It is my privilege to serve alongside Alison Fields as co-editor of the Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning, an international high-quality peer-reviewed academic journal. I also have a piece in this issue entitled ‘Definitions of the Terms Open, Distance, and Flexible in the Context of Formal and Non-Formal Learning‘.
Category: Academic Professional Development
Book on Writing Good Learning Outcomes
Introducing a short guide entitled: “Writing Good Learning Outcomes and Objectives”, aimed at enhancing the learner experience through effective course design. Available at https://amazon.com/dp/0473657929
The book has sections on the function and purpose of intended learning outcomes as well as guidance on how to write them with validation in mind. Sections explore the use of different educational taxonomies as well as some things to avoid, and the importance of context. There is also a section on ensuring your intended learning outcomes are assessable. The final section deals with how you might go about designing an entire course structure based on well-structured outcomes, breaking these outcomes down into session-level objectives that are not going to be assessed.
#ad #education #highereducation #learningdesign #coursedesign #learningoutcomes #instructionaldesign
Empower Learners for the Age of AI: a reflection
During the Empower Learners for the Age of AI (ELAI) conference earlier in December 2022, it became apparent to me personally that not only does Artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to revolutionize the field of education, but that it already is. But beyond the hype and enthusiasm there are enormous strategic policy decisions to be made, by governments, institutions, faculty and individual students. Some of the ‘end is nigh’ messages circulating on Social Media in the light of the recent release of ChatGPT are fanciful click-bait, some however, fire a warning shot across the bow of complacent educators.
It is certainly true to say that if your teaching approach is to deliver content knowledge and assess the retention and regurgitation of that same content knowledge then, yes, AI is another nail in that particular coffin. If you are still delivering learning experiences the same way that you did in the 1990s, despite Google Search (b.1998) and Wikipedia (b.2001), I am amazed you are still functioning. What the emerging fascination about AI is delivering an accelerated pace to the self-reflective processes that all university leadership should be undertaking continuously.
AI advocates argue that by leveraging the power of AI, educators can personalize learning for each student, provide real-time feedback and support, and automate administrative tasks. Critics argue that AI dehumanises the learning process, is incapable of modelling the very human behaviours we want our students to emulate, and that AI can be used to cheat. Like any technology, AI also has its disadvantages and limitations. I want to unpack these from three different perspectives, the individual student, faculty, and institutions.
Get in touch with me if your institution is looking to develop its strategic approach to AI.
For learners whose experience is often orientated around learning management systems, or virtual learning environments, existing learning analytics are being augmented with AI capabilities. Where in the past students might be offered branching scenarios that were preset by learning designers, the addition of AI functionality offers the prospect of algorithms that more deeply analyze a student’s performance and learning approaches, and provide customized content and feedback that is tailored to their individual needs. This is often touted as especially beneficial for students who may have learning disabilities or those who are struggling to keep up with the pace of a traditional classroom, but surely the benefit is universal when realised. We are not quite there yet. Identifying ‘actionable insights’ is possible, the recommended actions harder to define.
The downside for the individual learner will come from poorly conceived and implemented AI opportunities within institutions. Being told to complete a task by a system, rather than by a tutor, will be received very differently depending on the epistemological framework that you, as a student, operate within. There is a danger that companies presenting solutions that may work for continuing professional development will fail to recognise that a 10 year old has a different relationship with knowledge. As an assistant to faculty, AI is potentially invaluable, as a replacement for tutor direction it will not work for the majority of younger learners within formal learning programmes.
Digital equity becomes important too. There will undoubtedly be students today, from K-12 through to University, who will be submitting written work generated by ChatGPT. Currently free, for ‘research’ purposes (them researching us), ChatGPT is being raved about across social media platforms for anyone who needs to author content. But for every student that is digitally literate enough to have found their way to the OpenAI platform and can use the tool, there will be others who do not have access to a machine at home, or the bandwidth to make use of the internet, or even to have the internet at all. Merely accessing the tools can be a challenge.
