Category Archives: elearning

Thoughts on: Teaching online (in Teaching thinking: Beliefs and knowledge in Higher Education) (Goodyear, P. 2002)

Writing about work by your supervisor feels a little strange but, as adults and scholars, it really shouldn’t. Obviously there is a power dynamic and a question for me of what to do if I disagree with him. Putting aside the matter that Peter Goodyear has worked and researched in this field forever and is highly regarded internationally while I am essentially a neophyte, I’m almost certain that his worst reaction would be the slightest brow-crinkling and a kindly, interested “ok, so tell me why”. He even made the point that the research may now be dated but it could be worth following the citation trail. Fortunately none of this is an issue because, as you’d hope from your supervisor, it’s pretty great and there is much to draw from it.

In summary, this chapter focuses on understanding what and how teachers think when they are teaching online. Sadly perhaps, little has changed in the nature of online teaching in the 14 years since this was written – the online teaching activities described are largely related to students reading papers and participating in discussions on forums. This gives the chapter a degree of currency in terms of the technology (although a few questions emerged for me in terms of the impact of social media) and I imagine that little has changed in teacher thought processes in this time related to assessing and trying to engage students online.

In some ways it’s the methodology used in the study that is the most exciting part of this – it steers away from the sometimes problematic reliance on transcript analysis used often (at the time?) in research on online learning and makes more use of the opportunities for observation. Observing a teacher reading, processing and replying to discussion forum posts offers opportunities for insight into their thoughts that a far richer than one might get in observing face to face teaching. By using a combination of concurrent and retrospective verbalisation and interview, a rich picture emerges.

Concurrent verbalisation involves getting the tutor to keep up a kind of stream of consciousness dialogue as they work on the discussion posts, with the researcher prompting them if they fall silent for more than 10 seconds. This can prove difficult for the teacher at times as they need to stop speaking at times to concentrate on the replies that they write but a balance is generally found. The session is also videotaped and the researcher and teacher watch it back together, (‘stimulated recall’),  which gives the teacher the opportunity to discuss what they were thinking in the quiet moments as well as enabling them to expand on their recorded comments. In terms of understanding the things that are important to teachers and how they work with the students, I find this method really exciting. I’m not at all sure how or if it will align with my own research when I come to it but this rich insight seems invaluable.

The author opens the chapter by thoroughly going through the motivations for researching teaching – ranging from an abstracted interest in it as a good area for study to a more action research oriented focus on improving specific aspects of teaching practice. He explores the existing literature in the field – particularly in relation to online learning and finds that (at the time) there were a number of significant gaps in research relating to practice and he proceeds to set out six high level research questions relating to online teaching. It seems worthwhile sharing them here

  1. What are the essential characteristics of online teaching? What tasks are met? What actions need to be taken? Are there distinct task genres that further differentiate the space of online teaching?

  2. How do these practices and task genres vary across different educational settings (e.g between disciplines, or in undergraduate vs postgraduate teaching, or in campus based vs distance learning) and across individuals?

  3. For each significant kind of online teaching, what knowledge resources are drawn upon by effective teachers? How can we understand and represent the cognitive and other resources and processes implicated in their teaching?

  4. How do novice online teachers differ from expert and experienced online teachers? How do they make the transition? How does their thinking change? How does the knowledge on which they draw change? How closely does this resemble ‘the knowledge growth in teaching’ about which we know from studies of teaching in other, more conventional, areas?…

  5. What do teachers say about their experiences of online learning? How do they account for their intentions and actions? How do their accounts situation action in relation to hierarchies of belief about teaching and learning (generally) and about teaching and learning online?

  6. How do learners’ activities and learning outcomes interact with teaching actions? (p.86)

Skipping forward, Goodyear conducted the research with a number of teachers working online and identified several key factors that shape what and how teachers teach online. The focus of their attention – is it on the student, the content, how well the subject is going, whether students are learning, the technology, how students will respond to their feedback etc – can vary wildly from moment to moment. Their knowledge of their students – particularly when they might never meet them in person – can shape the nuance and personalisation of their communications. This also ties to “presentation of self” – also known as presence – which is equally important in forming effective online relationships. Understanding of online pedagogy and attitudes towards it are unsurprisingly a big factor in success in teaching online and this also impacts on their ability to manage communication and conflict in an online space, where normal behaviours can change due to perceived distance.

