Week 4 – Supporting learners through assessment and feedback using TEL #octel

So we come to a topic that i probably know the most on prior to undertaking the octel course. I’ve worked with e-assessment for a number of year, 5 with Questionmark perception and 2-3 working with e-portfolios. 

E-assessment when used correctly can be a very powerful tool, that engages students and offers them valuable methods of checking their learning progress and also of gaining timely feedback. If not used correctly however, it can be a frustrating and dull experience.

  • Why did/would you choose a particular type of e-assessment? Describe why you think it is effective and how it can help deepen knowledge and understanding.

I strongly believe in the value of formative assessment. If embedded into the curriculum and used throughout the course and the academic year, it is a chance for students to monitor there learning and gain feedback. 

Whilst teach AS law we designed a number of activities for our moodle course so students could assess there learning at the end of each topic. This would range from simple multiple choice questions, to fill in the blanks, for areas that demanded factual recall. In other areas we’d have drag and drop to match case facts to the name of the case and short answer areas for the parts that required students to apply principles and not just recall facts. 

We choose formative as it was early in the course and the topics were new to the students. we did not want to add the pressure of making the results count onto the students, but felt it was important that they could track there progress. We thought out the feedback so that if an answer was wrong it would encourage them to think further about the answer. if they got it incorrect a second time, the feedback would direct them to an area they could read up on the principles the question referred to, before coming back later to take the quiz again. 

With the short answer questions, we would offer a two day turn around on the feedback to ensure students got timely, personalized feedback that would help direct their learning and allow them to continue to develop and build their knowledge. This was very popular with the students as they knew the feedback was unique to them nd not just generic and maybe not completely applicable to them.

  • In your experience, what type of approach creates an environment conducive to self-directed learning, peer support and collaborative learning? How might technology help?

An environment where learners are able to feel comfortable and confident to express themselves. When opinions and views are valued and sought, not shot down or ignored. Where students are allowed to debate and challenge each others believes and perspectives. 

In terms of technology this is able to be delivered in a few ways, but the key is for the staff to buy into the idea and play their part. They have to encourage and nurture the system and ensure students don’t talk over each other and allow every one the opportunity to express their opinions. This can be done through debates on forums, which are moderated to prevent tangents that detract from the main point, abuse and incorrect. The tutor can step in address issues and refocus the discussion. Wikis can also be used in a similar way.

The key is to let the students feel ownership of the resources that it is there’s to do with as they wish, but that staff are watching and will cut out any abuse, without being to heavily involved, which can be a difficult balancing act for academics, who want to step in ad direct. Knowing when and when not to is key in my opinion.  


Week 3, if you do only one thing. #Octel

Slowly catching up on my Octel work and now finally some time to get onto week 3’s activity.


So this week I looked at two activities the first being:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGA8sRwqIFg: A Video on Ionic, Covalent and Metallic Bonds from the Khan Academy


The Khan academy resources was straight forward video, which recorded a talk on Ionic bonds. The video was well presented, with diagrams and narrative working well, to explain the concepts of the video. The video would require some prior knowledge of the basics of Chemistry. It would not therefore be of use to people seeking an introduction to the concept, but perhaps those seeking to enhance their understanding of the concept. The presenter has a good conversational style which I found to be  engaging and would hold peoples attention. The video itself is not interactive and has no way of checking if learning is taking place. A learner has no opportunity to question the presenter or seek out more help from him, and all there is for social interaction is the comments section of you tube and no way of knowing if they are monitored. The video could be more interactive by adding a flash element so people can get to practice the examples themselves with some embedded feedback. As a learning element it is good as a video but not something that allows the learner to interact as a resource.

and then:

Beat the Bard a resources from E-Learning Examples.

This was a poor resource that frustrated me. The resource is essentially top trumps and could have been an engaging well though out game. Instead it offered little as a learning resource. The feedback was non-existent and if you were losing very frustrating. You could also beat the game by simply choosing the highest number on the card, without considering the quotes which is really the learning element of the game; so you could ignore it to succeed at the game.  As a simple coffee break game it was fun but i do not think it offers much in terms of learning or classroom development.

Week 2: Approaches to Learning

Please review the research discussed below and consider one of the questions that follows.

As we’ll see in Week 3, the notion of ‘learning styles’ is a contentious one. However, there is body of research in the ‘phenomenographic’ tradition, based on learners’ descriptions of their own experiences, which has made a distinction between three different approaches to learning – the ‘deep’, ‘strategic’ and ‘surface’ approaches. It’s not that the three approaches are mutually exclusive, but that when left to their own devices many students can be seen to have a leaning towards one over the others. What is generally accepted though, certainly in Western higher education, is that ‘deep learning’ is the ideal we should be striving to engage our learners in.

