Andi Sudjana Putra

Open Networked Learning

Lessons Learnt and Future Practice (Topic 5)

Throughout the past four topics, I have journeyed from personal digital identity to online community in the context of education. As I was journeying from one topic to another, a few questions came to mind and now I have a chance to formulate them. I particularly put a lot of thoughts on these questions:

Does one need to have a good digital presence before participating in online learning communities? For instance, do I need to have a good digital identity (Beetham & Sharpe, 2010) before joining an online community? Must I first know how to twitter, blog, do online sketch and so on? Is having an email account not sufficient?

The background to those questions is that there are a lot of online tools available and a lot more are sprouting soon. Our students will use tools that we have not even heard today. The effort of mastering these soon-to-be-available tools is significant. First, one needs to be aware of these tools (which, again, may not even exist now). Two, one then needs to learn how to use them. Third, one then needs to design how to use these tools in the context of learning. Instructors must strategise.

After looking at various frameworks like the 5-stage model (Salmon, n.d.) and the Community of Inquiry (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000; Rienties & Rivers, 2014), I analogise* tools to online learning as languages are to communication. Knowing more tools are certainly more beneficial than knowing fewer tools; just as knowing more languages will make one better in outreaching to more listeners. However, a language is not the same as communication; the ability to speak many languages is not an indication of the ability to communicate. Likewise, the ability to use many online tools does not necessarily indicate good design of online learning. It is imperative to know at least a tool to design a meaningful online learning, but it is more imperative to apply well-tested frameworks of online learning to really help students to have a meaningful online learning experience.

As I shared in my Topic 4 Blog, I plan to make a conscious effort to scaffold the Emotional Presence of students in my modules, especially now that online avenues are used very extensively. This is one “presence” that I just came to know through ONL and has a lot of potential for improvement. The other “presence” that I plan to help my students is the Social Presence by addressing the long-standing issue of participation asymmetry (Capdeferro & Romero, 2012).

I think these are two steps that I can try out soon and hope to measure its impact.

 

*I shared this analogy in one of PBL10 group meetings. Thanks to my group mates for their inspiration.

 

References:

Beetham, & Sharpe. (2010). Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20141011224212/http:/jiscdesignstudio.pbworks.com/w/page/46740204/Digital%20literacy%20framework

Salmon, G. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html

Garrison, D., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical Inquiry in a Text-based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education. The Internet and Higher Education, 88.

Rienties, B., & Rivers, B. (2014). Measuring and Understanding Learner Emotions: Evidence and Prospects. Learning Analytics Community Exchange.

Capdeferro, N., & Romero, N. (2012). Are Online Learners Frustrated with Collaborative Learning Experiences? International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(2), 26-44.

 

Design for Blended Learning (Topic 4)

Although I have heard about blended learning (Cleveland-Innes & Wilton, 2018) for some years now, I have not been enthusiastic in applying it. To be clear, I value the benefit of using online platform to enhance learning. I have been practicing it, too. I have put my teaching materials online, I have posted the learning schedule of my modules online, and I consciously make connection between the information that I put online and the teaching delivery that I conduct face-to-face. Having said all this, I am also mindful (and ponder) that shifting teaching materials into an online platform may not automatically earn me a badge in blended learning.

Following ONL webinar and discussions on “Design for Online and Blended Learning”, I came to know the 5-stage model for online learning to be successful (Salmon, n.d.). This has not only validated my earlier thinking that blended learning is much more than going online but has also provided me with a framework and realisation that there is a lot more for me to do if I am to design my modules in a blended learning approach.

Reflecting on how I have started my module preparation using online platform and referencing to the 5-stage model, I have spent a lot of effort in “Access” but not on “Motivation”. The module preparation in the 5-stage model, which is Stage 1 “Access and Motivation”, has called for interaction with students by welcoming and encouraging them. The motivating part, where instructors facilitate the creation of emotional presence in learners, is something that I have mostly left to the students and facilitated by checking how students are rather than actively encouraging them.

The presence of emotion in learning has been discussed in the Community of Inquiry framework, too, which I recently came across (Rienties & Rivers, 2014). Emotional Presence is in addition to the Social, Teaching and Cognitive Presence that have been established in the earlier model (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000).

Moving forward, I am studying this research-based model and look at enlarging the support that I can give to students in terms of Emotional Presence. I am balancing the need to support students and to let them be independent learners. This is not any more different than how instructors have traditionally been supporting students, but I suppose require more deliberate effort especially if instructors are not trained in providing one.