There were a lot of other noteworthy ideas in this chapter that are worth including here and it also sparked a few of my own ideas that went off on something of a tangent.

Those who foresee an easy substitution of teaching methods too frequently misunderstand the function or underestimate the complexity of that which they would see replaced (p.80)

Teaching is not an undifferentiated activity. What is involved in giving a lecture to 500 students is different from what is involved in a one-to-one, face-to-face, tutorial. Also, interactive, face-to-face, or what might be called ‘live’ teaching is different from (say) planning a course, giving feedback on an essay, designing some learning materials, or reflecting on end-of-course student evaluation reports. (James Calderhead structures his 1996 review of teachers’ cognitions in terms of ‘pre-active’, ‘interactive’ and ‘post-active reflection’ phases to help distinguish the cognitive demands of ‘live’ teaching from its prior preparation and from reflection after the event) (p.82)

The affordances of the user interface are an important factor in understand how online tutors do what they do. This is not simply because online tutors need to understand the (relatively simple) technical procedures involved in searching, reading and writing contributions. Rather the interface helps structure the tutors’ tasks and also takes some of the cognitive load off the tutor (P.87)

Studies of ‘live’ classroom teaching in schools have tended towards the conclusion that conscious decision-making is relatively rare – much of what happens is through the following of well-tested routines (Calderhead, 1984). While swift routine action can be found in online tutoring, its curiously asynchronous nature does allow more considered problem solving to take place (p.97)

Many of these ideas crystallise thoughts that I’ve come to over recent years and which I’ve shared with Peter in our supervision meetings. I’m going to choose to believe that his inner voice is saying at these points, ‘good, you’re on track’ rather than ‘well, obviously and I wrote about this a decade and a half ago’. This is why we go with this apprenticeship model I guess.

As for the other random thought that emerged from reading this paper was that as we get more comfortable with using video and asking/allowing students to submit videos as assessments, we’ll need new ways to ‘read’ videos. Clearly these will already exist in the scholarhood but they may not be as widely known as we need.

Doing nothing in the early days of a PhD

Well that’s not entirely true but I have been knocked around a little over the last two weeks with a cold/chest thing and my reading & writing have certainly slipped down the priority list. That’s the sucky thing about being sick – you’d think, great, time at home to just rest up and get stuck into some reading but you really just don’t feel like doing much more than staring and lying down. And coughing, so much coughing.

I have managed to engage in what might be considered productive procrastination – the fiddling around the edges of work and particularly preparation. Working on to-do lists, going to workshops (on searching catalogues and library databases), meeting my supervisor Lina, installing software everywhere that I might use it and clearing out folders (physical and digital).

I even embarked on a large scale but highly relevant project at work to review how we (professional staff – ed designers, learning technologists, IT support people etc) are currently working with Ed Tech at the university and how we might do things better. As you can imagine, this is of crazily large scope (much like my research questions at present) and could so easily be dragged down a thousand side-tracks. Keeping the first meeting focused on what questions we need to be asking (rather than what solutions we can find) proved to be hard work but we got there in the end. One thing about solutions is that everyone loves having ideas but there is often a sense of “someone – not me – should definitely do this brilliant thing that I just thought of”. My focus here is going to have to be on ensuring that action items for any of these things get attached to specific people.

We did make some progress though and came up with some key questions and issues and there was a lot of goodwill in the room.

screenshot of padlet with key issues

In many ways, these are the same issues that I’m considering for my thesis. (Did I mention that I’m doing a PhD? I’m starting to feel like I bang on about that a little too much). I’m also starting to feel as though I may be able to dig deeper into the role of educational support staff in higher education, particularly after reading a major report funded by the OLT (Office of Learning and Teaching) which seems to have overlooked us entirely. (I’ll post more about this report soon, as there’s a lot of interest to discuss).

