Condensing the complexity of digital literacies is always a challenge. At the recent Student Staff Conference on Future Learning, I reduced them to professional practice with social media and how SM might best support teaching and learning. SM and the use of mobile technology has relevance for learning design. It can be disconcerting when an audience appears engrossed in their digital devices but banning them is not the answer. Finding ways to maintain engagement with the subject matter while constructing an agreed code of conduct is more realistic.
This short video on the potential of digital technologies for education is a useful introduction to the concept of digital natives and immigrants. First outlined by Prensky in 2001, the digital dichotomy is now acknowledged as more complex than division by age and more related to use e.g. the CIBER report on the research skills of young people and Carr’s polemic Is Google Making us Stupid.
A decade after Prensky, learning design has shifted from constructivism to connectivism, with both support and critique, but also some consensus. When it comes to technologies, education is less about the tools and more how they’re used. With regard to social media the debate includes appropriate and inappropriate behaviours, in particular in lectures and seminars. Wherever learning design incorporates ‘real-time’ collaboration and/or interaction via social media it raises issues like shopping on eBay or personal tweeting irrelevant to the subject. This is part of the wider digital debate around personal versus public online identities, which in itself is only one component of digital literacies. An agreed code of conduct may be one way forward. Most discussion forums now include guidelines for appropriate use and behaviour and finding consensus on the use of mobile technology in teaching and learning is no different to agreeing capital letters equate to shouting and personal abuse will not be tolerated.
Digitally literacies are embedded in individual personalities making it hard to pull out a one size fits all model of use. New technologies amplify the affordances of traditional tones like pen and paper. We all doodle in learning situations. Doodling in itself can be a form of reflective practice. Today there are more choices on the formats that doodling can take and learning design learning needs to take the ever changing nature of ways of being, seeing and doing into account.
The design of learning is a continually evolving science, not least because space between users and non-users still exists. Replication and reinforcement of digital divides is less visible, but in the push to use social media to empower student voices and flip the classroom, technology remains exclusive. In an increasingly digital society enabling/disabling binaries are more relevant than ever. The potential for digital exclusion should not be forgotten.
Reflecting on the references to Learning Design omitting the prefix integral to course name i.e. Online Learning Design, has been interesting. Initially I thought this risked diluting the ‘Online’ specific requirements of Learning Design such as attention to the diversity of ways people use computers and access the internet (from mobile devices through to assistive technologies) and the associated need for inclusive practice such as providing alternate formats and ensuring users can customise content to suit their own preferences, but it turns out I may have misunderstood the concept of OLDsMOOC .
The Week 3 focus on tools and toolboxes suggests OLDsMOOC is more about the ways online environments support the development of generic Learning Design than how to customise Learning Design for Online environments. I hadn’t seen it this way. Which demonstrates aptly how learners bring their own ways of seeing and being to the learning experience and potentially affecting interaction. If I’ve misinterpreted the focus of OLDsMOOC I’ve learned experientially about the inevitable space between the production of online learning and the experience of the consumer. this suggests even if I stop waving and disappear totally under the surface of clouds, groups and a mass of other digital tools, it will have been worth while!
There’s distinct differences between Learning Design and Online Learning Design (OLD). When designing for virtual delivery, in particular for distance learners, the materials have to work much harder to sustain interest, motivation and retention. Transferring traditional content to an online environment can be flat and miss the potential for providing variety and interaction. Over in OLDsMOOC, there are many traditional theoretical approaches being surfaced but they also need adapting to virtual environments. I wonder if the Online in Learning Design needs to be seen as an additional layer. Theories within this layer would include Laurillard’s ‘conversational framework’ model; this offers a useful example of how OLD can stimulate dialogue and networks of learning. Garrison and Anderson suggest a Community of Inquiry made up of three presences; social, cognitive and teaching. In the past I’ve found enabling communities of shared practice (e.g. following Wenger) can create powerful learning experiences. Online discussion often takes time to set up and encourage (here Salmon’s five step model is worth following) but the directions it can go off into can be exciting.
On the practical side of OLD, chunking content up with formative assessment opportunities and using alternative formats such as audio which can be listened to ‘anytime anywhere’ are always worth building into the course or activity design. Inclusive practice is critical to reaching the widest possible audience; accessible content and alternative formats give students the opportunity to access resources in the way which suits them best. Pilot and evaluate as much as possible; it’s one thing to access course material on an up-to-date networked computer but try a range of old and new browsers and operating systems including mobile platforms. Students will use a far greater variety of hardware than you might expect and remember download times vary greatly across the country. Lastly, taking part in an online course – maybe a MOOC (there’s still time to call in and browse activity in OLDsMOOC) – remains the best way of all to discover how to put the online into learning design.
Having a primary interest in the social effect of the internet, in particular on higher education, I’m running to stand still with the MOOC experience. Every MOOC I take – currently the JISC/OU OLDsMOOC on Online Learning Design and the soon to start Coursera MOOC on E-learning and Digital Cultures – is another step towards the future. The affordances of MOOCs are overwhelming in terms of building networks of shared expertise and interest across all boundaries of time and geography. MOOCs do what the internet does best. All the old clichés about harnessing the power of technology come to mind.
MOOCs are also providing opportunities to revisit the way virtual learning is constructed. I’m using the OLDSMOOC to explore online learning design with multimedia. This has now shifted from the professional studio and become a real possibility for everyone with the means of access. Yes, it takes time and there is a learning curve, but that curve has decreased significantly over the past few years. I want to build on the DIY approach at Lincoln where staff do their own media production to enhance their teaching and learning resources. I hope to produce a collaboratively formed set of guidance on DIY audio and video. Key to successful multimedia is inclusive practice where alternative formats are seen as an integral stage of pre-production rather than a bolt on post-production afterthought.
PBS Newshour examines the MOOC phenomena suggesting the current boom in online learning could change higher education. The video, ‘How Free Online Courses Are Changing the Traditional Liberal Arts Education’ is a perfect example of how learning online could look. It can be watched, downloaded and listened too. Best of all there is a full and complete transcript, provided as though it were totally natural. Which it should be. Yet it’s unusual enough for me to pick it up and write this blog post.
Multimedia should look like this. As MOOCs stimulate attention to online learning design, they offer a valuable opportunity to revisit our digitally inclusive practice.