In this piece I will reflect on my experience on the MSc in Applied eLearning I completed in DIT. I started the course as I was appointed Project Manager in work to introduce elearning into the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (the Department). eLearning in the Department upto this point was limited using voice over powerpoint presentations and a couple of videos. One of the important element of the task was to ensure all learning was managed so it could be tracked.
Moodle was identified as the Learning Management of Choice as other Government Department use it, I did not have to assess other systems. I also want to find out how to develop elearning content so it could be deployed through Moodle.
Below I have given a quick reflection on each module and what I have learned from it. At the end I have given a few paragraphs on how I can use this new knowledge and what changes I plan to make in my professional practice.
This was an unusual module in so far as the assessment was an interview. In preparation for the interview it made me very aware of what I had achieved up until I started the course and made me focus on what I wanted to get out of it.
In the reading for this module I found myself surprisingly interested in An avalanche is coming (Barber et al, 2013) which argued many points but I found it fascinating, mainly that the way we learn and train is changing and we need to change. Another interesting reading was Prensky (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants which argued that digital literacy is not linked to the year a person was born but also includes exposure to technology.
All in all this was a good module which really focussed my thoughts on where I was coming from and where I wanted to go which allowed me to identify the gap in between. This tied into Lev Vygotskys Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) which we covered in the Learning Theories Module under cognitivism. Cognitivism is about information processing and retention in short term or long term memory, everything passes through the short term memory but only important things are encoded and committed to long term memory (Sweller, 1998).
In this module I was introduced to the learning theories of behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism and social constructivism. These were new concepts to me be I found them very relevant and when I looked at them in conjunction with other theories I knew such as Honey and Mumford learning styles and the VARK model they made a lot of sense.
In this module I also looked at pedagogy versus andragogy. I concluded that in my current role as a Trainer in the Department there was a very behaviourist pedagogy used where the Training Unit told Staff what they should be learning. Staff in the Department are all adults and I concluded after this module that they should be included in devising their learning outcomes.
My main take away from this module was that in work we need to apply a more social constructive approach when devising training for staff. Indeed this has already started to happen as I have ran focus groups while redeveloping a course recently.
Instructional Design and eAuthoring
In this module we were split into groups and had to produce a elearning resource on a subject of our choice. After some discussion in my group the topic chosen was training a puppy, we picked the name Team WOOF. At the start we probably jumped into the deep end of trying to perform, i.e. get the website up and running. However, based on Tuchman’s model of group development, we quickly reverted back to the storming and norming phases to set ourselves clear objectives. We had to plan our research, deployment phase, setting goals and milestone. It became clear in the towards the end that we should have appointed a Project Manager.
I looked at the different models, our learning objectives, WordPress and storyboarding relating to the group and my own individual experiences. Models of learning we looked at included brainstorming, constructivism, social constructivism, Kolb experiential learning, Bloom Taxonomy, Gayné and collaborative work. To evaluate the site we used the LORI & Nielsen’s heuristics tools as well as asking my 11 year old daughter to look at one element and then I recorded her training our puppy to lie down, see video on my eportfolio.
We developed a website using WordPress that shows how to train a puppy by rewarding good behaviours by reinforcement. We developed a few resources such as podcasts and videos. We also used a lot of information that was already on the internet to complement our work. It was a good exercise which made me think a lot instructional design and I had a good introduction to storyboarding.
Trends in eLearning
I found this module very interesting as the focus was on emerging technologies and how they can be utilised. I got to know more about the Horizon Report and Gartner Hype Cycle. It was interesting to see what the experts think about emerging technologies.
I read a lot of interesting articles about technology and how we are using it. I was particularly interest in Nicholas Carr’s articles on how Google is making us stupid and found them very interesting, however I found Jaron Lanier’s work hard going. Articles on how pedagogy needs to change (Barber et al 2013 & Contact North 2014) made me think, I looked at training in the Department and see a need to change the pedagogic approach, as discussed earlier. I am a big Star Trek fan I found Kaplin’s (2013) article on conversational user interfaces and how the replicators on the Enterprise were a look into the future. Prensky (2001) article really summarised how it is exposure to technology not when someone is born that dictates how they will accept it in education.