The third aspect of AI implementation for individuals is around personal digital identity. Everyone, regardless of their age or context, needs to recognise that ‘nothing in life is free’. Whenever you use a free web service you are inevitably being mined for data, which in turn allows the provider of that service to sell your presence on their platform to advertisers. Teaching young people about the two fundamental economic models that operate online, subscription services and surveillance capitalism, MUST be part of ever curriculum. I would argue this needs to be introduced in primary schools and built on in secondary. We know that AI data models require huge datasets to be meaningful, so our data is what fuels these AI processes.
Undoubtedly faculty will gain through AI algorithms ability to provide real-time feedback and support, to continuously monitor a student’s progress and provide immediate feedback and suggestions for improvement. On a cohort basis this is proving invaluable already, allowing faculty to adjust the pace or focus of content and learning approaches. A skilled faculty member can also, within the time allowed to them, to differentiate their instruction helping students to stay engaged and motivated. Monitoring students’ progress through well structured learning analytics is already available through online platforms.
What of the in-classroom teaching spaces. One of the sessions at ELAI showcased AI operating in a classroom, interpreting students body language, interactions and even eye tracking. Teachers will tell you that class sizes are a prime determinant of student success. Smaller classes mean that teachers can ‘read the room’ and adjust their approaches accordingly. AI could allow class sizes beyond any claim to be manageable by individual faculty.
One could imagine a school built with extensive surveillance capability, with every classroom with total audio and visual detection, with physical behaviour algorithms, eye tracking and audio analysis. In that future, the advocates would suggest that the role of the faculty becomes more of a stage manager rather than a subject authority. Critics would argue a classroom without a meaningful human presence is a factory.
The attraction for institutions of AI is the promise to automate administrative tasks, such as grading assignments and providing progress reports, currently provided by teaching faculty. This in theory frees up those educators to focus on other important tasks, such as providing personalized instruction and support.
However, one concern touched on at ELAI was the danger of AI reinforcing existing biases and inequalities in education. An AI algorithm is only as good as the data it has been trained on. If that data is biased, its decisions will also be biased. This could lead to unfair treatment of certain students, and could further exacerbate existing disparities in education. AI will work well with homogenous cohorts where the perpetuation of accepted knowledge and approaches is what is expected, less well with diverse cohorts in the context of challenging assumptions.
This is a problem. In a world in which we need students to be digitally literate and AI literate, to challenge assumptions but also recognise that some sources are verified and others are not, institutions that implement AI based on existing cohorts is likely to restrict the intellectual growth of those that follow.
Institutions rightly express concerns about the cost of both implementing AI in education and the costs associated with monitoring its use. While the initial investment in AI technologies may be significant, the long-term cost savings and potential benefits may make it worthwhile. No one can be certain how the market will unfurl. It’s possible that many AI applications become incredibly cheap under some model of surveillance capitalism so as to be negligible, even free. However, many of the AI applications, such as ChatGPT, use enormous computing power, little is cacheable and retained for reuse, and these are likely to become costly.
Institutions wanting to explore the use of AI are likely to find they are being presented with additional, or ‘upgraded’ modules to their existing Enterprise Management Systems or Learning Platforms.
It is true that AI has the potential to revolutionize the field of education by providing personalized instruction and support, real-time feedback, and automated administrative tasks. However, institutions need to be wary of the potential for bias, aware of privacy issues and very attentive to the nature of the learning experiences they enable.
Get in touch with me if your institution is looking to develop its strategic approach to AI.
Image created using DALL-E
Free Online CPD Course on Learning Outcomes (until 14th January 2023)
Have you got some time for professional development over the holiday period? Or do you have colleagues or design teams working on course designs over the holiday period?
Anyone who has ever tried to assess or teach to poorly learning outcomes, and then tried to defend their practices or results, will tell you that getting it right at the offset saves a huge amount of effort and heartache.
Intended Learning Outcomes are the foundations of any sound well-aligned course and programme design. Being able to create effective well-structured learning outcome is a valuable skill required of all learning designers, faculty and quality officers.
