Activity 4.1 Challenges faced by disabled students in HE

My notes so far:

Activities

Challenging to

My context

Registration processes on campus and online

Can present challenges to varying degrees to all students. For those with an impairment the process can be stressful and difficult to complete e.g. form filling, communicating, being organised, attending in person.

An online process with phone support. Not sure the online process is accessible for those with visual impairments.

Lectures – face to face

Those with visual, hearing and cognitive impairments may need support with being able to participate and benefit from the lecture and be able to take notes. May need alternative forms of aspects of lecture presentation, or handouts before. May need additional tutor support.

Face-to-face study days are held in various venues with different facilities. Students may require additional time with trainer to check understanding and cover any aspects that were difficult to follow or missed. Not sure all our students declare an impairment or ask for additional support.

Lectures – online

Similar to face-to-face these may present difficulties for students with various impairments, although being online may provide students with simpler solutions they can provide themselves.

Media used may be simple powerpoint slides, with or without audio, or video or other types of multimedia activities.

eLearning design may not be accessible to all – thinking about layout, colours used. We do provide transcript for audio, but need to check if we do the same or subtitle video or provide captions for images.

Discussion forums and webinars

As for lectures online these will present challenges, whether synchronous or asynchronous, verbal or text based.

Plans to use more discussion forums and webinars. Think about accessibility for visual and hearing impaired as well as cognitively impaired students.

Accessing subject specific resources e.g. books, journals, web pages, databases.

Those with visual, cognitive or physical impairments may find print or online resources difficult to use.

Online resources may offer more flexibility and solutions to disabled students.

Most material is online on our VLE. We provide links to further resources but don’t check the accessibility of these. Need to check  how we refer to these in our online materials.

Assessment activities

Disabled students may need additional time or special arrangements and support to enable them to complete an assessment. Or an alternative form of assessment.

Written assignments submitted online. Think about support provided for dyslexic or visually impaired?

What is purpose of assessment – to demonstrate learning and understanding and application of this. Think of appropriate alternative ways to do this.

Lab based or fieldwork activities

Challenges of the specialist environment, including safety issues and supporting disabled students to be able to benefit from the learning experience and participate.

No comparable activities for us.

Subject specific language, terminology and symbols etc

Difficult for those with cognitive impairments or with visual impairments. Also those with hearing impairments. Need alternative forms of representation or specialist software e.g. for mathematical or chemical symbols.

Terminology can be challenging for those new to a topic, do we do enough to support this aspect? Make assumptions about knowledge and understanding.

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Activity 2.4 – defining accessibility

Answer the following questions using what you have read in the set book and the resources:

  • How would you define ‘accessibility’?
    Ensuring equal access to all, with no barriers or obstacles and relevant support or alternatives available as appropriate. An inclusive model, no discrimination.
  • Who do you think is responsible for accessibility?
    Everyone i.e. it’s not just one specialist department or individual role e.g. in an educational institute it is a shared responsibility internally across departments which may include senior management, academic colleagues, IT/technical support, disability support, admin, library etc. Externally responsibility rests with providers of resources e.g. software companies, publishers, computer hardware tools. Finally students themselves also share the responsibility, working collaboratively with those offering support.
  • What do you understand by accessibility in an educational context?
    Ensuring equal access to teaching and learning for all students, without barriers or obstacles, to enable them to participate and achieve intended learning outcomes.
  • What do you understand by accessibility in the context of online learning?
    Online learning has the potential to offer equal access if designs accommodate the needs of user groups with different impairments, support access with assistive technologies and provide appropriate student support. Users should not be limited in their participation and designs should make them feel included rather than excluded.
  • Why is accessibility a concern today in your context or country?
    In the UK legislation requires equal access to education – Disability Rights Commission (2006) Code of Practice – for providers of post 16 education.

My definition:

Accessibility in the context of education is about ensuring all learners can participate, benefit and achieve the intended learning outcomes without any barriers or obstacles. It ensures that there is alternative but equivalent content or activities as required by students with different impairments and ensures that users can learn independently or collaboratively and successfully using tools classed as assistive technologies.

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My role in online learning and accessibility

Activity 1.2: Write notes for yourself or create an entry in your blog about your role and context in education and how they relate to accessibility and online learning. Describe what you would like to achieve from the module. 

