Friday, May 17, 2013

What is the difference between a Learning Outcome, and aim, and an objective?

You may, or may not ;-p be wondering what the differences are between aims, learning outcomes and objectives. In a nutshell:
  • Learning Outcomes (LOs), aims and objectives are often used synonymously, but in fact refer mainly to intentions.
  • LOs are related to the achievements of the learner rather than what teacher hopes to achieve in a session or course.
  • Aims are focussed more on the teacher's intentions, and individual sessions that they are facilitating.
  • LOs and objectives are more difficult to differentiate because objectives are frequently expressed in ways that are similar to LOs, and express statements about what a learner will gain from participating in a course or activity.

Click here to access a thorough guide to learning outcomes(UCE Birmingham)

Click here for a briefer overview of learning outcomes and questions to ask yourself while writing them.

Do you have other great sites or resources that either illustrate the differences, or are really helpful for developing LOs? Please share.

WWW. cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo by lumaxart:
Students learn from those who care. cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by shareski:

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Monday, May 13, 2013

How do you get involved in online communities?

This is a cross-post of a guest blog post (Participating in Online Communities for Mutual Support) written for Madelyn Griffith-Haynie's wonderful online resource, Many thanks to Madelyn (CTP, CMC, A.C.T., MCC, SCAC, Foundational Concepts of the Intentionality Series) for given me the OK to cross post. It's all about reciprocity, so please pop across to have a look at her site.

This image was selected as a picture of the we...
This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Farsi Wikipedia for the 13th week, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Personally and professionally, I don’t know what I would do without being a member of online communities.

I am constantly challenged to think and reflect, as well as affirmed or guided in some of the ideas I am developing.

On the social side, I have had the pleasure and privilege of ‘meeting’ a vast variety of people from around the world, including Madelyn, who are incredibly generous with their time, and with sharing their thinking.

You might be saying to yourself,
  • “But I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t already been said,”
  • “I don’t have time,” or
  • “What if I say something wrong?”
I know I had similar concerns before I started getting involved in online communities.

So why might you want to get involved?

In July 2011 in her blog post Creating Community Together, Madelyn threw down a challenge that read as follows:
“Let’s work together for the mutual good of our communities and our planet – becoming resources for each other because it is simply the right thing to do – meaning the thing that will create the kind of world we want – a world that works for EVERYONE.”

You may have already taken up her challenge and are comfortably participating in and contributing to online communities. But you may also be sitting on the fence and not feeling very comfortable about jumping into the online community spaces where you may feel you need to build your digital literacy skills before joining the conversations.

In this blog post I would like to describe what I mean by digital literacy skills, give a brief overview why your voice is important in online communities, and finally, I’ll provide a grab-bag guide to getting involved.

Why online communities?

Over a period of about 13 years I had become increasingly interested in how human beings interact and ‘learn’ in online spaces, especially when they are offered opportunities to become **immersed. An immersive environment enables people to experience a variety of approaches and ideas, at the same time as exploring them intellectually.

During this period the Internet grew in popularity as a place for formal and informal learning, and hardware and software became more affordable. I have become increasingly excited by the potential of eLearning and Mobile Learning (mLearning). Being able to connect is providing a range of ways to co-construct understanding, to develop creative problem solving skills, and to become more culturally aware. This, however, entails a paradigm shift away from content to a greater focus on mutual support and synergistic thinking, as well as an increasing requirement for individuals to possess digital literacy skills.

**Immersive digital environment / experience: Adapted from gaming environments, references to immersive experiences illustrate instances where an online CoP member becomes immersed in the ‘narrative’ of the community and its interactions. As such, the member feels as though they are part of an online ‘universe’, where they have the option to create and design the spaces (Adams, 2004).

What is digital literacy?

Digital literacy can be broadly categorised in three distinct skills sets (Reynard, 2009).
  • The first skill set is being able to navigate the Internet to locate and evaluate resources.
  • The second skill set includes being able to create, repurpose, share and comment on resources hosted on the Internet.
These skills usually require some sort of account creation or membership to a community (for example, YouTube), as well as awareness of rights to use and re-use digital objects. Associated activities may include the sharing of links, images, or commenting on blogs.
To move to this stage of development is to move from the consumption of digital resources to the creation or adoption of an online identity.
  • The third skill set involves the co-creation of ideas online and the active cultivation of an online identity. This requires a sophisticated level of digital literacy skills, whereby participants make sense of existing knowledge and reinterpret it in a way that fits within their existing knowledge framework, thereby, disconnecting, and reconnecting “knowledge fragments through knowledge creation” (Littlejohn, 2011, Para. 3). This sense-making will often occur within learning ecologies, online communities and networks (Siemens, 2003).
Healthy, established online communities tend to have members who have developed mutual trust and respect, and are reasonably confident in their digital literacy skills.
Other members, who remain readers of conversations and content (sometimes known as ‘lurkers’) are likely to have developing digital literacies, less confidence in their online persona. That is not to say one is necessarily directly related to the other, but rather to highlight that full participation, which leads to an immersive experience, requires digital literacies development.

