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Delivery through Technology (Three Short Papers 0112, 0183, 0265)


14:50 - 15:50 on Tuesday, 6 September 2011 in 7.73
0112 Learning Design, Teacher Spontaneity and the Coordination of Activity Timothy Goddard, Mark Johnson
0183 Designing, Creating and Implementing four online language learning Moodle Courses for 500 Japanese university computer science students: lessons learned and pitfalls to be avoided. Peter Ruthven-Stuart
0265 Fostering academic skills development through an online hub: an integrated approach to skills provision across the University of York Wayne Britcliffe
0112 Learning Design, Teacher Spontaneity and the Coordination of Activity Timothy Goddard, Mark Johnson

The IMS Learning Design specification attempts to map the practice of teachers in organising and coordinating learning activities online. In specifying a sequence of activities which can be instantiated by a server, runtime environments for IMS learning design (e.g. the CopperCore server) have typically added a layer of inflexibility to the specification by compiling design files in such a way that those files cannot be changed at run-time. Whilst the dynamic adaptation of learning design files is not precluded by the specification, the run-time facilities have imposed this as a technical limitation.

In this paper we argue that whilst the distinctions that have emerged in the work on IMS learning design (and its predecessor the Educational Modeling Language) are valuable, the technological infrastructure of its implementation have contributed to difficulties in the adoption of the technologies and the comprehension of the principles of Learning Design by teachers. This technological infrastructure, which largely dates before 2005, is in the process of being transformed by new technological environments built around web APIs and JavaScript. These new technological environments present possibilities for the dynamic authoring and adaptation of sequences of activities within the broad schema of IMS Learning Design in a way which is more adaptable and accessible to teachers.

Amongst the technical developments surrounding the growth of web APIs and JavaScript is the increasing popularity of ‘widget’ technology. Using the Apache Wookie widget server, we demonstrate how learning activity sequences specified through an IMS Learning Design file and using Wookie widgets can be sequenced and adjusted both at design-time and during run-time. In particular we highlight how recent developments to Wookie widget technology permit this by making widgets ‘event-aware’, whilst also allowing for dynamic and late-binding of JavaScript libraries.

In conclusion, we argue that web APIs and JavaScript together with Wookie widgets can bring the sequencing of Learning Activities easily ‘to-hand’ for teachers, allowing them to improvise in the light of classroom events, and according to individual learner needs.

0183 Designing, Creating and Implementing four online language learning Moodle Courses for 500 Japanese university computer science students: lessons learned and pitfalls to be avoided. Peter Ruthven-Stuart

The presenter will explain how he designed, created and now manages four online language-learning Moodle courses for 500 first and second year Japanese university computer science students. The context of these courses is a Japanese higher educational system that has been, by European standards, slow to harness the benefits of technology (Bachnik). Few of the 700 or so universities in Japan employ people dedicated to the promotion and support of Technology Enhanced Learning. This lack of initiative on the part of HEI leadership has created a vacuum, which is being filled by faculty members who have both pedagogical and research interests in the use of technology in education. This has engendered an ad hoc approach to integrating technology, but also one that facilitates innovation in that it is not constrained by institutional policies or government diktats. This Japanese approach could be a grassroots model for TEL that has relevance in these more constrained financial times.

There are three important features of these required courses. First, they are entirely online with no blended classroom component, although students may visit the course supervisor should they prefer face-to-face support. Secondly, each of the fifteen units in each course is designed to complement the students’ majors. Collaborative writing tasks are the third significant feature of the courses.

The audience will hear about the three stages that led to the courses going live. The design stage required an analysis of students’ needs coupled with an assessment of what could be done given the limited resources. In the creation stage, eight language teachers all with experience in the subject areas were employed to create content that fit specific lexical and subject requirements. The third stage entails the supervision and implementation of the courses as students interact with the content. Students’ feelings about the courses have been gathered via surveys, interviews and focus groups. While most students benefit from the courses, some students experience technical and cognitive issues that negatively affect their learning outcomes. Drawing on this data and his experience, the presenter will discuss both the positive and negative aspects of online course creation and management.

0265 Fostering academic skills development through an online hub: an integrated approach to skills provision across the University of York Wayne Britcliffe

Background: This paper reports on the University of York's progress in establishing an institutional hub for academic skills provision, integrating contributions from different academic and service providers and presenting them in one location. The hub has been designed to facilitate students’ access to support resources at any point in their studies – from registration (transition) to graduation – addressing a range of key skills which are essential to their academic development. Description of Approaches: Using the institutional VLE as the location for the hub, the University has developed a collection of self-directed tutorials and learning resources, addressing key areas such as academic integrity, critical reading and academic writing skills, which are intended to complement formal skills support delivered on formal programmes of study. The design of tutorials has taken account of the ‘information-age mindset’ (Frand, 2000) of students making the transition to higher education, with preferences for autonomous learning, personalised learning, interactivity and exploratory learning through trial and error. The resources offer opportunities for independent learning with feedback on performance, and are intended to be engaging and fit for purpose in promoting skills development. Results: A review of student engagement with the online resources has been conducted using a variety of research methods such as usage statistics, survey responses and feedback directed through focus groups. Our preliminary findings indicate a high level of take-up of the resources by students, with individuals reporting enhanced confidence levels in mastering key skills such as academic writing. Academic staff have also responded positively to these centrally maintained resources, viewing them as a useful supplement to formal teaching and learning materials delivered through their programmes of studies. Conclusion: Evaluation of the skills hub is on-going, but our preliminary findings concur with the observations of Nelson et al (2006), that the use of institutionally supported technology can be transformational in helping students to take charge of their learning, ensuring that they know where to go and how to access services and resources. The hub has also been effective in bringing together learning enhancement initiatives at the centre and establishing shared design principles for self-directed learning resources.