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    • #47488
      David Read

          Have you seen examples from your own experience where e-learning both lived up to it’s promise of delivering effective and engaging content/learning and where it failed to deliver what it promised? I would imagine you might have seen some in the last year or so ;-) Can you briefly describe and explain why?

          Also, think of one question you have about the article, maybe something that didn’t make sense or something you’d like to know more about and add it here.

          To give my own responses:

          One occasion where I think e-learning lived up to its promise for me was in helping us to flip our pre-sessional summer school a few years  back. To deal with increased numbers, we moved half of the course online, with students asked to work through interactive content before going to their classes. I think this worked really well with most students fully engaging with the content and freeing up time for the teachers to provide more individualised practice in class. I think it worked because the content was carefully designed by a team of teachers to meet the goals of the programme and was tested thoroughly with students beforehand.

          One time where it really didn’t work – and this is a definite case of when I lost sight of the goal – was when I persuaded our centre to buy a pair of not inexpensive Google Glass (remember them? Glasses with a display in them) as I believed we could use them to record lessons etc and help improve teaching. In this case I hadn’t really thought in much depth about how they could be used and just wanted a chance to play with them. They got used a few times and then became a play toy for our tech team!

          As for the question about the text:

          In EFL/EAP what would be the equivalent language skills that would equate to near and far transfer? I’m not sure I can fully map those to what we do in English.

        • #48384
          ann clayton

              an example of online learning being successful, is taking part is some synchronous art classes where the list of equipment and materials needed was provided a couple of weeks before the class started,  cameras were carefully set up so you could see the teachers work/working, examples were provided to show what we could work to and the teacher successfully dealt with students who were dominating by managing the breakout rooms.  Also the classes were relatively small – the same size as they would have been face to face, allowing time to provide individual attention if needed.  Clear timings were given. The teacher had thought about the students experience.

              unsuccessful online learning was when a lot of the above didn’t happen!  Sometimes too the answers in asynchronous tests are not well though out and are obvious whether you have read the previous information or not.

              One aspect of the  article, I found interesting, is the challenge of creating an adaptive learning, where the programme customises content and training methods base on learner responses. It would be useful to know more about in terms of developing and structuring the resources and accessing the research (in EFL/EAP) that would provide the bank of knowledge to identify the common errors – an argument for creating materials collectively rather than individually

            • #48461
              Amon Ezike

                  I have ran some  synchronous online training courses where I felt the training was engaging as I would have some practical timed task that will allow learners to work on then reconvene to discuss, this seemed to have worked well based on feedback received. The task is always based on what has been learnt allowing them to practice it and then come up with areas for discussion.

                  During  the Covid, a lot of institution were not prepared for online learning, they just moved their face to face resources online without any consideration of how this will work. a lot of pre-recorded videos  were used. These were very ineffective for online audience as they were not engaging. This lead to a lot of students feeling demotivated.

                  From the article, I would like to learn more on what we need to know or think about in  order to incorporate thinking skills within our e-learning course.

                • #48464
                  Joanne Tindall

                      Well, I haven’t had the opportunity to do much asynchronous, and like Amon, my university didn’t have time to adapt materials during Covid, so there were no good examples there. I did do a child safety course with my other employer which was asynchronous and it was good. I was able to do it fairly quickly even though the material was new to me. It used behavioural techniques by asking questions and having buttons to reveal answers. In addition, there were mini quizzes at the end of a section (Contiguity) rather than having one long quiz at the end.  The material was engaging and interesting with descriptions of scenarios which made  you put yourself in that situation and reflect on how I would react.

                      The text talks about customised training and says:

                      “By customized training we mean tailoring content and instructional methods based on the work roles and learn-
                      ing needs of individuals (particularly their prior knowledge).”P16

                      How is this feasible? Surely it is too time consuming and impractical?  For groups with similar needs I can understand, but for individuals?

                    • #48539
                      Juliet Parfitt

                          Thanks for the responses so far. I’ve had that experience too @ann-c, of answering quiz questions that are obvious without needing to read the text that they’re based on. However, regular quizzes that @jomtindall mentions actually fulfil the testing principle – students learn new material better and remember it for longer when tested on it, rather than when they just reread it (even a few times).