Your task is to think about the general idea of ‘approaches to learning’ in relation to online learning. Questions for consideration are:

  • Have you seen any evidence of these different approaches in online contexts, e.g. in technology-enhanced courses you teach? How did these differences manifest themselves in terms of online learning behaviour?
  • Are you leaning towards one approach in particular on ocTEL, and if so why might that be? Perhaps you are employing strategies from more than one approach?
  • Are learners who tend to take a ‘surface’ approach likely to learn more or less effectively online versus face-to-face?
  • How might we encourage ‘deep learning’ in online contexts?

Before I address the above question I thought it would be best to consider what my own approach to learning is. I’ve mulled this over many times and having considered the perspectives many times, Although it would be easy to say I am a deep learner, given this is the ‘ideal’, I think i have adopted each strategy at one time or another throughout my educational and professional experiences. My reasons for which one I adopted is always based on a number of factors, so I guess really I am a strategic learner.

Basically my level of interest, time constraints, the importance of the work and the awards i will gain for completing the work.  I would say the biggest factors are gaining the best possible grades, followed by time constraints and then the level of interest i have in the work. If the work will result in a high grade and I have time to invest and it engages me then I will go for a deep learning approach, as i like knowing things but only if they interested me! If I need a good grade, with limited time, and a medium interest then I tend to go for a strategic approach, doing what I need to, to get the best outcome possible. No interest, no time and no grading result in me doing the bare minimum to get by and gain the required information to get by.

I do not necessarily buy into the idea that A deep approach to learning is the ideal we should be striving to. I think students who develop an approach that fluctuates between deep and surface as required develop a better skill set to survive in the working environment once they move on from education. Developing analytic skills, examining logic and evidence in a critical way is all well and good, but it needs to be coupled with a management of time and being aware of requirements and expectations of employers will make you a much more employable person. Its no good investing deeply in tasks that do not require the effort when it is at the expense of a task that is much more strategically or economically important for your employer.

Anyway before I go off to much on a tangent here are my thoughts on the questions presented:

  • Have you seen any evidence of these different approaches in online contexts, e.g. in technology-enhanced courses you teach? How did these differences manifest themselves in terms of online learning behaviour?


  • Are you leaning towards one approach in particular on ocTEL, and if so why might that be? Perhaps you are employing strategies from more than one approach?

Having analysed the above I think most of my study has been leaning towards a Strategy approach. I do check the Forums and posts etc, but mainly for areas that interest me and conform to the goals I have set for what I want to get out of the course. I focus on completing the webinar and the if you only do one task first and foremost, then once those are completed I tend to pick the tasks that interest me or I feel are most relevant to my own outcomes. Then time permitting I might mop up the remaining tasks to ensure I get the most badge points.

Having said that I have when time permits and my curiosity or interest is prodded will invest more time in topics, For example I do enjoy understanding learning theory and pedagogy and have certainly invested more time in this task than others, having chosen to really critique myself and my views, analyse the evidence and arguements in the readers and really get into the nuts and bolts of the task at hand.

  • Are learners who tend to take a ‘surface’ approach likely to learn more or less effectively online versus face-to-face?

I think the level will be the same as it is in all areas. Although in an online area it can be argued there is less monitoring or focus on someone and so less detection of someone adopting a surface approach, the reality is, even in a classroom or face-to-face environment only so much can be done to encourage people to consider concepts more deeply. Buy in by a student is always required and without that it does not matter how the course is delivered.

  • How might we encourage ‘deep learning’ in online contexts?

I think to enhance learning on line, we need to ensure students see a reason and purpose to their learning. If the students are engaged and no the benefits of learning the information, this will encourage them to develop and commit to the learning tasks. The activities need to be engaging to hold students attention and to make them want to delve deeper into the subject matter.

Finally, I also feel good, timely and personalised feedback is a key factor in encouraging deep learning. If students get feedback and action points on there work, this will encourage them to keep on developing it and see that there is a purpose to the work and that you are prepared to invest time in the work too.

Explorer activity 1.5: Are you ready for online learning?

There are a range of questionnaires and instruments produced by universities and online learning providers which claim to predict whether you are ‘ready’ for online learning – see the sample list to be provided. e.g.

Complete two or three of these questionnaires depending on the time you have available and make a list of the characteristics they have in common. Publish this list and add a short comment/reflection, considering how the questionnaires:

  • If they can help us plan to introduce learners to online learning and TEL,
  • accurately identify your readiness, and
  • how you might use them with your own students.
  • if you have come across other such questionnaires that you would recommend – please share these too via the communication and publication channels

The first test I completed was the Penn State University test, achiving score of 53 :


I also took the San Diego test, getting a score over 45:


Finally, I took the University of Huston test, achieving a score of 178:


I think the Huston test is the most comprehensive seeking further detail than the other tests and had me thinking the msot about what i wanted from the course and what i would devote to it. It made me consider my ability to get sidetracked and not necessarily focus on the task at hand, and a need to avoid multitasking.