I have created a short, self-study, course hosted on a Moodle instance. The full course will take between up to 10 hours at a leisurely pace but is designed to allow you to navigate your way through it as you please. You are welcome to dip in and out. The course complements the book ‘Writing Good Learning Outcomes and Objectives’. (https://www.amazon.com/dp/0473657929/)
Join the free course entitled ‘Designing Effective Intended Learning Outcomes’ at https://sijen.net/courses
In-Class Evaluation (Guidance for Educators)
Welcome all. Please feel free to share this with your colleagues, if you think they’ll find this of interest.
I want to talk today about why it’s important that we listen to our students during our teaching practice. I think, first of all, just want to clarify the distinction between providing feedback to students and taking evaluative comments from students.
I think sometimes the language we use is a little bit loose and that complicates things. It also devalues the sense of feedback that students are actually receiving during the course of their learning experience. I think we should always label anything we provide to students for feedback on their learning or in their learning, as feedback, and then anything we receive from them is evaluation at an institutional level of national surveys and in our individual practice. So I want to talk about the way we elicit evaluation from our students. So obviously the easiest way of doing that is to read the room. You’re looking for individual responses. You may be need to avoid focusing on that one very negative, grumpy, miserable looking student and read the room on that basis. You don’t want to imply that that is the common feeling, but if you scan the room, you’ll be able to see whether or not there is a good degree of engagement. I think we need to distinguish between that kind of very informal in session evaluation and more formal mechanisms for evaluation.
And I want to talk about an, an in session evaluation, and then I’ll talk about end of course, or end of module evaluation, in just a moment. Want to focus in this conversation about the way in which we use in class evaluation and the model that I personally prefer, and it works best in a face-to-face environment if you are teaching a series of courses, but it also works in an online environment as well.
Something called small group instructional diagnostics, S.G.I.D., which is essentially a way of eliciting from the students, some evaluative comments on what they’re learning, how they’re learning in your classroom, the structure of the questions that you ask are very important, they’re more important than how you actually ask them. Formal SGID is actually you leaving the classroom and having a colleague coming and running a session with your students for 15, 20 minutes.
And that usually would happen around a third of the way through your course. This is to elicit whether or not the students are getting what you’re intending they get, whether they’re experiencing the learning as you intend it to be, to be experienced. There are a number of different ways that you can do this.
I think it works quite well to literally just hand out pieces of paper with four blocks on and ask them to fill out, put something in each of those blocks. But it’s really important the order in which the questions are asked.
So you’re going to ask the students what’s happening on this course that is supporting their learning, not what am I doing to support your learning? What is supporting you in your learning? What is hindering you in your learning? What could I be doing differently to support you? And fourthly, what could you be doing differently to support your own learning? It’s very important that you end with them thinking about it as a reflective exercise.
Very often, students will say that last comment. What can I, what can you be doing for your own learning? Students will very often say, oh, I need to do the pre-reading or I need to prepare better for class or so, it encourages them to take some degree of ownership over their own. It’s really important that when you collate all of those responses that you do feed back.
So if you’re teaching face-to-face or online on a weekly or, or a regular basis, some scheduled basis, it’s really important that you then say to the students, I listened to you, you suggested this is what strengthening your learning collectively, I’m going to do more of that. This is what’s hindering, I’ll try and do less of that.
That gives students a sense of participation and a sense of ownership in the learning process. That’s a very important part of getting evaluation from students.
The more formal aspect of end of course, or end of module evaluation. It’s usually structured around whatever institutional regional or national surveys are carried out.
Historically institutions used to just do their own end of course evaluations and tutors regarded that as almost a tick box exercise. It’s become much more significant in many countries to have institutional data that is then aggregated across the, the entire piece. And I think it’s important that you recognize that those questions are not necessarily questions that you have any direct control over, but it’s very important that you are aware of what those questions are because you can then signal answers to the students through the course of the course, through the course of the learning.
So I think it’s really important to be aware of what the end of course evaluation looks like, which you’ll probably end up administering, although you may not be able to control the questions, but you do have complete control of the in-class evaluation that happens.
So please feel free to share this video with colleagues. If you think it’s interesting, like and follow.