I was interested to discover that smartphones are not that smart (Bajarin 2014). Gamification was an area I was introduced to which tries to make learners learn through game play. I watched a video by Jane McGonigal (2010) on YouTube called Gaming can make a better world, the main point I took from this video was that we should allow trainees/students to make mistake so they can learn from them.
On this module I did the assignment using a video presentation tool called Moovly for the first time, I had never used such a tool before and it has become part of my normal toolkit for work.
Research Methods Module Reflection
This module really focuses in the research and how different ologies, Ontology, epistemology, methodology and phenomenology, are used. I struggled with the academic language and needed to research that as well as the literature for the project but it was all very information.
This module allowed me time to look at the research question. Although I thought I knew what I was going to do I did not realise the amount of detail required. The scope of my project went from vast through to specific and changed on numerous occasions.
I assumed the first time that a Moodle installation would be the artefact but could not quantify how that could be used as an effective manage learning. It was clear from the feedback from my first submission that I would need to include a small elearning module as an artefact. I decided to devise and deploy an elearning module for the Induction of new staff to my Department. This was then deployed through Moodle and the reports were checked to prove how it could be used to manage elearning.
This was a very good module to introduce me to the academic research process and it helped me to focus my thinking on my research topic and narrow my thoughts into a defined question. It set my thinking for year two and planned how I was going to conduct the research. I choose to use a case study methodology using online surveys and focus groups as methods.
As part of the research I looked into the socialisation of new entrants. Socialisation is a term used to refer to the lifelong process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs and ideologies, providing an individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within the organisation. Socialisation is a significant influence on an individual’s job satisfaction and training is a formal mode of socialisation (Natarajan & Nagar, 2011). New comers need to learn what to do and how to do it and are eager to learn and socialisation of the learner into the organisation is important for the learner (Natarajan & Nagar, 2011; Beattie, 2006) and the managers of the learners play an important role (Korte, 2010).
All in all I found this course extremely useful and I gained all the experience I wanted and a lot more. The course was structured in such a way that allowed me to start from the beginning of the learning process. Right from the start we were informed the elearning is just learning with an ‘e’ in front of of it. My biggest take away from the course is that it is learning with an electronic element, but it is still learning. The ‘e’ refers to the tools used to delivery the learning intervention.
The course has made me look at how Training is delivered in the Department and I have already started to make changes. Previously we told staff what they needed to know, however we need to move away from the Sage on the Stage to the Guide on the Side and allow learners to input into their own learning. We have to give staff the skills of critical thinking, problem solving, communication skills, creativity, and innovative thinking to help them define their own personal development.
Moodle is built on a pedagogy of social constructivism and this is a pedagogy I am introducing slowly to the other Trainers in their developing of training. Using tools such as Lev Vygotskys Zone of Proximal Development to help identify the learners needs will encourage more collaborative.
As a result of the course I have started to develop elearning content using Articulate Storyline and Camtasia after being introduced to them. I will have to use Sweller’s cognitive load theory to ensure the learner is now overwhelmed during a learning intervention. The course has exposed me to new technologies and introduced me to other useful presentation tools such as Prezi, Powtoons and Moovly that I will use in the future.
As part of the research I had to look into socialisation and this helped me a lot devising the course. It was interesting to see that the manager’s role is pivotal in the process. The questionnaire and focus groups revealed this also and a suggestion was made to have a course for new entrants and also another for managers which they could access when a new member of staff reports to them.
I would definitely recommend the MSc to anyone that is planning to get involved in, or indeed already is, delivering elearning. It gives you the opportunity to explore existing as well as new theories; it stimulates discussion between the students and encourages peer-to-peer evaluations.
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