OU Conf: Karen Kear and John Woodthorpe

Piloting VLE Communication tools in a Level 1 course

T175 Networked Living – piloted VLE tools by nine ALs, involved them as investigators. Feb-Oct 2007.  111 students.

Evaluated wikis and blogs – mostly wikis as venue for online tutorials versus FirstClas – alternative offered for a couple of online tutorials (Block 3 and some Block 4).  Also VLE blog versus online learning journal. Online questionnaire to students at end of course.

54 responses = 49% rate.

(Ooh, Twitter has just gone down. Patrick sitting next to me says he’s collecting failures. !)

Demographics – mostly 21-30 and 31-40 males, typical of the course.  5% on dialup, half on slow broadband (<1Mbps).  FirstClass – 48% use client, 11% use web, 41% use both.

Block 3 online tutorials – 52 offered VLE, 44 used it; Block 4 – 41 offtered, 23 used.  Drop off in use.

Enjoyed using it – 73%/56% Block 3/4.  Irritated when others edited work 16%/17%.  Unhappy about editing others’ work 30%/9%.  Prefer firstClass 52%/52%.  VLE tools difficult to use 50%/43%.  Interesting that irritation at others editing you doesn’t drop off but being unhappy about doing it does.

Usability of wiki vs FirstClass – wiki is generally worse, because new? Or other things.

Usability of blog vs FirstClass – blog a bit worse, but not used much, most saying ‘Not sure’.

(Possibly because it’s new)

Qual data – it’s a good idea, usability problems, social discomfort – it was too open (not restricted to student group), but makes it “easy to collaborate jointly on documents which has always been a bit of a logistical nightmare”

Further requirements – students want to know when a new contribution had been added, and who had viewed contributions (FirstClass functionality they didn’t want to lose).

Blog – students interested, but didn’t think suitable for learning journals – because of privacy and access.  Want control of access if it’s a learning journal.

Conclusions “The students enjoyed it”  (fab finding).  Usability problems, half of them preferred FirstClass.  Students concerned about access, privacy, editing others’ work, having others edit their own work.

BUT remember that online tutorials were designed for FirstClass, and the students were already very familiar with FirstClass.

JohnP – How far wikis pull students’ attention away from FirstClass?

Karen – they were using one or the other here.

ChrisP – not surprising, did similar on PROWE project – concern about the etiquette of editing.  Think back to preparing students to use FirstClass, we used to have a whole guide to this sort of stuff – students worried about publishing their thoughts in a permanent state.  Did you provide guidance as part of prep?

Karen – No, it was new to CT and ALs and students.

John – We did have a training day.  Plenty online about wiki etiquette.  Decided not to bring those in but see how they worked without the foundation we give them in the conferences.  In light of experience – give guidance, particular entry doesn’t belong to one person – e.g. ‘this is my page’ – edit it and I’ll edit yours in revenge (!). But better to get them to contribute a phrase to each page, which would’ve established the pattern of permissions, rather than encouraging ownership of a page, which was how the activity was structured.

AL – If I enter a page today, but there had been alterations between yesterday, or can I see what’s in between?

Niall – Yes you can.  VLE tools have been upgraded since then.

Karen – You get History tab and you can see the difference between one thing and the next.  Tutors would have to to see what’s gone on.

ChrisP – tutors can see what’s gone on.

Niall says he didn’t nod off so that’s good.

Author: dougclow

Data scientist, tutxor, project leader, researcher, analyst, teacher, developer, educational technologist, online learning expert, and manager. I particularly enjoy rapidly appraising new-to-me contexts, and mediating between highly technical specialisms and others, from ordinary users to senior management. After 20 years at the OU as an academic, I am now a self-employed consultant, building on my skills and experience in working with people, technology, data science, and artificial intelligence, in a wide range of contexts and industries.

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