There is a difference between blended learning and emergency remote teaching (Hodges, Moore, Lockee, Trust, & Bond, 2020). Providing Emotional Presence may well be one of the key differences between the two.

 

References:

Hodges, C., Moore, S., Lockee, B., Trust, T., & Bond, M. (2020). The Difference between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning.

Cleveland-Innes, M., & Wilton, D. (2018). Guide to Blended Learning. Burnaby, British Columbia: Commonwealth of Learning.

Salmon, G. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html

Rienties, B., & Rivers, B. (2014). Measuring and Understanding Learner Emotions: Evidence and Prospects. Learning Analytics Community Exchange.

Garrison, D., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical Inquiry in a Text-based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education. The Internet and Higher Education, 88.

Learning in Communities (Topic 3)

I recently saw a documentary “A Life on Our Planet” narrated by David Attenborough (Hughes, Scholey, & Fothergill, 2020). In it, he put forth a notion that unlike other flora and fauna, humans do not need physical change in their bodies to create changes to the world around them. Humans can do that, but humans can also impart knowledge from one to the next generation so that the next generation can tame the world using the learning of the previous generation.

To me, this is an apt description of the role of education in human’s survival. It also brings out the notion of learning as a community endeavour; for a generation is a community. It is as if the nature and our ancestors are telling us to learn as a community.

At the same time, I am mindful of negative characterisation of learning in a team. There have been times when students, often in confidence, vent their frustration at team members. To be clear, there are students who praise each other in a team. However, one cannot dismiss that there are also dysfunctional teams in learning, which feels unnatural considering the evolutionary description of learning as a community.

The findings of Capdeferro and Romero (2012) qualify and quantify this negative characterisation. In that study, various sources of students’ frustration were investigated. It boils down to one thing: participation asymmetry. Do other team members take more than they share? Do I put in too much effort while other team members do not? It is not unique to learning and certainly not unique to online experience. For me, this phenomenon is another attestation of “The Tragedy of the Commons” (Hardin, 1968).

However, after following reading and discussions on the topic of Learning in Communities in ONL, I revisit this topic and now consider whether that was the only explanation, especially in the context of learning. I now come to think that it is important to understand the level of connection that student wants to operate. The four stages outlined by Siemens (2002) (communication, collaboration, cooperation and community) help to situate where students may want to position themselves in team learning.

It is possible that one student in a team aims for collaboration while the other team member aims for community, hence creating perceived participation asymmetry. This may be more pronounced when learning is assessed. I am quite intrigued if there are studies that examine the issue of learning in communities compounded with assessment. I think that will be very relevant to university.

 

References:

Hughes, J., Scholey, K., & Fothergill, A. (Directors). (2020). David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet [Motion Picture].

Capdeferro, N., & Romero, M. (2012). Are Online Learners Frustrated with Collaborative Learning Experiences? International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(2), 26-44.

Hardin, G. (1968). The Tragedy of the Commons. Science, 62(3859), 1243-1248.

Siemens, G. (2002, October 8). Interaction. E-Learning Course. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/Interaction.htm

Open Education (Topic 2)

I thought that I had been quite open with my teaching materials through my use of personal website and learning management system. In my personal website, I share what I did, e.g. projects, without sharing comprehensively about the content of projects due to confidentiality. In the learning management system set up by the university, I put up my teaching materials and give access to students, including those not in my class.

As I am reading the topic of Open Education in ONL, I have the opportunity to look at resources at Creative Commons, SlideShare and others. Creative Commons, in particular, is a place that I just recently explored. Before this course, although I knew about it, I did not explore. My takeaway is that Creative Commons allows proliferation of materials with proper licensing and gives me avenue if I want to do so.

After reading this topic, I calibrate my understanding about what it means to be open in education and will consider myself not open (at least so far). Now that I have a calibrated my understanding about open education, I ask myself about being open in my teaching. To do this, I’d like to walk through my own teaching. Suppose I want to teach students how to design a wheelchair, what will I do?

First, using the Design Thinking methodology (Brown, 2008), I will teach students about how to gain insights from wheelchair users about their needs. I can share materials to students about the steps to collect information from users. I suppose I can be open about these materials (for example, by putting it up online). However, I am not sure I can be open when it comes to guiding students on how to process information and translating information into insights. Unpacking information requires discussion, questioning and critiquing that I am not sure whether it can be done in an open education environment. This aspect of “experiential learning” requires thinking through.

Second, when it comes to technical design of a wheelchair, elementary knowledge such as load dynamic may be taught using a rather standard approach and hence can be made in an open education environment. I am not sure about subsequent, more advanced concepts like component selection, which requires not only information about load dynamic, but also supply chain, price, alternatives and making judgement call based on these multiple inputs.