                          In terms of customising training, perhaps one possibility is to give individual learners control to select which parts of the material they study based on their needs, and to be able to move faster through or to repeat sections. This can also of course have it’s disadvantages.

                          , you provide a good example of how a course with video after video can become demotivating. It highlights the need for variety, interaction, feedback, and feeling of a teacher presence, which can all be achieved asynchronously.

                        • #48780
                          Helen Shaw-Cotterill

                              When our summer school was moved online in 2020, it was a case of learning on the go. I quickly learn that ‘less is more’ regarding info on slides (definitely the coherence principle). Students were able to complete tasks well if first given an example to do together as class or if there was a model answer on the slides. Not giving these in the first couple of weeks meant explaining everything 2 or 3 times to try and get the result I expected/wanted!

                              The other thing I quickly learnt with teaching online is that silence is necessary! Students need time to process a queisotn and think of their answer, so how ever awkward it felt, being silent for 2-3 minutes was necessary to then get students involved in a discussion!

                              If its the instructional methods that ensure learning, whatever the medium used, (text pg 14), does this mean there will always be a place for face to face teaching, or do younger generations believe they can learn more in an online teaching environment, whatever the instructional methods?

                              • #48794
                                Joanne Tindall

                                    I like your point about the need for silence @helen-sc. Processing time is important and learners get overwhelmed and are working in their heads more slowly than I have realised in the past.

                                • #48789
                                  Linda Roth

                                      On reading and re-reading the question for the umpteenth time, and as someone with experience of e-learning from both the learner and instructor point of view, I’m not entirely sure the question is a fair one.

                                      I agree that appropriate methods of delivery and course content, which are designed to meet the needs of the learners etc etc, are vital aspects of a successful course. However, I have also experienced instances – I’d rather not name names here! – where, in spite of the course being apparently well-designed,  the participants have not perhaps benefited as much from it as they might otherwise have done.

                                      As with any learning situation, what the learner takes away from a course depends very much on how much effort they put in to it, which in turn is often affected by how comfortable they feel in the online environment, and their attitude to e-learning, which I think can be considerably influenced by the task type they are are asked to do on the course.

                                      One factor that perhaps plays a key role here is the assumption, often made by e-course designers, that forums such as this one, should be an integral aspect of or should even be the mainstay of an online course.

                                      However, not everyone feels comfortable with exposing their opinions to ‘public’ scrutiny or with responding to others, nor are they always convinced that such exchanges are a valid approach to learning or information dissemination. Cultural norms and expectations are probably likely to play a role here.

                                      The result is, in my experience, that often contributions are minimal and posted to meet the course requirements, and that true discussion between participants rarely takes place, but  instead becomes the responsibility of the online course moderator.

                                      How much more fraught the activity for less confident writers whose first language is not English!

                                      With regard to the use of forums in e-learning, perhaps less would be more?







                                      • #48796
                                        Joanne Tindall

                                            Agreed @tinkerbell,

                                            I think the amount of effort people put in is also linked to motivation.  I guess there is an element of course fatigue where employees for example, are expected to complete so many hours of training to satisfy their contract/employer rather than doing it for their own interest or self-development.  (intrinsic and extrinsic motivation theory)


                                            We need to be mindful that not all cultures are encouraged to express their views freely.

                                            My students tend to post on forums at the last minute i.e. there are lots of posts made in the last few days of the course and not much else before. In this case it is a matter of being busy with their F2F classes and projects.  However, that is not the purpose of the exercise as we all know, but I think it helps them to develop an awareness of what is expected when they move on to university.

                                        • #48800
                                          Tania Pacheco

                                              Positive: after failing many times when delivering online synchronous lessons, I’ve learnt the following:

                                              1. Less is more

                                              2. Giving time to digest new information

                                              3. Encouraging to participate (this was the hardest one) no-one likes to be put in the spot

                                              4. Retrieving information

                                              5. Practice, practice and more practice.

                                              If I have to think in just one single example when learning was effective, it is very difficult for me. I have been teaching in secondary schools for many many years and to adults for four years now. So I have learnt how to teach effectively through failures and good and bad situations. I guess, it is experience that has made me a decent teacher.