Educational Posters for Sale
Colleagues have been asking me for some time whether they can have copies of the various visualisations that I have produced over the years. These were usually developed as posters, from A3 to A1 sizes, for workshops and events. I am happy to share high-quality originals for colleagues to include in publications but I think it appropriate to charge for the majority of them.
The updated 2022 version of my comprehensive taxonomies of educational objectives poster is available. This and future versions will be available as high-quality downloads to be printed locally. This saves a fortune in packaging and postage and allows you to decide whether you want it board-mounted, matte or gloss, and so on.
In the setting up phase of this new ‘storefront‘, here is a discount code for 20% off the price. Just put in the code G4G5EURM at checkout. Look out for more useful visualisations and resources being posted over the coming months.
Guidance for Educators: Avoiding Burnout
Welcome all. Please feel free to share this video with colleagues if you think they’d find it of interest.
Want to talk today about burnout. Being a teacher, being a lecturer, being an academic, very often leads to periods of intense pressure, and very often we see colleagues burning out. They leave the profession.
They literally just find the ongoing pressure too much to bear, and I think it’s really important that we support each other, but we also have to preserve ourselves and avoid exhaustion. We do that by setting boundaries. You need to learn to say no. You need to learn that your responsibilities have a limit.
Sometimes we find ourselves wanting to, take on all of the pressures, all of the responsibilities that our students expect the entire institution to provide for them, and it’s important that we make time for relationships, for relaxation, for recreation.
Education is a team game or a theatrical piece. It’s not a single performance. It’s not a solo game, nor are you actually a solo performer. You’re not a stand-up comedian standing alone on your stage. It’s a team effort. So if you do feel yourself under oppression. If you feel overly stressed, turn to a colleague and ask them for support. If those colleagues aren’t available for you to lean on, then you need to learn to escalate because it’s not your responsibility to run the entire college or the entire university or to run the entire school sector.
You need to be able to escalate your own stress just in order to avoid burnout. So if you feel the pressure lean on a colleague, if there’s no colleague to lead on, escalate.
Guidance to Educators: Developing professional relationships
Welcome all, please feel free to share this video with colleagues if you think they would find it of interest.
Let’s talk today about building professional relationships. Teaching can be quite a lonely experience. Depends a little bit on the organization that you teach in. You might be teaching in a very isolated part of the world, or you might be teaching a very specialist discipline. You might be the only person teaching that particular subject in your school, even in your area.
And having good connections with other practitioners that understand you, understand your context, definitely do serve to lower the level of anxiety that you might feel. There’s evidence to suggest that well- connected educators do suffer less anxiety.
So reaching out now is much easier. There are any number of digital platforms that you can engage with and connect with other people. And in doing so you benefit not just that level of human connectivity, but you’re also using them as a source of new ideas, new sources, new perspectives.
It’s very important if you do get involved in any of these platforms that you do become a contributor, as well as a consumer. That’s not just because that’s fair. It’s just, it’s also that echoing your voice is really important, using your voice to mirror the practice of others is part of the process of building those relationships.
Even if it’s just to go back to someone who’s posted something, you found a value to just say “I’ve used what you suggested. It worked very well for me” or it didn’t and I made this adjustment, and I did it this way. Having that level of feedback is really important.
So, I’m on a number of different platforms. I’m on LinkedIn. I’m on Twitter. I’m on Instagram. I’m on Tik Tok. I’m on YouTube and I’ve got my own website, but I think the two that everyone needs to start with are Twitter and LinkedIn. Build a profile on LinkedIn, doesn’t have to be expansive, but at least something that gives people a sense of who you are as a person.
And then Twitter is a great way of just picking up ideas, sources, perspectives, re-tweeting things that you think are of interest, identifying things more widely, and posting them and share that community experience. You’d be surprised how quickly it does build and giving you a solid network to lean on will undoubtedly reduce your anxiety.
So you might want to try some of those platforms for yourself. See how it goes.
Let me know. Be well.
Guidance for Educators: Post-session reflection
Guidance to Educators: Reflecting after sessions
#teachers #learning #educators #education #university #tutors #lecture Visit http://www.sijen.com for transcripts and links. Please share, like and follow.