I like how Weller (2014) phrase the question: “what sort of open” we want when we talk about open education. I would like to think from this perspective. Referring to Cormier’s (2013) suggestion of what it means to be open in education:

• If open means open entry without entrance requirements, then I will beg to differ. Some subjects require pre-requisite knowledge, which is really important to understand the content.
• If open means transparency, then I think I already embrace this. I have been open about learning objectives, marking schemes and consultation to my students.
• If open means equal opportunity, then I agree with it although I will caution that there are existing barriers, e.g. unequal access to internet. I think I will contribute by not amplifying the existing barriers.
• If open means accessible, then I think I will softly agree. Although I appreciate the intent, there are some operational matters that I think need to be thought through when it comes to “experiential learning” and “advanced concepts”.

References:

Brown, T. (2008). Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, pp. 84-95.

Weller, M. (2014). The Battle for Open: How Openness Won and Why It Doesn’t Feel Like Victory. Ubiquity Press.

Cormier, D. (2013, April 12). What Do You Mean … Open? Dave’s Educational Blog. http://davecormier.com/edblog/2013/04/12/what-do-you-mean-open/.

Digital Literacy (Topic 1)

When I first saw the topic of Digital Literacy, I had thought that the course would be about an overview of the various digital tools for teaching and learning, sharing best practices of using digital tools or hands on experience about using digital tools. As it turns out, the topic is more than just about the tools.

Within the Digital Literacy Framework (Beetham & Sharpe, 2010), we first discussed about our identity (“Who I am”) when it comes to using digital tools. Using the Visitor-Residents-Personal-Institutional axis (White & Le Cornu, 2011), I have found my engagement in the digital space as shown in Figure 1. With the exception of using WhatsApp and Google Docs (to some extent), my personal and institutional space turn out to be largely separated. I reflected on how I have used WhatsApp and Google Docs. I have intentionally set an expectation to my students that WhatsApp is used for urgent matters, like finding where people are when they do not turn up for meeting that is happening. Google Docs is used when other collaborative means, such as MS Teams, are not available as an option. While I have set this expectation intentionally and explicitly for some time, this framework helps me visualising it much more clearly; and has helped me to foster that practice and be more intentional and purposeful as far as taking care of personal and institutional space is concerned.

Figure 1. My space of digital identity

Throughout my group discussion, three key themes have emerged about the use of digital tools for education, i.e. “Online Course”. I attempt to visualize these themes (refer to Figure 2) and have identified them as Clarity, Sequence and Collaboration.

Figure 2. Key themes about online course

Clarity is a key theme that is applicable even when a course is not online but is more pronounced now that almost all courses have some online components. Clarity refers to defining and communicating to all participants about what platforms to use and when one can be expected to respond. Other items may be included in the space of clarity, too.

Sequence refers to what one should do, step-by-step, to achieve smooth online course. The steps go beyond merely ensuring there is no technical glitch, but also to achieve good engagement of learners.

Collaboration refers to the gradation of how learners work with each other. One end of the spectrum is “no collaboration”, where a learner can participate all by himself/herself. One can think of serious games where a learner answers questions to test own understanding. The other end of the spectrum is team-based collaboration where learners have to work together to learn. One can think of team projects done online. The middle of the spectrum consists of various modes where learners can share information without necessarily working together to achieve common goals.

It is refreshing and humbling to learn about the vast ocean of digital tools. One may easily feel overwhelmed by the many digital tools that sprout every now and then. The framework can help to situate those tools and navigate ourselves in the digital space.

Post script: Shout out to my group mates and facilitators in ONL 202 PBL 10!

References:
Developing digital literacies (2014) JISC guide. Available here.
White, D. & Le Cornu, A. (2011) Visitors and residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9). Available here.

Introduction

Welcome to my blog. This is Andi Sudjana Putra, a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Engineering, NUS. You can call me Andi. I am also a resident fellow in PGP House. I teach design for more than 10 years now. In the education space, I’d like to study project-based learning. It is close to what I am doing in the design space.

I signed up to Open Networked Learning (ONL) to join a learning community where I can learn and share best practices of teaching to one another. Although I have specific interest in project-based learning, I am open to learning about other aspects in education. They are most likely will find application in project-based learning.

At the end of ONL, I look forward to having a concrete plan to improve my teaching. Teaching nowadays has been so much more than standing in front of the class to deliver knowledge. As such, I hope I can formulate effective teaching strategy by participating in ONL.

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