My working contextE4H
I work for an educational charity providing education and training for healthcare professionals, primarily primary care nurses. We offer both face to face and elearning and a blended approach. I am in a management and support role, responsible for the content development and technical side of our elearning and future developments. I’m just getting settled into my role, having started six months ago. 

We offer undergraduate diploma and degree level modules with a focus on application in clinical practice. We are proud to be an OU accredited organisation, able to offer academic awards to our students.

Our learners are healthcare professionals, predominantly UK based with English as their first language, and they have a wide range of experiences of elearning, many with very little experience and low confidence levels in studying online. This provides me with the opportunity to respond by developing our student support services, something I’m very interested in. With regards to accessibility for those with impairments, we see a very low incidence of declaration of disability – dyslexia is the commonest with less than 0.25% of our annual student population declaring this (although I’ve already acknowledged from my first few days studying H810, that not everyone feels comfortable declaring their need for additional support as a result of an impairment, so this number could be higher, (Seale, 2006)).

Our elearning and accessibility
Our elearning is delivered through a bespoke virtual learning environment (VLE) and is highly visual and text based with animations, some audio and interactive assessment activities  for the learner to participate in. I can see that some aspects of our learning design are to accommodate different learner preferences and do also address some accessibility issues, such as the provision of transcripts for the audio files. However, I can see that other aspects such as the way we link to websites in the text may cause difficulties for screen readers. I’m already realising that our elearning may cause problems or create barriers for example for those with visual, hearing impairments or motor impairments. I’m keen to improve upon this.

My experience of supporting disabled students
Now it’s confession time, I don’t have any previous experience of supporting disabled students. I am embarrassed to note that I don’t even have experience of studying or working directly with disabled people, which makes me sound like I’ve had a very sheltered life. I think my one experience has been colleagues or friends with hearing impairments, although the way they managed this meant it didn’t come across as an impairment for them, although I’m sure it wasn’t so easy for them as it appeared. 

Accessibility wurdle

So, my lack of experience in this area makes me feel very inadequate – as a result of my lack of knowledge, insight or experience; my lack of awareness and exposure to the issues that disabled people face. This is more acute when I consider my role in online learning and the need to consider accessibility.

I’m really looking forward to developing my knowledge and experience and therefore my confidence by studying H810. At the moment I’m afraid that I’ll use the wrong terminology, be inappropriate or offend or make stupid remarks in discussions; show a lack of understanding of the issues that those with impairments face and what needs to be considered so that they are well supported for studying online. This is a great opportunity for me to engage in discussions, explore areas of policy and legislation in this area. To learn about assistive technologies, reflect on my own work context and in particular from the perspective of the disabled student.

Seale, J.K. (2006) E-Learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice, Abingdon, Routledge.

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H810: Accessible online learning

Welcome!

After ‘radio silence’ on my elearning blog for almost exactly 18 months (and failing to record my thoughts in my last job) I’m dusting off the blogging keyboard and getting ready to reflect on my learning once more.

Since my post in March 2012 I’ve completed another OU postgraduate module on ‘CPD in Practice’ (U810) and I’m now on the almost final leg (hopefully) of my journey towards my masters in online and distance learning (MAODE), starting a module on supporting disabled students through providing accessible online learning. Then it’s just one more 30 credit module to complete the journey (target is completion in summer 2014).

photo1

Favourite activity – eating cake!

After a year working on a project at the University of Bath I’m now working for an organisation based in Warwick (UK) delivering training for primary care professionals (mainly nurses) caring for those with long term conditions (e.g. asthma, diabetes). I’m responsible for supporting and developing the eLearning that we offer. Take a look at our website www.educationforhealth.org.

If you’re a fellow student on H810 who has dropped in on my blog, thank you for visiting and do leave a comment or let me know where I can find you online 🙂

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An update – life and elearning

Having finished my OU module in January I’ve been very quiet on the blog front. The end of the module was taken up with submitting the final assignment and portfolio of evidence which I was very glad to get finished and done with 🙂 Always a relief to see the back of it and look forward to some down time.

A lot has happened since then, my first free weekend post-assignment ended up being taken up with preparation for an interview  . . .  not quite how I’d anticipated spending my first free weekend! I had an interview at the University of Bath for a role as project officer on a flexible learning project . . . it seemed ideal as it was postgraduate which is the level I’m interested in and would offer me my first role in a Higher Education setting, so I was thrilled when I was offered the job! It feels like a work placement year for my OU studies and will really give me the opportunity to put into practice what I’ve been learning.

