Archive for the 'conted' Category

Using technology to support prospective students

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Aimed at staff responsible for coordinating the marketing of courses and managing student enrolments, this case study draws on the JISC-funded Cascade project’s experience of using technology to support the very first stage of the curriculum delivery process by making it easy for prospective students to find the course they wish to study and, where possible, to enrol and pay for their chosen course(s) online.

The project found that to encourage students to choose your institution, you should:

  • Make finding courses as easy as searching on Google;
  • Provide easily accessible information about all aspects of a course and the institution, and offer answers to common questions about what a course involves, both in pedagogical terms and practical ones;
  • Provide testimonials or case studies of previous students’ experiences of studying your courses;
  • Make enrolling on and paying for a course as easy and straightforward as possible, using online enrolment and payment wherever possible.

Read the full case study at:  Cascade Case Study 3: Using technology to support prospective students.

Piloting VLE support for F2f courses 1 year in

Monday, June 28th, 2010

As part of the Cascade project  one of the things we have been looking at is how to take the best of what we know about supporting our online distance learning students and use it to see how we should use a VLE to support students who are essentially studying face to face courses with the Department.  As part of this we piloted this activity with a few courses in  over the last academic year, including our Undergraduate Diploma in Archaeology and our Psychodynamic counseling Certificate, Diploma and MSc.  We’re still collecting feedback from our students (more on this later) but have finished our initial collection with staff.

Some of the findings have been reasonably predictable – using the VLE to easily contact students (especially during extreme snow) and to share materials are clear winners in the value stakes.  However some are slightly less so.  We have a lot of courses with many different sessional teachers, and while we did a good job at explaining Moodle to our core staff, piloting partners and students we did a less good job of engaging with these stakeholders, who often remained confused or oblivious about what Moodle was for and how they could use it.

So a new task for the summer to develop materials for this group.

OxTALENT Awards 2010

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Yesterday evening some of the TALL team attended the University’s annual OxTALENT awards ceremony and would like to convey our congratulations to Melissa Highton and her team at the Learning Technologies Group, who organised the event, and to all the winners of this year’s awards.

The OxTALENT awards are an annual competition celebrating the innovative use of IT in teaching and learning by academic staff and students at the University of Oxford. This year’s categories included:

1. Use of the University’s VLE to support a course or programme of study
2. Academic podcasting
3. Student podcasting
4. Student projects
5. Research project posters
6. Digital images
7. Use of technology in learning spaces

The awards opened with a welcome from Dr Stuart Lee, Director of the University’s Computing Services, and a fascinating presentation by Dr Chris Lintott on his Galaxy Zoo project, which is using the power of the public and the web to categorise hundreds of thousands of digital images drawn from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope archive.

It was also great to see the showcase of interesting projects taking place around the University including examples of innovative use of the VLE in both the sciences and humanities; a new media player, Belooga Media, which won the student project category; a classroom based voting system, which won the technology in learning spaces category; and not forgetting the smiling frog that won the digital image award!

The final award to be presented was the academic podcasting award, which was won by Dr Emma Smith for her very popular “Not Shakespeare” podcating series (which is available from the University of Oxford’s iTunes U site). Emma has also recently worked with the team at Continuing Education to develop a new ten-week online course on Shakespeare which includes part of the “Not Shakespeare” podcating series as an open educational resource.

Further information is available from the OxTALENT website.

Course launches

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Once again we are in the middle of our course launch period with nearly 40 courses launching over the next few weeks.  Our new courses for this term are Shakespeare, Globalization (which I blogged about here a few weeks ago) and Writing Drama.  these are all currently sold out but there are still places on English Poetry of the First World War, Philosophy of Religion, and Pompeii and the Cities of the Roman Empire among others.  To see the full list of available courses visit our online courses website.

There is also always next term, when our new courses will include Greek mythology, Henry VIII and Ethics.

Online course launches

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

It is that time of year again when we embark on our online course launches for another term.  We are offering 31 courses this term including our new courses in Literary theory and History of medicine, many are full, but there are still places on a lot – so if you would enjoy some intellectual stimulation in over the next couple of months and are interested in Archaeology, Art History, English literature, Creative Writing, History, or Philosophy do take a look at what is available.

Open Educational Resources at Continuing Education

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Among our other record breaking recruitment this term we have also launched the Ancestral Voices course developed as part of the Mosaic project for the 3rd time, with the largest cohort yet – in fact our maximum of 32 students.

I am sure this is not statistically significant, but for us it is our first example of freely available content, and students who are still prepared to pay for the full tutored learning experience.   Definitely a good sign for persuading the Department to do more with OERs.

Hurrah for repeat students

Monday, October 5th, 2009

We know we have always had a loyal following of students at the Department for Continuing Education, but what has been especially gratifying in recent years is to see this developing online.  On a purely commercial basis it is great, with about 30% of our students returnees each term it helps our recruitment, but as someone interested in  learning design there are a lot more plus points that this.  It is great to know we are creating something they like – our course designs work, but more importantly we have a group of students who have bought into this way of learning.