Welcome all. Please feel free to share this with colleagues. If you think they’ll find it of interest.
Let’s talk today about how you handle a session that doesn’t go so well. Any problems that crop up can be quite demoralizing. Sometimes you walk out of a session thinking either I dropped the ball or the students didn’t respond. Something just didn’t work in any given session.
Now not every session is going to go well. It could be something you have failed to plan for, it may be that you misjudged the receptivity of the students. It may be that they just were very resistant to what it was you’re asking them to engage with in the session and how you manage that system dynamic is obviously very problematic.
So after any session, educators really need to sit back and reflect if it, even if it just takes a few minutes, even if they’re just doing it in their heads, they need to be thinking about what went well, what didn’t go so well. If it doesn’t go well, there’s a particular problem in any given session, it’s a really good idea to journal it, write something down, even just a few notes on the back of your notes are fine, but to write something down as soon as possible after the session. To discuss it with colleagues, just to literally go back to the, whatever the virtual coffee room is, or the staff room and talk to your colleagues about why something didn’t go well and be open about that. You won’t be judged for it if you’re honest about it.
And thirdly, to reflect, and how deeply you reflect will depend a little bit on whether it was a serious issue or, or relatively minor issue. You maybe want to think about, from a positive perspective what you would do differently if you had it again.
And if you were faced with those similar circumstances in the future, how you might plan to do it differently. So it’s really important that you do reflect at some level, either using notes, conversation or indeed just thinking about it. I always try and make some notes after a session, particularly if it hasn’t gone well, but even if it’s gone well, I might want to make a note as to why I think it might’ve gone well.
I think it’s really important, and I would encourage you to do that. So do try something like that, try something similar.
Let me know how it goes. Be well.
Guidance for Educators: Session Planning
Welcome all. Please feel free to share this with colleagues. If you think it would be of interest to them. So, today I want to talk a little bit about why it’s important to plan your sessions. This is particularly pertinent if you’re delivering a stand-up lecture, that’s expected to keep students engaged for 40 minutes, 45 minutes, but even in a normal session, a normal seminar session, it’s still really important that you plan. Down your session. It’s really important that you don’t plan around the content. And rather you plan around the learning experiences. We can almost take them as synonyms. We would almost say content and experiences are the same, but it’s really important that you think about how the student is hearing that content, how they’re engaging with that content rather than just delivering them raw content.
I think it’s also really important as you plan out those linkages, those connections between the experiences in your lecture, that you don’t use a hundred percent of the time, certainly lecturers when they start their careers, if they’re not particularly confident, they will walk into a lecture theater, start delivering, keep talking and leave at the end, in order to possibly avoid confrontation, avoid questions.
And once you’ve found your feet, you will be able to use the time really effectively. And I think it’s important that you plan possibly for up to 80% of the session to be around the learning experiences, the guided experiences that you were expecting to share with students, and leave 20%. at the end. Sometimes people say, what do I do if people don’t have questions, if students don’t ask anything, how do I use that time?
There, there are a number of ways that you can use that, but it is important to have a, almost an Encore in the way that a musician is expecting to come back onto the stage and perform again. we don’t usually get, rounds of standing ovations for our teaching, but very often having an Encore is really important.
It’s almost the most important thing because it’s the last thing that the student is going to experience. So it can’t be something that is core. Can’t be core content or core content experience because you might not get your opportunity. The session might go long and it’s dangerous to leave the best to the end, but it has to be something that’s reinforcing something that’s empowering and it’s worth actually concentrating really on what that Encore is going to look like.
And then build the session back. If the session does go a little bit long, that Encore needs to be able to be prepared either as a short video interaction to go up on the website on your, virtual learning environment, or possibly. Yeah, featuring featured in a handout, but it’s really important that you plan out the experiences for 80% of the session, and link them together, conceptually through good planning.
There are some templates that you can use for planning sessions, a search on the web would find any number of them. I’ve also got one on my website as well. If you do want to access that.
Just give it a go. See how it goes. Let me know. Be well.