My hope is – in addition to being able to spark a meaningful improvement process at work – that these discussions will help me to focus my research. (And also that my research might help to focus the project – win/win really)

We have flagged the need to look at the language used in this field, which I know full well will be a hellish quagmire but it’s still a discussion that is needed. (If there is one thing that people in academia like, it is a robust discussion about words. See also, being right.) (I tease but only because I know that I’m as guilty as the next person)

It did surprise me though, how much the term “technology enabled learning” grated on me as I read the report – I’ve been using “technology enhanced learning and teaching”. (But really, “enabled”? – as though learners can’t learn without the tech?). We have a ways to go I think.

So I’m doing things but deep down I know that I need to be reading a lot more. And reading better as well – some good advice that I’ve had this week is that I don’t have to read these books cover to cover. I still have a little FOMO there but feel that this will pass.

Try-a-tool challenge Week 3 – LessonPaths and Blendspace

This challenge is about a couple more content curation tools – LessonPaths and Blendspace.

On first glance they don’t seem as rich or interactive as Ted.Ed but I’ll see what I’m able to put together with them.

Here is the explanatory video from about LessonPaths

In practice, LessonPaths was simple enough to use but not educationally inspiring. It lets you create – or rather curate – a playlist of online resources including weblinks, your own documents, your own created HTML pages and a basic true/false or multichoice quiz.

The weblinks embed in the tool (which I thought was frowned up on web design terms), the documents are also embedded but sit quite nicely, the HTML editor is basic, allowing text and images and the quiz has a nice interface but only provides the most basic of feedback (and no option for custom feedback)

There is an option provided to embed the lesson elsewhere but this just provides a sliderbox with links to each section that open a new window in the LessonPaths site.

In fairness, LessonPaths seems targeted more at a primary school level user and I’m looking at this from a higher ed perspective. While it is easy enough to use and visually acceptable, I don’t think it offers a particularly rich learning experience.

The lesson that I created can be found at

This is the Blendspace overview from

Blendspace appears to come from more educationally minded developers – they are mindful of grading and tracking student progress and provide options to search a range of education focused sites in the tool. Ultimately it is still a content curation tool.

It does have some other nice features including the ability to add HTML source code to the webpages you can create (I was able to embed the LessonPaths lesson that I just created to one section), you can link your Dropbox and Google Drives to the tool making it easy to import content from there and Blendspace also provides a browser plugin that enables you to bookmark URLs directly to your Blendspace account. You can also search Flickr, Educreations and Gooru (not familiar with the last two) directly from the tool.

The interface is elegantly simple and very drag-and-drop oriented.

Users can create accounts either as teachers or students and teachers can generate course codes so that student progress (comments and likes/dislikes on resources and answers to quiz questions) can be tracked.

The resource that I created using Blendspace can be found at

As I mentioned, both are relatively simple tools lacking deep interactivity but might be useful in creating more stimulating resource collections than a typical LMS file repository. In terms of understanding and supporting educators, Blendspace is streets ahead of LessonPaths.


Try-a-tool challenge Week 2 –

The last couple of months a little hectic, with wrapping up one job and starting another (I’m now in the College of Business and Economics (CBE) at the Australian National University (ANU)) and so I have some catching up to do with this challenge but I think I’m up to the task. (Even if they are currently on around Week 9?)

This challenge – from the blog – is about using the TedEd tools on the website. (This is the same that hosts the TED talks)

Here is a quick 3 minute overview from  Emerging Ed Tech that sums up the TedEd web tool quite nicely.

In a nutshell though, it’s an easy to use web based tool that enables teachers to create a small lesson driven by a YouTube video that can also include reflection/understanding questions, further resources and a discussion forum.

Students need to register to participate in activities (questions and discussion forum) but this means that the teacher is able to give them feedback and respond to their discussion posts.

The teacher is able to choose which of the Think / Dig Deeper / Discuss / And finally sections to include (the ability to reorder them might be nice but this is a minor quibble) and the whole lesson creation process only took me around 5 minutes.