This is more significant then it might seem – our students are only a minority internet “residents” the majority are at best “visitors” (see our isthmus work on this) in addition we know they value traditional ideas of teaching and learning – when asked, they want an expert to teach them the course.

This means that online study based around a model of learning through activities, exploration and discussion, as much with each other as tutors, may make for good elearning, but does not meet their expressed preferences and is not  in their comfort zone. Yet it is working and it is our students who make it work.

Our repeast students are improving the experience of study for the whole cohort, by modelling the sort of behaviour that make these courses work best.  They want to discuss, they are happy to contribute (admitted some a bit too much!) and are prepared to support each other.  It is great to go into a course in the first few days and see new students being supported as much by thier peers as the tutor – and it makes our lives easier.

I do feel very strongly that you cannot expect all students to contribute all of the time (being a lurker is not intriscily bad) but this sort of learning does not work unless enough students are happy to join in – so it is great to know that you can rely on our repeat students as much as our expert tutors, wonderful academic authors, and excellent course design, to make courses that work.

Record breaking online student numbers

Monday, October 5th, 2009

This term we have  a record breaking 1000+ students taking our online courses.   This is especially good in the face of the current economic climate, and  may be a consequence of it.  However I also think it is a great testament to the quality of our courses and the work of everyone in the Department and TALL.

It is  particularly  gratifying to see the high number of returning students, clearly a lot of people are having a good experience on  these courses, and one which they want to repeat.

We are taking enrollments for January already and will be offering two new courses, Literary Theory and our first ever 5 week course, Introduction to the History of Medicine, with new courses in creative writing, economics, literature, philosophy and history coming later in 2010.

Attitudes to online assignment handling

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

As part of Cascade we are updating our online assignment handling system.  Currently the vast majority of assignments in the department are handled in hard copy, so that making this service available more widely will be a big change for many of our students, administrators and academics if they use it.

In our relatively informal consultations up to this point we have encountered widely differing reactions to the prospect of moving this online, both negative and positive and we are now moving forward with a more systematic survey in this area. As part of this we are trying to come up with a list of  attitudes which stakeholders can indicate agreement with or not – we started out with about 5 statements each for academics and students but since consulting a bit more are now up to well over 10 for each.

 Academic statements

  1. Many of my students hand write assignments
  2. I would be technically confident handling assignments online
  3. I am confident that online assignment handling is secure
  4. I do not want to spend more time at a screen
  5. I think that online assignment submission would speed up the marking process
  6. I would welcome being able to use plagiarism detection software
  7. I am worried about having to remember more passwords
  8. I think typing feedback will take longer than writing it by hand
  9. I am worried about students submitting assignments in file types I cannot read
  10. I do not want to have to print out assignments
  11. I am worried about having a good enough computer to deal with marking assignments online
  12. In my subject it is difficult produce electronic assignments e.g. maths notation or Cyrillic script
  13. I am worried that online submission will make it easier to plagiarise
  14. I think online assignment submission will be more stressful for student

Student statements

  1. I currently hand write my assignments
  2. I would be confident about the security of submitting my assignments online
  3. I have the technical skills to submit an assignment online
  4. If I submitted an assignment online, I would like to receive confirmation of receipt by email
  5. I would welcome the additional time the option of online submission would offer in meeting a deadline
  6. I would be happy to receive my work back electronically
  7. I think that online assignment submission would speed up turnaround of my assignments
  8. I prefer handwritten comments on my assignment
  9. I find typed feedback easier to read
  10. I currently submit my assignments by hand
  11. I currently submit my assignments by post

We are hopeful we have captured the most common attitudes, but it is hard to balance the positive and negative and there is always the worry that this will draw attention to points of view that would have never have occurred to our stakeholders if we had not brought it up.  If anyone has any experience in this area and can suggest anything they found useful it would be great to hear from you.

Technology and task

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

After talking to individuals in the department over several months we finally arranged our first wide scale events open to all departmental staff.

To try and move away from suggesting how we thought they might use technology and  to keep the focus on what they would really find useful, we started by asking them to identify challenges around specific tasks and only then moved onto thinking about using technology to support these. These were mapped against a matrix of “things you want to do” versus “things you have to do” and “student’s pastoral/administrative experience” to “students academic experience”.  In a couple of the groups we worked with there was a diagonal sweep (see below)

Technology and Task

with required tasks more on the administrative side and aspirational tasks more academic, as might be expected, but others were far more mixed.  As has been a continuous theme in this project an overwhelming impression was how much we do as a department. More specifically it proved a useful addition to our attempts to rein in the scope of the project from its original, far too broad starting point to the more manageable place that we find ourselves today.