Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Example Learning Activities on VLE Communication/Collaboration tools

Various initiative this year have led me to one point - the production of example learning activities using the main communication/collaboration tools available in the standard Virtual Learning Environment.

I've often had cause to reflect on the merits of the abstract vs the practical. I've been reading an interesting article by Laurillard and Ljubojevic (2011) called Evaluating learning designs through the formal representation of pedagogical patterns. They talk about it in terms of finding a middle ground between learning theory and learning design patterns. The former is seen as too abstract for practical use and the latter as too specific for widespread adaptation. They are engaged in the LDSE project which should be a very good, well thought through online tool to be used by educators when designing learning. This Learning Design Support Environment (which I have been privileged to see early versions of) is careful to make explicit reference to learning theory. It is a commendable attempt that establishing a link between research and practice. Such an endeavour is worth pursuing.

My output in this area is similiar but less sophisticated and less ambitious. What I have composed are short, succinct examples of learning activities using a particular communication/collaboration online tool. For example, re. an asynchronous discussion tool:

Simple Concept Discussion
What do you understand the term xxxx to mean? Please share your thoughts within this Discussion activity. This is principally a dialogue between you and your fellow students so please ensure you visit and contribute at least three times in the two week period.

& re. a blog tool:

Reflection on learning Blog activity 2
It’s time to consolidate your learning within this session. Reflect on this statement xxxx and then write down your thoughts in a blog entry. Your tutor will give you some feedback in the comments area of this entry at the end of the session.
This could be a recurring activity.

I have a few or these for discussion, blogs, wikis and e-portfolios. These are presented within the context of Salmon's 5 stage model as it's important to present a scaffolded learning experience. The aim is to give example wordings for a learning activities using the common tools encountered in standard VLEs. I have decontextualised them as far as I can. Previously, I had produced templates which included lots more detail. This has now been stripped back so that they are as simple as they can be.

Theory-laden time consuming resources are readily available and under utilised by the great mass of academic colleagues not well disposed towards learning technologies. I see a need for something that engaging them in a different way. In a way that make things as easy as possible for them. I haven't ignored theory but I have deliberately excluded references to it. It's a can of worms I want to keep shut unless specifically asked for (it rarely is). So I am basically saying - you can use this tool like this, and this and this. And I'm saying with an actual wording that can be utilized. This is less threatening and less challenging that framing it within a learning theory or a abstract statement about a type of activity use.

As yet, I have only had a chance to use them within a single face-to-face training day. It went well and I hope to do more this term. I may reflect further on this here.