Thursday, August 27, 2009

Study Finds That Online Education Beats the Classroom....

An article from The NY Times has summarised the findings of a 93-page report on online education, conducted by SRI International for the Department of Education (US). The key findings are:

"Over the 12-year span, the report found 99 studies in which there were quantitative comparisons of online and classroom performance for the same courses. The analysis for the Department of Education found that, on average, students doing some or all of the course online would rank in the 59th percentile in tested performance, compared with the average classroom student scoring in the 50th percentile. That is a modest but statistically meaningful difference."

I must admit that I haven't as yet read the report in full. However, yesterday (26th August 2009) I participated in a really thought-provoking session run by The Centre for Teaching and Learning Innovation: TPA around literacies and the huge range of 'texts' we interact with and, visual, audio, written, academic, multimodal. The conversation covered a variety of topics, and as the session progressed a couple of things occurred to me. Firstly, a lot of the participants seemed to think of digital literacies as basic ICT skills (i.e. turning on a computer, file management etc) - and by doing so, there was little recognition of the potential offered by digital literacy around empowerment, meaning making, scaffolding, communication, and building social networks. Take, for example, the opportunity to encourage, value and celebrate Freshman students' text creation (no matter what media they are using) - their identity, world view, culture, experiences and ideas - and how this might then be incrementally linked through activities such as reflection, to Higher Order thinking skills and research. Also, if words are most effective when they create images which in turn resonate with our emotions, the use of graphics, video and audio could offer opportunities to scaffold learners who are not fluent in print literacy, thereby supporting and embracing those learners who have previously been excluded from further and higher education.

I will, however, be studying the report to see if there are any recommendations around design, facilitation, assessment and evaluation that achieves the level of effectiveness and engagement indicated by the results of this study....

Monday, August 3, 2009

Podcasting for LLN - a taster session

Vickel Narayan and I ran a 1 hour workshop (with Yong Liu as invaluable support) at the LLN symposium at Unitec NZ on 15th July 2009. The abstract for the session was: "Ongoing results from the field indicate that using multimedia with learners can be highly effective, especially where LLN challenges are being faced. Have you considered using audio tools? Would you like to try podcasting? In this 1 hour session you will find out how to adapt existing resources to audio, record in a digital format, and make the resulting files easily available to students as podcasts. You will need to bring print material (about 1-2 pages of text) which you have found students have found challenging in the past."

It was a little frantic during the setting up as we arrived 1/2 an hour early to get all of the laptops set up (with headphones that we'd begged, stolen and borrowed - mainly Vickel). A compromise was reached and the 26 participants rolled up. We had set up a Ning ( for the session with resources participants could access after the 'taster' workshop. We had also set up a Podomatic site so that podcasts could easily be uploaded ( After introducing the session and showing a great short video that explained what podcasts are (, we asked everyone to work in pairs at a computer. We used a 'how to...' video that went over the basics of recording an audio file in Audacity, exporting it, and then uploading it to Podomatic.

There were some glitches, but on the whole everything went smoothly and everyone enthusiastically figured out what to do. Toward the end of the session we played a successful podcast that had been made and uploaded during the session. It seemed to go really well and people seemed to be pretty inspired.

The feedback for the session was mainly positive. People were excited by the possibilities and potential for LLN, and others had a real sense of achievement, mastering skills that they did not previously have. The hands on nature of the session was appreciated, although the very large number of participants who had been signed up meant that even with Vickel, Yong and myself, it was tricky to keep up with requests for assistance. The ideal size of sessions like this is around 10 participants maximum. Some people were frustrated by technical glitches (for instance the Podomatic site ground almost to a halt once 15 sets of people started to upload the same account. This meant that some people were not able to listen to their podcast during the session, but had a link and login details in the Ning so that they could have a listen later - not quite the same though). All in all, though, an invigorating and exhausting session! :-)