(You can find the lesson that I created at )

The Think section supports either open answer text or multi-choice questions (up to 15), Dig Deeper offers a basic text editor with support for weblinks and the Discuss forum is simple but cleanly designed and easy to use. It has no text formatting or options for attaching files – however I was able to use HTML tags to format text and add an image. Entering a URL does automatically create a link though, which is nice and there are options to flag or upvote other posts.

TedEd also provides the requisite social media links and lessons can either be set to public or privately listed. (accessible only if you have the direct URL)

All in all this is a very nice, easy to use tool and I could see a range of uses for it. It would be possible to replicate this kind of resource using the existing tools in Moodle however not as simply or cleanly. I would seriously consider having students use it to create their own resources for formative peer-teaching activities in a seminar based approach.

Teaching with Moodle – the Moodle for beginners MOOC

I’ve been using Moodle for 3-4 years now but as a big part of my job is to train our teachers in it, it seemed wise to sign up for the new Teaching with Moodle MOOC being offered by Moodle.

It’s run by Mary Cooch (@moodlefairy) and her deep knowledge of the tool and the pedagogical approaches that work with it are on display from the get go.

This MOOC is aimed at beginner users but I have to admit I still picked up some handy tips – the ability to show one topic/section per page – and there is already a rich bank of posts and questions on the discussion board about user experiences around the world.

Teaching with Moodle only started on Sunday this week so there is plenty of time to get up to speed. I was able to whip through the activities and resources for the week in a bit over an hour. As with all MOOCs, it does suffer from the overwhelming weight of numbers in some of the discussions (1500+ introduction posts) but this is a minor quibble.

screenshot of moodle mooc course

Rejigging professional development training for teachers – Sarah Thorneycroft

Sarah Thorneycroft (@sthcrft) from the University of New England (Australia) often impresses with her thoughtful presentations about dragging academics and teaching staff into the 21st century when it comes to professional development in online teaching and learning.

This paper that she presented at Ascilite 2014 showcases her work in shifting from conventional workshops to webinars and “coffeecourses”. Teachers being teachers, the results were mixed (why can’t we learn about online teaching in a face to face workshop) but the signs are encouraging nonetheless.

The video runs to 19:23 but is well worth checking out.

Designing DDLR – More work on assessment

Now the focus of this project on Designing the Design & Develop Learning Resources course is on pinning down the assessments. J’s assessments for DDLR 3&4 seem strong but I just want to see whether it’s possible to streamline them slightly – largely to allow learners to knock over the analysis (and design) components quickly. (Given that they should presumably have a decent idea what their students are already like and already design resources with this in mind)

After a couple of hours of looking over this, I’m wondering whether it mightn’t have been better to try to write up my own assessment ideas first and then look at J’s for additional inspiration. It’s quite difficult to look past the solid work that has already been done. I’m still mindful of the fact that the amount of documenting and reporting seems a little high and am trying to find ways to reduce this while still ensuring that the learner addresses all of the elements of competency.

One of the bigger hurdles I face with this combined subject is that the elements of the units of competency are similar but not the same. For the analysis and design sections, they match up fairly well, with only mild changes in phrasing but the development, implementation and evaluation components start to differ more significantly. Broadly speaking, both of these units of competency appear to be targeted more at freelance education designers than practicing teachers – the emphasis on talking to the client and checking designs with the client (when the teacher would clearly be their own client) requires some potentially unnecessary busy work for the teacher wanting to be deemed competent here.

I’ve tried to address the differences between the elements of competency by clustering them with loosely matching ones from the other unit of competency in this fairly scrappy looking document. I’ve also highlighted phrases that look more like deliverable items.

document listing elements of competencyThis made it much easier to look over the existing assessment documents and resources to firstly check that all of the elements were addressed and secondly to feel confident that I am sufficiently across what is required in this subject.

Broadly speaking, the existing assessment items cover these elements of competency pretty well, I only needed to add a few extra questions to the design document template to address some aspects that it might be possible for learners to overlook.

