And all things must come to an end

A bittersweet post as it is the end of the project and our final report – our last dissemination event will be on Thursday. It’s been a great experience and the MOOC is now live online and its wordpress site is just being finished. We’ll be linking it directly in NILE on relevant sites too. The link below will access our final report – and hopefully we will be able to update this site going forward with new evaluation data. If you do want to access the MOOC and can’t find it, or what to discuss data etc with us, contact daniel.jones@northampton.ac.uk

Final Report – Blended Learning Skills Development MOOC-1ohfozg

 

A finished article – with no Dobermans

Now we are replacing all the images away from out placeholders of Dobermans into the actual items, it is for the first time that we can start to see the whole thing emerge and it is really impressive how well it syncs together. Full credit has to go to Rob Farmer and Learntech for their suggestions, Xerte is a strong platform for what we wanted to do – even though it changed from our original suggestion – and will actually allow students to better control their own learning and navigation. The videos he edited have also come out stunningly well. Having the ability to see us, and contact us if needed, will help it stand out – it will let students decide how far they want to push things in terms of their own development.

We’ve already started scoping out the likely users of this for next year as well, and how we will continue the monitoring and improvements even after the end of the project itself.

Sharing our findings – The Final Stretch

What a great time the ILT conference was! I have to admit I was nervous when a large cadre of LLS sat down for the MOOC cracker barrel but they seemed to be really excited about what we had produced. They had a couple of questions that have made us think about how we tweak things.

The MOOC itself is almost done, and we are going to sit down with Learning Development and go through the final lay out and confirm any tweaks there with them, create a final snag list for June. Then we will release the final version into the wild. Already got a few plans on how to develop it after this project, but that I guess is for another blog!

Conferences and Annual Leave

We are back after two weeks of annual leave!

Since the last blog, we have had two developments on dissemination. The first was that we held our successful conference which included a great launch event for the MOOC and garnered interest in our work from practitioners within HE, but also from secondary education and from those involved in third sector and government led interventions. They also gave us some great ideas to help develop the product and how it can be presented.

The second is that our pitch for a cracker barrel at the ILT conference got accepted. Having done a cracker barrel at the last two ILT conferences, it is a really great way to get some feedback from uninvolved people who have an interest in the pedagogy. It is certainly one of the best ways to break out of a disciplinary silo, so we are looking forward to seeing what suggestions and comments people have.

Dissemination is key.

We have a week now before the first dissemination event. It’s a big one, and we have an interesting crowd coming to see – from educators, government staff, charity interventionists. It’s been a good prompter for us to get things committed on the work, so we have lots to present. We have also put in a proposal to the ILT conference.

It has, as we’ve said before, been a harder road – stretching our skills and comfort I think in building this as much as we test the students when we first get them to analyse the material! But, I’m becoming happier and happier with the final product as it takes the final bits of shape. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so we will see what practitioners think next week.

It’s a hard life, but a rewarding one

It’s been a long struggle, but finally made a few breakthroughs on the project as we move towards dissemination and finalising the first version of the MOOC that we can review with Learning Design and others.

A combination of rest and now a new chair has helped our research assistant be able to come back in, but she hasn’t been idle at home and we now have multiple modules going onto Xerte. Our conference is also coming together as our first dissemination event, and we’ve managed to pull together a really diverse crowd so hopefully we can have some real impact in terms of the MOOC, but also get some advice on how we can roll it out beyond the University as well as show casing it to the University staff. And we are putting together a bid for a cracker barrel for the ILT conference in May. And of course all of that means prepping everything so we have finalised parts to show off at these events, including final video content for May.

We are getting a shooting list and topics together now, and lining up speakers – Alas I may have to be one of them, but we are also hoping we might be able to steal one or two from the conference.

 

It’s been a long struggle, and less straight forward than last year’s project, but like last year I think we will deliver a product that will enhance learning and teaching and, importantly, help students get better outcomes. And once the product is finished, we can properly engage with modules over the summer for full integration going forward, and hopefully go back to people who wanted to incorporate last year’s project but were unsure of student compatibility to get a better uptake there too.

Xerte works – and dissemination events too

We’ve now begun to transfer the designed lessons onto Xerte, or more accurately our research assistant has, and we have checked with LearnTech on how exactly to get them working. This has given us a fully ‘finished’ version now of sessions that we can begin to use with students and externals to try to test out how effective it is.

It also gives us something to show off at our dissemination event, which will bring together our staff, HE teachers, charity workers, publishers and secondary teachers in a workshop day to examine how we can learn from one another and how the MOOC can help attainment for our students (and indeed be used wider than that, we hope).

The final big hurdle is getting the last bits designed and video made. We have Paul Jackson trained up on video editing, but unfortunately our research assistant – who is the trained expert on student support – is horizontal following a back injury. Hopefully we’ll get her back soon, because it has slowed us down a bit. Still, we are confident with some juggling and with her brave efforts to keep going from home, we can deliver something the University can be proud of.

The most difficult part

Now that another session is completed by Siobhan, our research assistant, we are starting to consider the most difficult part of this – obtaining material that is copyright compatible with wide distribution. We are likely going to have to focus on material already in the public domain, but thankfully (or unfortunately, depending on the viewpoint) a lot of material that we are able to work with is already out there. We also have contacts with anti-fascist organisations that may allow one or two more pieces to be used. So it becomes just a matter of selection, the perfect pieces that users will have lots to say about it. But how do we choose those perfect pieces? Ah. Now that is the most difficult part – being ruthless when each precious primary source is filled with interest. But. The aim must be foremost. Enabling students to get on and develop skills, not necessarily to educate them on the subject. So we will need items that have both easy, low hanging fruit for analysis – some soft pitches for them to hit, as the baseball metaphor goes – but also more complicated messages in there as well so that they can look deeper and use more advanced analysis skills as they develop. Should be interesting.

And onto another session…

Sadly Siobhan is ill this week, but she is continuing the work from home on the lesson design now for yet another session. We’ve also had our first paper in for the launch and dissemination event, so it should be good. As mentioned we have spoken about the IT solution with LearnTechs, and we are discussing now whether it would be better to host the MOOC on a wordpress style site so that we have greater control, and can ensure it is more ‘branded’ and easier for users (without having to sign up to Blackboard’s systems). It’s a tough choice, but we are going to be very much led by the LearnTechs and what they feel is best practice.

A long Christmas (and illness!)

Well, it has been a plague filled end to 2017 and start to 2018 with alternatively the assistant and myself ill with various things. But now we are both back and into the saddle. We have the final version of one item done and ready, and have been working over the break on the electronic presentation side so we can get this ready in time for the launch.

Hopefully we will have more to share with you next week, but it is all coming on a pace now – guided by the feedback from last term.