I’m now at the end of my third week and really enjoying it. For me it’s such a novelty working in a non-commercial environment and being on a campus is also quite a novelty with lots to do and get involved in if you want to. I’m living away from home during the week, which although not ideal is made easier with Bath being such a lovely city to be living in. Weekends are also more special as a result.

I’ll be recording some of my thoughts as I get stuck in. In the meantime I’d prepared this wurdle based on my CV . . . This strongly represents my 20+ years working in academic publishing. Following my career break I’m looking forward to seeing how much it will change, especially as I get more experience of working in an elearning role and at a university . . .

And I got my results and found I passed my module and got a much better result for my final assignment than I’d anticipated – #happy!

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Learning to use Camtasia

In building up evidence of my learning and development in the competency of using technology in elearning, I decided to have a go at producing a screencast – a short digital video using software that captures your computer screen and can also record an accompanying audio track.

Camtasia Studio software

I followed a link that Ian had posted to our tutor group forum for Camtasia at www.techsmith.com. I chose the option to download a free 30-day trial of the software and easily loaded it onto my netbook. The only problem is that I don’t have very much space on my netbook, so it is struggling a bit to run it . . . There are other screencast technologies, including JingCaptivate and Screenr.

The welcome email I received had links to some really useful ‘getting started’ tutorials on the website, so I started to work my way through them and I’d recommend doing so as they are short and very clear – this instant help and guidance really appealed to my slightly technophobe self. After the first one I was really keen to record something, so with very little preparation I started a short recording on how to create a new blog post on my WordPress blog.

Take One

Unfortunately, I soon realised that my inbuilt microphone was really not able to record at a reasonable quality to be used on the video, plus a very annoying cough that I’ve developed since Christmas also meant audio was not a good idea! I was disappointed as I’m always a bit reluctant to try out new technology, as I find it so irritating when something doesn’t go according to plan. Anyway, I managed to borrow a headset with microphone to give it another go, hoping the audio will be improved . . . .

Take Two

Unfortunately the headset didn’t help with the audio, so I decided to learn how to add captions to my screens as an alternative way to ‘narrate’ my recording. I also decided to simplify my first attempt by changing it to a demonstration of the outputs I produced for one of the course activities on developing a PDP needs analysis grid – imagining an audience of new students just starting out on H808, to give them an insight into the evidence you can create for your eportfolio from an activity.

I was organised, having all the relevant screens open on my computer, and although I wasn’t recording audio I did talk to myself as I did the screen recording – funnily enough this has meant that I tended to move my cursor around the screen a lot whilst recording, so the end result has a bit of a ‘busy bee’ cursor buzzing across the screen all the time!

The end result
From watching all the ‘getting started’ tutorials I was able to edit my first attempt to a very short 1.5 minutes. I realised that what seemed like a long screen shot to me, because I’d become so familiar with it, wasn’t actually that long so I think I may have over-edited . . . the ending is rather abrupt. It certainly is a very basic first attempt . . . but gave me plenty of insights into how this technology could be used and how to do it better next time! You can view it here.

Learning so far:

  • Check your computer has sufficient power to be able to run the new software
  • Check your audio input to see if the quality is good enough
  •  Be prepared before you start recording, with relevant windows open on your computer
  •  A short script or prompt notes will help to create a relatively structured video
  • If you make a mistake keep going, you can edit it out afterwards
  •  Once recorded save your recording file before opening as a project file which is where you do your editing etc.
  • Take time to edit and take time to review the whole file before making too many edits
  • The software is functionality rich, so take time to view the tutorials and don’t try to run before you can walk!
  • Don’t underestimate how long it can take to create a short recording when starting out – I must have spent over 3 hours for just a one minute output!

Proposals for using screen cast technologies in education:

This technology lends itself to supporting students, particularly distance learners, with the strength of visual and audio components and as I found, the possibility to add text, which also benefits those who are not able to utilise the audio output.

One example is the use of screencasts for technical specialties, where a visual demonstration can really aid understanding. I read a short article by Peterson (2007) describing how the use of screencasts helped to demonstrate the use of an online database, having identified that distance students were not using it to the full extent that they needed to.

It could be possible to use screencast technology to provide feedback on an assessment, e.g. for a written assessment or eportfolio assessment, combining audio feedback with visuals capturing the relevant screens and areas being discussed. A screencast could also be used to demonstrate solutions to formative assessment questions in subject areas such as mathematics.