These questions are:

  • How does the learning resource address the element or unit of competency?
  • What equipment, time and materials will you need to develop your learning resource?
  • Where will you source content for your learning resource?
  • Who can/will you contact for support in developing your resource?
  • How will you review your work as it progresses?
  • Describe the type of learning design that your learning resource uses

So as it stands, I think I’ll be largely sticking to the existing assessment plan with only a few minor changes. (Largely because my predecessor knows her stuff, which has been tremendously helpful). I am still keen to find ways to address as much of this assessment as possible in class activities – being mindful of the fact that learners may not make every class and there needs to be a certain amount of flexibility.

Overall though – and clearly the dates will need to be changed, this is what the assessments look like.

assessment documentThe next step is to update the subject guide and add my amendments to the existing documents.  I do also need to devise a marking guide for the learning resources themselves – there is something appealing in the idea of having the learners create this as one of their draft resources as the unit of competency document does stretch to define learning resources as including assessment resources too. This seems like a great opportunity to get the learners thinking more critically about what makes a good learning resource.

Designing DDLR & DDeLR – Assessments

Today is all about pinning down the most appropriate types of assessments for this subject. Yesterday I think I got a little caught up in reviewing the principles of good assessment – which was valuable but it might also be better applied to reviewing and refining the ideas that I come up with.

For what it’s worth, these are the notes that I jotted down yesterday that I want to bear in mind with these assessments. DDLR Assessment ideas

Looking over the four versions of this subject that my colleague J has run in the last 2 years has been particularly enlightening – even if I’m not entirely clear on some of the directions taken. The course design changed quite substantially between the second and third iterations – from a heavily class-based activity and assessment focus to more of a project based structure. (For convenience I’ll refer to the subjects as DDLR 1, 2, 3 and 4)

DDLR 1 and 2 provide an incredibly rich resource for learning to use eLearn (our Moodle installation) and each week is heavily structured and scaffolded to guide learners through the process of developing their online courses. The various elements of the units of competency are tightly mapped to corresponding activities and assessment tasks – moreso in DDLR 2. (Image from the DDLR subject guide)

I have to wonder however whether the course provides too much extra information – given the relatively narrow focus on designing and developing learning resources. Getting teachers (the learner cohort for this subject) to learn about creating quizzes and assignments in Moodle is certainly valuable but are these truly learning resources? This may well be one of the points where my approach to this subject diverges.

The shift in approach in DDLR 3 and DDLR 4 is dramatic. (As far as a diploma level course about designing learning resources might be considered dramatic, at least.) The assessments link far more closely to the units of competency and all save the first one are due at the end of the subject. They are far more formally structured – template based analysis of the target audience/learners, design documents, prototypes and finished learning resources, as well as a reflective journal.

It does concern me slightly that this subject has a markedly lower rate of assessment submission/completion that the two preceding ones. That said, this subject is often taken by teachers more interested in the content than in completing the units of competency and that may just have been the nature of this particular cohort.

This new assessment approach also seems far more manageable from a teaching/admin perspective than the previous ones, which required constant grading and checking.

My feeling is that this is a more sustainable approach but I will still look for ways to streamline the amount of work that is required to be submitted.

The next step was to map the various elements of competency to assessment items. The elements for both units of competency are written differently enough to need to be considered separately (unfortunately) but they both still broadly sit within the ADDIE (Analyse, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate) framework. ADDIE seems like a useful way to structure both the course and the assessments so I have mapped the elements to this. I have also highlighted particular elements that are more indicative of outputs that might be assessed. Working through the analysis process will be quite dry (and could potentially come across as slightly patronising) so finding an engaging approach to this will be important.

Photo of elements of competency mapped to ADDIE elements (I’m also quite keen to bring digital badges into this process somehow, though that’s a lower priority at the moment)

Finally, I had a few ideas come to me as I worked through this process today that I might just add without further comment.

DDLR / DDeLR ideas

Get the class to design and develop a (print based? ) checklist / questionnaire resource that might be used to address DDLR 1 and DDeLR 1 UoCs. Get someone else in the class to use it to complete their Analysis phase.

Can I provide a range of options for the forms the assessment/resource pieces might take?

