Yes, it’s the first of the twice yearly upgrade of iLearn time and I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite features of this upgrade:
1. A word count on forums (while you can’t [yet] set a word limit in the settings of a forum, you can now see how many words a student [or your own] post is).
2. Assignment improvement – show students rubrics BEFORE they submit!
3. Drop and drag onto the main page of the unit directly instead of uploading a file or adding an image into a label
4. Collapsed edit activity forms – what the??
When adding an activity to your iLearn unit, kiss the long, confusing options goodbye. Just remember if you are allocating a mark, to open the Grading section!
The road to an awesome LMS is a long one, an iterative process, you might say. iLearn runs on Moodle and this latest upgrade is to Moodle v2.5. We are always keen to hear your ideas for enhancements, so why not email firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.
For any help with iLearn, please either lodge a OneHelp ticket or email email@example.com
As part of the iLearn upgrade in February, one of the new features is an online collaboration space, aptly called Collaborate!
The use of Collaborate for virtual classrooms was successfully trialled in 2013 as part of LTC’s Faculty Partnership Program in an introductory Chinese language unit. The academic was able to hold a web conference to introduce the objectives and activity for the session, send students in pairs to ‘break out rooms’ to undertake the learning activity, then regroup for a debrief of the activity. These sessions were also recorded and available to students after the live event.
Collaborate allows for real-time, synchronous engagement so there are many possibilities:
Collaboration space for group work
Virtual lab experiments
Guest expert lecture or interview
Authentic role play
Tutoring for external students
Virtual meeting spaces
Virtual consultation hours
Meeting space for academics and their tutors, meeting space for departments, etc
Collaborate tools include:
Engagement tools (emoticons, polling, hand raising to ask questions)
Communication tools (microphone, chat, application sharing)
So now you’re hooked and want to know more? Sit tight and stay tuned, more details will be posted when available for use but if you’re as keen as mustard, lodge a OneHelp ticket expressing your interest in using Collaborate.
Dr Michael Cavanagh and A/Prof Joanne Mulligan from the School of Education have been working with a team from the LTC on redesigning EDUC258 Mathematics in Schools for Session 3, an experience which Michael says has ‘changed my perception of the potential benefits of online delivery for students’.
A Session 3 timeframe means the weekly topics are compressed from 13 weeks down to 5 online modules in iLearn, complemented by a reduced number of face-to-face sessions. The unit will introduce students to some fundamental ideas about the learning and teaching of mathematics in schools. According to Michael, ‘the biggest challenge has been to identify the key concepts and skills for students to learn about in the unit. My colleagues and I decided that it was more important for students to think deeply about what they were learning and have sustained opportunities to reflect on their growing understanding of the unit content, so we wanted to allow time for that to occur. That meant cutting back on some content, but I think the end result will lead to significant student learning.’
In order to accommodate the compressed timeframe, the unit also employs quite a bit of video, including short ‘talking head’ videos where teaching staff describe some of the key concepts, as well as panel discussions. With maintaining student engagement a high priority in the online space, the unit also includes a video of a past student giving tips on how to engage online. The LTC team have also helped to create a ‘teacher voice’ in the online space that guides the students on how they should work through the online materials. Photos of the teaching staff are displayed within the activities in iLearn.
The idea of a learning community underpins the unit, with students expected to take an active role in their own learning and share a greater responsibility for their progress. Michael says that in the new online design, ‘there are many more opportunities for students to engage with the ideas, share their thinking to enrich their own learning and that of their peers, and to reflect on how their new knowledge is supporting their development as teachers. It’s my hope that by participating in the online activities and thinking about the ideas students will find the subsequent on-campus sessions more beneficial.’
EDUC258 will be run this year in Session 3, and an in-depth evaluation will be undertaken via TEDS surveys and focus groups. Looking further ahead, Michael says, ‘I hope that we can incorporate the underlying design principles that have guided the redevelopment of the unit and many of the learning and teaching activities into the Session 1 offering of the unit.’
‘For me, the project has been a great opportunity to work with LTC staff who are experts in learning design. Their ideas and practical support have really helped me to reflect on how to maximise learning opportunities for students in an online environment.’
Pre-recorded lectures can be really beneficial for students, and are easy to create from your office just using your webcam. Our Educational Design team offer some straightforward ways to make sure the benefits aren’t negated by poor production.
Be prepared. Have a solid plan and a script, and rehearse before you switch on the camera
Think of the camera as your students. Look at the camera when you’re speaking to ensure an engaging eyeline.
Good sound quality is almost more important than image quality for videos that convey information. Ensure background noise is kept to a minimum and your webcam microphone is correctly set up. If possible, use an external USB microphone or similar.
Keep it short and punchy to ensure your audience doesn’t switch off
Ensure there is adequate light shining on your face. Light from behind the computer is better than overhead lighting or a window behind you.
De-clutter the background.
Be confident. Projecting a confident attitude on camera is a big step towards star quality.