Students can use screencasts as an output to demonstrate their learning and development, creating evidence for an eportfolio as well as developing their competencies with technology.

A web search will provide you with access to a variety of online resources for different screencasting technologies and also examples of how they are being used in education. I am hopeful that once you’ve mastered the technology it can provide very engaging learning assets, although possibly time-consuming to produce to begin with!

References:

Mangieri, J. (2009) ‘Using Screencasting to Engage and Build Communities with Online Learners’ (online), Faculty Focus. Available at: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/using-screencasting-to-engage-and-build-community-with-online-learners/ (Accessed 8 January 2012).

Peterson, E. (2007) ‘Incorporating Screencasts in Online Education’ (online), The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, vol 8, no.3. Available from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/viewArticle/495/935 (accessed 8 January 2012).

Screencasts and Education post on The Screening Room blog

How to use Screenr post on the The Rapid eLearning Blog

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Further thoughts on professional values (Unit 7)

The online tutor group forum has been very quiet this week, which is a shame as I always learn so much from others, especially since many of my fellow students are very much hands on in terms of teaching, mainly at undergraduate/postgraduate level. I find my understanding is really helped by their real life insights, whereas I’m reading the theory and don’t have any direct teaching experience or practice that I can draw upon.

Today I was really pleased to see that Katie had managed to post her thoughts on professional values. As she’s a pharmacist I find her experience really interesting as I have an interest in the health professions and I had drawn on the principles and values of two health professions as comparisons to those for eLearning professions.

Values – morals – principles – standards
Katie also recognised the different approaches from different professions and similar to me she saw values “very much as what a person brings from their own moral, religious or cultural background – a person’s values evolve and change as they absorb the influences that surround them.”

When comparing health professions to eLearning professions she noted the difference in strength of focus between the patient and the student “In medicine and pharmacy the first value is making the patient the first concern.  The HEA states that one has to have respect for individual learners but doesn’t really imply that students are the first concern.”

I want to look more closely at the HEA (Higher Education Academy) values, which are actually the framework developed by the HEA and ‘owned’ by the HE sector. Katie noted the lack of mention of ‘honesty and integrity’ that she noted in the other professions, which she feels is vital to the academic profession, as well as taking responsibility for one’s actions which she saw as “core to what makes a professional professional.”

The UK Professional Standards Framework (2011)
for teaching and supporting learning in higher education

The framework recommends six ‘Areas of Activity’, ‘Core Knowledge’ and ‘Professional Values’ to be applied to the learning outcomes and assessment activities of professional development programmes in institutions. Together these form the ‘Dimensions of Practice’ for typical teaching or learning support roles.

UK Professional Standards Framework 2011

Professional values:

  • Respect individual learners and diverse learning communities
  • Promote participation in higher education and equality of opportunity for learners
  • Use evidence-informed approaches and the outcomes from research, scholarship and continuing professional development
  • Acknowledge the wider context in which higher education operates recognising the implications for professional practice

I believe the framework does focus on the student, in addition to the first value of ‘respect’, it is covered under the Areas of Activity with specifics around ‘assessing and giving feedback to learners, developing effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance’.  I think their concern for students is more implicit. I would acknowledge that in the HE setting professionals are also required to spend time on the activities mentioned under the framework Core Knowledge which alongside the professionals’ CPD will benefit the student, although not necessarily detailed in such a direct or explicit way as perhaps other professions have done in their values and codes of conduct.

I believe many of the Dimensions of Practice could be drawn upon and applied to a more specific eLearning professional role, especially those that are responsible for the delivery and support of learning and development working directly with learners.

Characteristics of the professional
The HEA recognise and accredit professionals at four levels, based on evidence of their practice in the three framework areas, from Associate Fellow through to Principal Fellow.

Each fellowship has a ‘descriptor’, a set of statements that set out what the professional at each level needs to be able to evidence. These draw from the three areas of the framework i.e. the Dimensions of Practice.

For someone wishing to develop from one Fellowship level to another the Dimensions of Practice are a useful guide to what areas of learning and development to focus on.

For me they also provide examples of characteristics of professional learning for teaching or learning support professionals in HE, which I can compare to those I need to detail for a specified eLearning profession for my next assignment. I need to understand differences between professional and non-professional learning; learning and development applied to professional activity;  learning and development of professionals in different fields; formal, non-formal or informal learning.

I also need to relate individual and collective learning, skills, competences and values . . .