Try to develop a comprehensive checklist that teachers can use on the resources that they produce to raise the quality overall of resources at CIT. (Again, this could be a student led tool – the benefit of this is that it makes them think much more about what a good resource requires – does this meet any UoCs??)

Convert the print based Analysis document into a web resource – book tool or checklist maybe? Also possibly fix the print based one first – from a deliberately badly designed faulty version. (Lets me cover some readability / usability concepts early)

How much of this subject is leading the learners by the hand? How much is about teaching them how to use eLearn tools?

Could one of the learning resources be about developing something that teaches people how to use a particular eLearn tool???

Need to identify what kinds of resources teachers can make. Good brainstorm activity in week 1.

Think about the difference between creating a learning resource and finding one and adding it to your course. (Still important but tied to the UoC?)

If I give teachers the option to use previously developed resources (authenticity issues??), they should still provide some kind of explanatory document AND/OR edit the resource and discuss what changes they made and why.

Need to consider the relative strengths and weaknesses of the various types of tools.

In-class feedback of learning resources to better support the evaluation and implementation based elements of competency.

One activity (possible assessment) could be for learners to gather information needed to do an analysis from a partner in the group. (and vice versa) Might lead to a more critical examination of what information is being sought. Learner might even provide suggestions for design/development?

Sample resources?




Designing DDLR and DDeLR – a live blog

In three weeks time (Friday 17/10) I’ll start teaching the Design and Develop Learning Resources (DDLR) and Design and Develop eLearning Resources (DDeLR) subjects for the Diploma of Vocational Education and Training. (Dip VET)

It’s been ten years since I last taught a formal subject. (But I’ve run a bucket-load of workshops and provided a lot of 1-1 training and support in that time)

I thought it might be a useful process to document my process as I continue to design and develop this course over the next three weeks. Obviously I’ve already spent a fair amount of time looking over the units of competency (linked above) – the holy documents within VET that define exactly what a learner needs to be able to demonstrate at the end of the course. These also outline the types of evidence that can be used to demonstrate competency and provide additional information about suggestions about interpreting the elements that make up the units of competency.

(As a side note, I know a number of people in Higher Education – the university sector – that shudder when they hear competency mentioned but it has been interesting to note how frequently it does seem to be coming up in discussions of the future of adult learning lately)

I’ve also spent a decent amount of time looking over the courses designed and delivered by my colleagues and dug down into the approaches that they have taken – as well as having long chats with them and other people on my team. (The logical thing to do would be to just tweak and re-deliver their old course but where’s the fun in that?)

There is also a practical consideration in refreshing my own course design and development skills. I have even toyed with the idea of trying to gamify the entire course but that seems unnecessarily over-ambitious. Maybe next year, when I have a better sense of how this subject runs in a conventional form.

So I started by blocking out exactly what it is that I need to accomplish in these three weeks. (Clearly other things will arise that will take priority but it is currently holidays so I have two weeks – boss free also – to get stuck into things like this with hopefully minimal disturbance) The final week is left free for feedback, editing and contingencies.

Photo 30-09-2014 9 58 30 amAssessment seems the logical place to start as I know what I need to cover, I just need to make sure that the learners provide enough evidence that they know it as well.

As with all good lists, the first item is to make the list. Nice to get a quick win on the board. From there it seemed prudent to revisit the subject I recently took as a student about assessment for some inspiration and that has given me some handy tools and processes that I might have eventually arrived at myself but not nearly as quickly. Once I’ve designed the assessments I think I’ll come back to this to make sure I haven’t missed anything vital.

Ensuring that the assessments are targeted at the appropriate Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) level – 5 in this instance – and that every element of both the units of competency are addressed are the key factors here.

Taking another look at the assessments that the previous teacher of this subject – Jo – designed comes next. She’s run this subject four times now and so has had a good opportunity to refine her assessment tools. Being part of the Education Design and Technology team, we all maintain high quality online courses and Jo has invited me to make use of anything I find in her courses. (Thanks Jo – with four courses and subject guides to pore over, I might be some time)


Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry | Now Enrolling

Now this is a MOOC that I approve of – study seven courses (9 lessons each) at Hogwarts online.

via Delicious (via IFTTT)