Thursday, March 20, 2008

Summary of Weeks One and Two: Introductions, evaluation, elearning and quality

Great progress everyone. Like some of you I am playing catch-up having spent the last couple of weekends saturating myself with music and performance. More about that on my blog over the next few days.

Most people have a blog up and running and several people have posted responses to the weekly activities. There has also been a small group of you reading and responding to others' posts.

This aspect is very important as it is our main means of communication in the class. If you feel overloaded by the thought of this, it is best to select two or so different blogs each week to read and respond to and rotate until you get into the rhythm. You will soon find that there will be a cluster of blogs you prefer reading because they are posting about areas of eLearning you are most interested in. I will do my bit by summarising (more regularly from now on) each week or two's activities, and pointing you to people's posts where they have made statements and initiated discussion of note on the topic.

The range of opinion about the importance of evaluation is wide ranging and here is a sample of what people have said:
  • "..a comfort blanket" (Jennifer).
  • "..need to be sure that the e-learning is an effective use of the available resources" (Gordon- elearning solutions).
  • "..a means to measure effectiveness of learning. Also to check that goals are being achieved and if not, why?" (Hilary).
  • " do we improve on what we are doing or even know that something needs to be improved" (Lesley).
  • "..want to create WOW programmes and resources.." (Rika).
Defining evaluation was not so easy. Here are some I particularly like - you may have found others, if so please let us know here -
  • "..a thoughtful consideration of events which can inform future events for the better"(Yvonne ). "
  • "..define evaluation as a constant checking and fine tuning of all kinds of processes that happens most of the time unconscious and/or automatic and sometime in a planned way"(Helga).
  • "an assessment of the efficiency, effectiveness and quality of a learning experience, as viewed from the perspective of the relevant stakeholder"(Gordon).
Quality and eLearning
There has been a remarkable amount written about why quality is important in eLearning.

Jennifer's statement on her blog post about the importance of quality in eLearning is a goer - "I think quality is important in all learning. Is eLearning any different? " - and opens up an opportunity for debate. I would like people to comment on her blog and have a bit of discussion about this question. I have made a start there already. Yvonne has also mentioned her opinion about this " enable all students to learn effectively the teacher must be aware of what works and what doesn't." She also mentions costs and the need for skilled staff.

"Launch and Track' type e-learning" is described by Gordon who refers to learning without an instructor always present. The necessity for quality resources and learning experiences which engage and provide for remote learners and is cost-effective is also discussed - "more dependent on the material being clear and effective as the ability to engage synchronously with others, to clarify points and engage in spontaneous discussion, is limited."
Rika elearning resources have to be able to stand up by themselves." And "what's the point in putting energy into creating stuff that isn't any good and doesnt work for people?"

Hilary mentions the difficulties associated with transferring a f2f course to an online one and how necessary it is to overcome people's barriers to eLearning.

The presentation about evaluation has ended up providing an example-in-action of quality which you can all relate to as you had to watch it and experience it. There is more about this in the next section.

Quality of the evaluation presentation
Some people have also provided some very good feedback about the evaluation presentation. It seems several of you enjoyed it and found it useful. The 20 minute length caused some problems around concentration for that long in one sitting - I can relate to that. Luckily it could be paused for note-taking and the format enabled people to stop and start and return to it. The inclusion of humour (Flight of the Conchords) captured the interest and has been mentioned by a few of you. It would probably benefit from being broken up into three shorter sections - I might run a poll about this. Thank you all. :)

As well as the discussions about the importance of evaluation and quality and eLearning, several people have provided great examples of what they are already doing in this area in their organisations. A detailed example was posted byan "evaluation technique called SII (Strengths, Improvements, Insight)" - worth a look. I am interested to see what sort of guidelines will be appropriate for the secondary school context.

As you can see, weeks one and two have been busy and everyone who has posted has "waxed lyrical" about the need for evaluation, and what quality means for eLearning. It is great to see everyone is already familiar with evaluation of some kind and doing something. Good work team!

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