Quite a lot to consider 🙂

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Professional values (Unit 7)

Core Activity 7.1: Professional values
Exploring and articulating professional values and standards that apply to the work of an elearning practitioner.

Definition of values: ‘principles or standards  of behaviour; one’s  judgement of what is  important in life’ Oxford dictionaries online

Definition of principles: ‘a rule or belief governing one’s  behaviour: struggling to be  true to their own principles’;
‘a fundamental truth or proposition that serves  as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour’ 
Oxford dictionaries online

Association of Learning and Technology: Reviewing the requirements of the Certified Membership of the Association of Learning & Technology (CMALT) prospectus the following were highlighted as principles and professional values applied to the role of the learning technologist, defined as ‘people who are actively involved in managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of learning technology’:

  • commitment to exploring and understanding the interplay between technology and learning
  • commitment to keep up to date with new technologies
  • empathy with and willingness to learn from colleagues
  • commitment to communicate and disseminate effective practice

To me these show the need to be committed to keeping up to date with developments in technology, policy and learning and to be willing to engage with others to disseminate effective practice. Individuals need to be committed to their own learning and development.

The core areas of activity for the role of learning technologist are themed as: operational issues; teaching, learning and assessment processes; the wider context; communication.

My eLearning context: When I think of my current professional context in elearning as a project manager for a commercial company I identify with these values from the CMALT prospectus, identifying these as the professional principles that underpin our work. I would also consider a set of personal values or behaviours alongside these, specifically related to conduct when working with others, since we are in a very collaborative business:

  • respecting others views and welcoming input from others
  • being open to and responding positively to feedback
  • listening to and communicating with others in a considered and professional manner
  • willingness to participate for the benefit of others over self

The way a new entrant to a profession develops a sense of how to behave professionally can be very much influenced by the personal values of those around them, and particularly those they work most closely with, emphasising the importance of encouraging personal values in the workplace that are complementary to the professional values.

This type of value wasn’t represented in the CMALT prospectus but perhaps that’s because they don’t see if as their role to define these more personal/behavioural types of values, respecting the fact that professionals seeking recognition through CMALT come from a diverse range of organisations who will have their own expectations in these areas.

How different are these to other professions?

Chartered physiotherapists: I looked at the Code of Values and Behaviours for a chartered physiotherapist which “reflects the legal, regulatory and organisational requirements and responsibilities that CSP members must fulfil in their conduct and practice of physiotherapy.”

Of the four principles (taking responsibility for their actions; behaving ethically; delivering an effective service) the fourth principle to ‘strive to achieve excellence’ more closely reflected those of ALT in terms of the focus on individual responsibility for developing the profession as well as learning and development:

  • seek to improve continuously – including evaluating new developments and applying them in practice; engaging in PDP
  • demonstrate innovation and leadership – including transferring and applying knowledge and skills in new situations and contributing to cycles of evaluation, reflection and improvement
  • support others’ learning and development – including the learning environment, opportunities and sharing of their own learning
  • support the development of physiotherapy – including enhancing the evidence base and implementing this in practice

Values of Counselling and Psychotherapy practitioners: I looked at the values for these professions on the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)website.

The fundamental values of counselling and psychotherapy include a commitment to:

  • Respecting human rights and dignity
  • Ensuring the integrity of practitioner-client relationships
  • Enhancing the quality of professional knowledge and its application
  • Alleviating personal distress and suffering
  • Fostering a sense of self that is meaningful to the person(s) concerned
  • Increasing personal effectiveness
  • Enhancing the quality of relationships between people
  • Appreciating the variety of human experience and culture
  • Striving for the fair and adequate provision of counselling and psychotherapy services

These values include developing knowledge and its application in practice as well as personal development alongside values that are more focused on the relationship with and treatment of the client which they more fully develop in their ethical principles.

They described the following link between values and principles which I found useful:

‘Values inform principles. They represent an important way of expressing a general ethical commitment that becomes more precisely defined and action-orientated when expressed as a principle.’

Conclusion
After reviewing other professions I think the CMALT values are better described by the phrase from the BACP as ‘action-orientated principles’.

It is clear that professions and organisations vary in whether they describe a code of practice, principles, values, an ethical framework etc which to me seem quite different. I identify ‘values’ as being more personal and moral, linked to behaviours, compared to ‘principles’ that I identify as more likely to be defined as activities and actions related to the conduct of the profession itself.

