Monday, September 20, 2010

The ideal VLE

Reluctantly, I was tried to form an answer to the question of what would make up the ideal Virtual Learning Environment... I usually maintain that point 1 is the most important in the following list:
  1. Do a good job of handling programme/cohort/group affiliations and keep those affiliations while handing students over into groups within 3rd party tools like Grademark and Questionmark Perception.
  2. Integrate with GradeMark and QuestionmarkPerception
  3. Allow easy and quick organisation of content (I spend half my day waiting for the browser to refresh)
  4. Allow easy dissemination of information - via announcements and bulk email
  5. Allow interaction, perhaps via discussion list, blog, wiki-type activity, with reasonably fine-grained permissions
  6. Allow embedding video, and various other media... like this (cue attractive picture to liven things up a bit):
    Well - some of that sounds a bit like what we have already... But it might be worth thinking, no, lets not do the VLE thing (toolbox of generic technologies for organising learning and assessment). Let's think how something like an enterprise wiki could play to it's strengths and work powerfully for promoting connections and networked learning...
    1. Where collaborative authoring is required as part of the activity, the wiki could show me, and other readers, what a person has done very easilly and transparently on a page. One of the things that happens with wikis is that people lose ownership of what they've done in the wiki which is a dissincentive for them to engage with it. In our present wiki tool (campuspack), clicking on the person's name in the list of page authors just takes me to their profile. I want to click on it and see their contribution highlighted, and possibly even award them marks for that there and then... see next point...
    2. I would like to be able to allow easy, on the fly, recording and reporting of my and others' assessment of what they've done, indicating their opinion, along a series of criteria and levels of performance - perhaps a pop-up box that I could define. This would break with the notion of single points of assessment, and therefore learning for that assessment alone, as students would be contributing and being rewarded for their ongoing activity.
    3. Assessment of networked learning activity. Whether we like it or not, assessment drives everything in Higher Education. Students are unlikely to share without some incentive linked to their final assessment. For networked learning, how can I monitor what each person has done in terms of contributing to everyone's learning. This could be based on stats for access, usage, and other's usage and opinions of what I, the student, have done. For example, if I share a hyperlink through my blog to a resource I get a mark, if someone clicks on it I get a mark, if someone indicates they find what I did useful, that gets a mark for both of us, if someone includes a link to my blog post, that gets a mark, and so on... Over a period of years, this could build into quite a large amount of 'marks', a powerful evidence-base upon which to evaluate someone's performance as a collaborator/sharer/team-player. This would be a way to reward the individual for work done in support of others... always a tricky matter for assessment. Hopefully the fine-grained rewards would assure participants that each and every contribution was counting for something.
    I am certain that none of this is particularly unique; the first two occurred to me after a conversation recently and the latter one came up in conversation a while back as becomming possible. These ideas may also not stand up to scrutiny, especially in the environments where they have to be enacted! But that's part of what this blog is all about...

    Where to put this wiki...

    Students are working in groups to produce a page of evaluated links to resources around a certain topic in healthcare. Where do I put the wiki?
    In their own VLE module? Sadly, this limits the audience and thus the students' awareness of that audience.
    In their programme-level VLE module where all students on their programme can access it? As this task is run twice a year, it's soon going to get hard to navigate and muggins is going to have to maintain it. At least building one per cohort keeps it manageable with no overhead of maintaining it.
    Somewhere all of our students can see it? This would mean farming them out to a different wiki-space not normally associated with learning and teaching.... politically sensitive! Plus the need to do all the 'gardening' implied in '2' above.
    Sigh - looks like I stay with option one. It's, as ever, a trade-off between wanting to do the right thing educationally and yet keep it manageable...