness-and-praxis/ (Accessed: 27 February 2017).

Jones-Kavalier, B. and Flannigan, S. (2008). Connecting the digital dots: literacy of the 21st century. Teacher Librarian. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 29(2), 1–3. Available at: http://er.educause.edu/~/media/files/article-downloads/eqm0621.pdf (Accessed 27 February 2017)

Grubb, K. (2013) Essay on using LinkedIn in job searches in academic administration. Available at: https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2013/05/17/essay-using-linkedin-job-searches-academic-administration (Accessed: 27 February 2017).

Pullman, G. and Ventimiglia, P. (2016) ‘Digital literacy and 21st-century success’, EDUCAUSE Review, 51(2), pp. 36–48. Available at: http://er.educause.edu/~/media/files/articles/2016/3/erm1623.pdf (Accessed 25 February 2017).

Whytock, K. (2014) Digital Literacy [image online], available: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7815007@N07/11948279755 [Accessed 27th February 2017].

3. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel

We’re coming to a submission point in our collaborative project; our set of instructions will move to the French team members on Monday (20th February), for the translation stage. We agreed to share the fifth draft of the instructions by 6 pm today (17th) and post comments and final edits over the weekend.

What are the learning objectives for our online collaboration project?

The following objectives are relevant for a group collaboration project (Dobbin et al., 2010):

  1. Identify team members’ strengths and allocate tasks according to strengths
  2. Create and foster a learning community
  3. Adapt to collaborating with others who are geographically dispersed
  4. Develop higher-order thinking skills
  5. Develop collaborative teamwork skills, which we can apply in our [future] careers or research.

Have we achieved those objectives?

Each team member indicated his or her area of expertise and tasks were allocated accordingly – everyone got what they asked for. I do not consider ‘Team 7’ as a learning community although individual learning took place; some members shared and other members ‘lurked’. We tried to assign deadlines in accordance with the time differences, however it wasn’t viable to consider each team members schedule. We developed (Helen and I) strategic skills in response to a lack of participation from some team members. The team experience has been valuable; I can apply the learning from the experience to my co-ordinators role at NUI Galway.

Is the amount of work involved in this collaborative project worth the percentage of the overall mark?

At the beginning of the collaboration, we took time to listen to each other and agreed the terms of reference for the project. We agreed to: follow a style template; check the discussion forum daily; respond to queries swiftly and keep the project moving towards completion. Unfortunately, only UL team members adhered to the terms of reference. As mentioned above, Helen and I adapted strategically; when team members failed to submit or respond to queries, we carried on working. Given the value of the project; 20% of a 3 ECTS module, we couldn’t pause for missing members. We agreed to proceed with active participants and the content that we gathered. To answer my question; I think it’s our responsibility to decide how much time we allocate to the project. If the project was worth more, we would have invested more. In conclusion, the marks allocated to this project informed the amount of time we invested. Maybe this is a reason why some members failed to engage – perhaps it’s not worth enough, given competing academic commitments.

References

Dobbin, G., Diaz, V., Brown, M. and Salmons, J. (2010). Unit 4: Assessment of Collaborative Learning Project Outcomes. ELI Discovery tool: Guide to collaborative learning. Educause, 1(1). Available at: https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI80084.pdf (Accessed: 17 February 2017).

2. What am I learning from the team collaboration?

We found the missing team members and by mid-week all members had posted on the discussion forum. We agreed the terms of our project plan and a time framework. Two members have posted their sections of the project and two are overdue. How can Helen and I inspire these students to get more involved? Some element of peer review in the assessment process might encourage deeper collaboration. So far, no one has followed the designed instructions that we agreed to use; simple elements like font size and writing style have been ignored.

Helen and I have previously collaborated in online teams; we respect everyone’s input and recognise our interdependency. Today it feels like some team members are  contributing  a minimum amount and missing out on a collaborative learning experience.

What have I learned in the last week? Patience is finite.

No wine today – just rugby.