I have recognised values or principles that are focused on further developing a profession and improving quality; on individual learning and development; as well as those focused on the treatment of and working with others.

I think I’ll need to come back to this after I’ve done some further reading and reflection . . .

Definition of ethics:moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity’
Oxford dictionaries online

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What are Learning Technologists? (Unit 5)

Core Activity5.5: The profession of learning technologist.

Although I’ve struggled to see a distinct profession of ‘elearning’ I did recognise the role of Learning Technologist, or at least the job title.

The readings this week (Oliver, 2002; Beetham et al., 2001, Lisewski & Joyce, 2003) have given me a better insight into the role and also the challenge for learning technology to be recognised as a profession. So far I’ve haven’t read more widely, so my thinking is influenced by papers from nearly 10 years ago.

What do they do?
Learning Technologists (LT) were seen as the ‘new specialists’ from the research by Beetham and colleagues, located either centrally or departmentally within institutes. They also defined two other groups with some level of involvement:

  • Academics and established professionals – ‘with an interest or formal responsibility for learning technologies as part of their professional identify’ (c.10% of academics in an institute).
  • Learning support professionals – ‘those in non-academic roles supporting access to and effective use of learning technologies’ (e.g. library professionals and technical support roles).

LTs have a variety of backgrounds and experience which they bring to the role, which is itself varied. Beetham identified ‘keeping up with developments in learning technologies’ as core, with other activities being ‘educational, developmental, strategic, inter-personal and communicative, but not technical’. LTs themselves didn’t see the technical aspect as key, learning new technologies was something they themselves tended to pick up very quickly, so wasn’t seen as a core area.

Oliver highlighted the collaborative aspect of the role (within HE) where the LT would collaborate with an academic on a specific technology-related project. The LT needed to learn about the discipline in which a project was based, which was achieved through situative learning in the context of the academic department. This also enabled the LT to have an informal tutoring role of the academic, initially in the more technical aspects of implementation of a technology solution but moving this on to the bigger picture of educational issues. The focus on pedagogy and student experience by the LT seemed to be key, although not always readily recognised or acknowledged by the academic community.


Learning Technology as a profession
This paper also highlighted the struggle for Learning Technologists to gain recognition as a legitimate profession, particularly amongst the academic community where academic credentials are the norm and where they wanted to be seen as more than just a service provider.

Oliver described a ‘tension between the marginal nature of the posts and their importance in terms of institutional change.’ Individuals described a high level of autonomy in the role but ultimately little authority or responsibility, even though the success (or not) of a project would reflect on them and was a core element of strategic plans for the institute.

Lisewski & Joyce discussed the damage that some approaches to technology-enhanced learning can do for the profession, when models or frameworks that are accepted within the LT community are applied in a setting where they may not be the best approach. If this leads to a bad learner experience this can reflect badly on the profession itself.

This paper was interesting as it applied the ‘Five-stage e-moderating model’ by Salmon (2000) to an online training course on e-moderating for academics, allowing them to be on the receiving end of what they will deliver to their students. I readily identified with some of the key findings from participant feedback when compared with my experience on this and other modules:

  • The five-week timescale (a week alloted to each of the stages) was too restrictive – the same on this course, activities are allocated on a weekly basis which can be a challenge to keep up with.
  • Having fallen behind it was hard to catch up – it always is!
  • It was too difficult to change the focus of the course as new ideas arose – always a challenge, although this can be moderated via tutor groups/forums.
  • The balance of activities was problematic  – this can be an issue, especially when an assignment deadline is also approaching!
  • The course did not take into account individual learning styles – always difficult, a one-size-fits-all approach is known not to work, but it’s also hard to satisfy everyone’s individual preferences . . .

The structured approach was at odds with the pedagogy of the course, being seen as too rigid to encourage reflection on the learning. The warning was that as the evidence-base develops for learning technologists, there is the danger that models and frameworks can dominate, becoming standardised in practice or even commercialised, leading to a prescribed approach rather than a flexible and responsive approach to teaching and learning. They also warned of the danger that the profession could be driven by the need to find quick and easy solutions.

This paper also discussed the desire for LTs to gain recognition and legitimacy as a profession, offering an alternative source of pedagogic expertise, although academics may feel threatened by this. Their success was described as being partly dependent on ‘establishing their credentials’.

Professional Development for LTs
The papers by Oliver and Beetham highlighted that LTs had very little formal training or professional development opportunities, developing their knowledge through informal,
on-the-job ‘learning by doing’ and through informal activities as a community of practitioners.