I think it would work with students in much the same, highlighting to them, issues they may not have considered in order to succedd online. It would be important to ensure academics are aware of the results so they can detect any trends among the student cohort.

I feel the surveys can help plan for online learning, but you are reliant on students completing them honestly and understanding what the levels are. Often students will overstate their skills and this can impact the results.

Activity 2.5: Active play

So fro this activity i decide to try out lost in the city. A point and click style game:


The premise is you are trapped in a room, with no knowledge of how you got there. The only info you have is a note and you must look around and find items to aid your escape, such as keys etc. 

I picked this game as i enjoyed point and click style games when younger and can see an educational value to the games. 

  • What do you think you could learn playing this game?

The game requires you to think through and apply problem solving skills to the situation. Pressure is increased with a time limited to do so. It also requires elements of logic, reasoning and deduction. What can get you out of the room and how can you use it. It applies observational skills too as you need to look around and find everything you need.

  • What (if anything) did you find engaging?

I like the premise of trying to escape and the way you are required to think around the problem. The fact that you are in control and it is first person it allows you to empathise and put yourself into the scenario.

  • What (if anything) did you find demotivational?

The game is a bit limited. You are on a rail, there is only one way to do everything so its trail and error until you get it right. The stakes are low to and your are very much hand held all the way through the process.

more Octel musings – social media and e-learning

So as usual with all things, i start really keen enthuasiastic and motivated and already I am falling behind, having only just got back on track with continuing my octel work!

Its been interesting however to use social media in  capacity for communicating with collegees, its not something i’ve done before. Coming from a FE background, a couple of colleges i’ve work with have been guarded in engaging with social media, some even to the extent of blocking its use on campus.

I can see merits to the argument that students don’t like their social areas intruded on by staff, but surely a balance has to be stuck between allowing the students the freedom to explore and engaging with them in new and unusal enviroments for staff. Its not just students who need to be taken out of their comfort zone.

I have find following the #octel hashtag on twitter has identified some interesting looking articles which are now sat on my favourites tab to read on my next tea break and do feel that it makes it a way to find out ideas and perspectives i may not normally come across in my day to day browsing of the web.

In terms of Blogs, i have a love hate relationship with blogs. I have used blogs for fundraising purposes and to document my journey on said fundraising. It sometimes would be so easy to blog and map my journey but other times i’d stare at the scream for hours and the words wouldn’t flow. Blogs can give you a voice, if you have something to say, if you don’t it can be a way to waffle aimlessly about nothing.

That said, having done my last blog its useful to come back to it and get a snap shot of my train of thought from a week ago and see whay has changed or to reflect or comments people have left. Whilst promoting E-portfolios its something important to highlight to students. Self-reflection is a good thing, its not always easy, but looking back on your thoughts, beliefs and what you have learnt does challenge you. It makes you question what you said, has what you believed changed, were you right, have you grown? All of this adds to the education cycle and allows you to reflect. For me if education does not challenge or stretch you, whats its purpose. Doing a blog has certainly already made me look at some of my views on e-learning and identify areas to develop.

Week 0 #OCTEL

My career in e-learning started out at Gloucestershire college. i’d left University with no real interest in a career in online learning, heck i didn’t really know what it was. We had at the time a very basic webct but no one used it, so like everyone else, i’d log in once a month to see if anything had been posted. When it hadn’t, i’d duly log back out and forget all about it.

For me, my career in e-learning started out quite by accident. I’d come out of University short of money, with a degree but no real direction or idea of what i wanted to do. All i know is i needed work and quickly. Then an opportunity came up for someone to work at Gloucestershire college, for designing online materials for A-level. It was for my degree subjects, so thought it would be a way to keep my degree in use and make money. So i applied, that was over 12 years ago and i’ve been working with e-learning every since minus a quick but forgettable time in customer service!

Through out my time in e-learning i have most enjoyed the training and teaching of staff. I find educational theory an area i have gravitated for, and have completed a PGCHE to improve my knowledge of Pedagogy. If technology is to be utilised effectively in the classroom, i believe it must be properly underpinned to the pedagogy of the course, and not used for technologies sake. Since doing my PGCE i have come to realise the importance of planning in e-learning and catering to the learners, not what i think is the best way to go about designing something. Through my PGCE i undetook distance and e-learning and it was fascinating to have a learners perspective on design. Thing i thought worked well, infuriated me as a learner. Particularlty with E-portfolios, which as i now head up e-portfolios at UWE has been a useful exercise!

over the coming weeks i will write more but for now i just wanted to put up a quick intro, i’m looking forward to starting the course and have no real expectations, other than a hope to learn some nex interesting stuff!