Why your voice is important

I have explored online communities in a variety of situations, prior to taking on the position of national coordinator in New Zealand of a pilot project to develop a Virtual Professional Learning and Development (VPLD) Model (initiated in October 2009 by the Ministry of Education, who also funded the project).

My initial experiences were in line with the current research findings of the time (e.g. Hallam, 2008; McDermott, 2002) – but it was one thing reading about the challenges and another thingexperiencing them!

I found that a vibrant online community depended on establishing a balance between too little and too much communication, between facilitated and organic activities/contributions, and between confident and ‘developing’ contributors.

I discovered that, with encouragement and support, members could be mentored through the process of developing digital literacy skills. However, many members had not participated in an online community before, and were not aware of the level of engagement required to really get the ball rolling, so community enthusiasm waxed and waned.

I was frequently disappointed that I was the only one to respond to a post or discussion, or that responses were superficial.

Without a reasonable level of engagement from online community members, there was little sense of a mutual support network, and in turn, of their voices influencing developments and policy.
Nevertheless, slowly but surely, membership, momentum and the quality and quantity of contributions grew over the next 3½ years.

Some of the challenges

Time and opportunities are needed for the more confident members to ‘model’ some online community building behaviours, so that other members are able to build an identity within a newly formed group. Individual participants also face challenges that include (but are not limited to):
  • unfamiliarity with netiquette and notions of reciprocity in an online space
  • uncertainty of purpose
  • lack of confidence in the value of their contributions
  • workload and other life commitments (which impact the level of community engagement)
  • little or no peer support
  • lack of access to appropriate technology and connectivity.

A grab-bag guide to getting involved in online communities

One of the things you need to do, if you want to get involved, is join a community. First you’ll need to find an online community that is formed around a topic that interests you. This could be through recommendations from friends or colleagues, or through a simple online search.
Once you have found a likely community take a trip around – set by 30 or 40 minutes to dip into all the spaces on the community site, and get a feel for the tone of the conversations.
  • If you don’t like the tone, don’t join the community.
  • Don’t give up though – find another one that seems to be more your ‘fit’.
And then, once you have joined:
  • Set up an online profile.
Start by considering what other members of this specific community would be interested in; keep it short and sweet initially. And don’t share anything you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing with someone if you met them face-to-face for the first time.
  • Upload an image to your profile; it doesn’t have to be of you – it can be your dog, your cat, your garden, your car, or something meaningful to you.
An image helps people feel as though they are ‘getting to know you’ because, as humans, we are pretty visual creatures.
  • Within two weeks of joining the community, find a blog post, resource, or online discussion that resonates with you in some way and ‘like’ it.
  • Within one month of joining keep your eyes open for a blog post, resource, or online discussion that resonates with you in some way and leave a comment.
  • In no longer than two months, locate a resource you think is interesting or useful, and share it with the community.
You only need to add a couple of sentences about why the resource caught your attention.
And don’t get disheartened if you don’t get any responses…other folks are going through the same online journey as you :-)

LAST COMMENT from Madelyn

So NOW you know that if you found this information helpful, “reciprocity” means you INTERACT, right?
So THAT means that you do one or more of the following –
  • click “like” on the page (from the TOP on the WordPress Menubar for visitors – anyone can “like” at the bottom, near my tiny photo below, where I clicked to “like”)
  • share it on one of your social networks, like FaceBook, LinkedIn, etc. (at the bottom of the article, on THIS blog)
  • leave a comment (keep scrolling down for comments – AND you can reply to comments from others to get a full-fledged conversation going), or
  • rate it five stars, found at the top – you’re pretty great about that already, btw!
As always, the goal is to affirm and acknowledge, not to “vote” or argue — so keep things totally positive as you interact, even if your point of view is completely different as you speak your truth ~ mgh


  • McDermott, R. (2002). Knowing is a human act. Upgrade: The European Online Magazine for the IT Professional, 3(1), 8-10.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Framing mobile learning from the perspective of learners’ experiences

Mobile learning has been around as a concept for quite a while, as something that involves "any sort of learning that happens when the learner is not at a fixed, predetermined location, or learning that happens when the learner takes advantage of the learning opportunities offered by mobile technologies" (MOBIlearn, 2003). Interestingly, even though ostensibly in this definition, the focus is on the learning and the experience of the learner, it still returns to the affordances offered by the technology.

In a paper recommended by Tessa Gray (here), she pulls out the following quote:
There is an ongoing need to examine the pedagogies that are suitable for m-learning, and to conceptualise m-learning from the perspective of learners’ experiences rather than the affordances of the technology tools (Traxler 2007, p. 1)
Tessa goes on to explain that Viewing mobile learning from a pedagogical perspective "unpacks a pedagogical framework - developed from two mobile learning projects (Australia and UK) from a socio-cultural perspective". She also indicates that the 3 aspects highlighted are authenticity, collaboration and personalisation.

What are your own experiences with mLearning (either as a learner or a facilitator / teacher / trainer)? What are your responses to the framework in the paper? Is it something you might find useful?

Reference: "Guidelines for learning/teaching/tutoring in a mobile environment"MOBIlearn. October 2003. p. 6. Retrieved June 8, 2009.
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