Aspects of their development were described by Oliver as ‘expert learning’, through the process of developing their understanding and knowledge of the academic discipline, student needs and the context in which they are collaborating. A process which is adapted and applied each time a new collaboration begins.

Part of their role is as educator for their academic co-collaborator, via an ‘informal tutoring process’ of learning and teaching through discourse, using case studies to illustrate and support their proposals, leading academics to reflect on their assumptions and issues that arise as a project develops.

Further reflections…
Colleagues on this module, many of whom I would see fitting into the academics and established professionals category, with an interest or formal responsibility for learning technologies as part of their professional identify, have voiced their desire for this aspect of their role to be recognised alongside their discipline specific, research and teaching responsibilities.

I questioned whether studying the modules or the complete MA ODE which we are studying would lead to recognition.

I won’t get any recognition as an eLearning professional from the qualification as most people won’t know what it means!  The qualification is the means but the recognition only comes from the awarding body in my humble. (Katie, tutor group forum)

Others hoped that the commitment to this course would be acknowledged in some way, and lead to recognition of some level of expertise as an ‘elearning professional’. It’s clear that the challenge of gaining recognition of professional expertise applies to those where elearning may only be part of their role, as much as to those more explicitly dedicated to it, such as the Learning Technologist.

Now I just need to go and delve into the more recent literature . . .

References:
Beetham, H., Jones, S. and Gornall, L. (2001) ‘Career development of learning technology staff: scoping study final report’ (online), JISC. Available from: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/uploaded_documents/cdss_final_report_v8.doc

Lisewski, B. and Joyce, P. (2003) Examining the fivestage emoderating model: Designed and emergent practice in the learning technology profession. Association for Learning Technology Journal, 11 (1). pp. 55-66. ISSN 0968-7769

Oliver, M. (2002) ‘What do learning technologists do?’ (online), Innovations in Education and Teaching International, vol. 39, no. 4, pp. 245–52. Available from: http://libezproxy.open.ac.uk/login?url=http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13558000210161089 (

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The diversity of ‘elearning roles’ (Unit 5)

Core activity 5.2: Diversity challenge

Having reflected on ‘elearning’ and the difficulty I found in identifying it as a distinct profession, this activity encouraged me to further explore the diversity of careers involved in the practice of elearning.

I searched ‘e-learning’ on www.jobs.ac.uk  and www.besteducationjobs.co.uk and from the job descriptions for four roles (only one of which was in an HE setting) I produced a Wurdle (a text graphic based on the text within the job adverts).

The roles I selected were:

  • Director of eLearning Pedagogical Support Unit (University)
  • Instructional Designer (ID)
  • Learning Technologies Manager
  • eLearning Producer

I wasn’t really surprised by the core requirements of the roles. Many of these are very similar to those in my current role of project manager for a company producing interactive learning materials. Each one conveyed a need to ‘help others/those less experienced’, giving a sense of an environment where ‘elearning’ may still be seen as a new or unknown entity, whether for colleagues or clients.

I summarised the core areas from the four roles as follows:

Design and planning: scoping, instructional/learning design, storyboarding

Creation: designing, writing, editing

Technical expertise: experience and skills across a range of technologies, platforms, content management systems and learning management systems

Innovation: cutting edge, up-to-date with latest research and developments

Support: supporting others and promoting best practice

Manage and lead: project management, leading others

Implementation: of guidelines and processes

This search doesn’t really reflect the full diversity of roles involved with the practice of elearning, these are quite specifically focused on the elearning industry (so I don’t think I’ve met the requirements of the diversity challenge!).

However, other roles that appeared in an ‘elearning’ keyword search with a lower level of relevancy were Lecturer and Programme Lead, where ‘competence in the use of elearning’ was one of several selection criteria and the only one related to elearning.  What strikes me is that for many professionals there is a requirement to develop some of the skills and expertise described in the core areas above, but that is only one element of their role and their daily working life. I know how challenging I’m finding it to develop the skills and expertise to deliver learning modules without being responsible for delivering anything else on a daily basis! In those contexts I can see the benefit of any one of the elearning specific roles, to help others to develop their skills alongside someone who can be considered to be ‘an expert’.

I look forward to the time when I can start to feel that I’m becoming one of those experts, able to work together with others on scoping a project and having confidence in my creative input, based on knowledge and experience.

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