                                              For me, the principle of coherence has to work very well, so I need to know, what I am doing, where I am going, and why I am doing it. I know, for some, this might sound superficial.

                                              I’ve taught a f-to-f lesson on Thursday and it went very well. The reason was that I’ve taught the same lesson many times in the past and I’ve felt very confident with every single aspect. So, I updated my resources, I had “differentiates” exercises (because I know by experience that there are people who already know some Spanish), I also know where to skip and fast forward or to slow down if needed and of course a good sense of humor.  I guess, all those can be transferred to an e-learning course, including the good mood (in a video).

                                              For the less positive and I’m still looking for the way how to improve it:

                                              Homework, the motivated learners have no problem on doing it, the less motivated simply ignore it.

                                              I have many examples of less positive experiences, which I guess all of them were due to my lack of experience, lack of planning, lack of understanding of the topic, lack of time, etc.

                                              During COVID 19, I have to say, it was a little of a nightmare, where not just I but the whole teaching community just felt overwhelmed with the endless tasks and difficulties of how to organise teaching and learning in such new digital environment.

                                              It was a steep learning curve for me; from not knowing where to click on Teams, so students cannot see my personal space, sharing documents on the spot, organising and splitting in rooms, which is completely not advisable when you work with teenagers and obviously, the lack of participation and disengagement. At the end, I’ve learnt a lot, so bring it on again, I can deal with it! :yahoo:


                                            • #48807
                                              Tim Radnor

                                                  Successful e-learning experience: I did a FutureLearn course on creative writing which used e-learning tools in a balanced and understated way (i.e. not much gadgetry!). However, there were opportunities such as discussion boards and other tools to engage with the other students. I felt fully engaged and also was given a lot of freedom in how & when to respond and submit my work (customised training: fitted in with a diverse group of students with differing backgrounds and needs).

                                                  Unsuccessful e-learning experience: we switched a previously blended learning course to fully asynchronous due to Covid. It suffered from ‘not enough of a good thing’ as the sometimes text-based tuition in the paper booklets did not transfer well to e-learning. Showed me the importance of having enough time to design and think through presentation and use of multimedia.


                                                  Comment and question about the article: comment is that promise 4 does not seem wholly relevant to the ‘skills’ that we teach, for example, in EAP or ESAP, where I would argue there is no ‘short-cut’ to getting to a proficiency level through engaging with different scenarios (and, in fact, it could be argued that intensive f2f courses may be more efficient for languages).

                                                  Question is: Is there room for emotional or personal engagement as part of promise 2 (or does the writer feel this is implied by psychological engagement?) I understand the text is written from a vocational course perspective, but what about group harmony, ‘feeling part of the course’ etc…? Btw, I think this course does make us feel part of a group! :-)

                                                • #48867
                                                  David Read

                                                      thanks @helen-sc @jomtindall @tania-pacheco and @tinkerbell for your comments, I will come to all of them in the next day or so, but would like to address the issue of forums that Linda brings up as it seems relevant for this situation ;-)

                                                      I do actually agree with you Linda that it’s dangerous to make the assumption that forums are an effective tool for sharing and interaction on a course. And it’s something that I’ve certainly pondered and thought about in relation to this and other courses I’ve run. To give the rationale for using them – and I think it’s important that any course designer can explain why they include anything in their course – is the idea of ‘teacher presence’ in online courses. There has been a fair amount of research into online courses and one of the key reasons why students drop out – and indeed is the reason why I’ve dropped out of numerous MOOCs and other online courses – is the feeling that noone is ‘there’, that you are just working through this course in a vacuum with no feedback or interaction. There are many ways you can create ‘teacher presence’ – such as live sessions, video recordings, etc – but one that is easy to set up and monitor is a forum.

                                                      However, the other danger is that you expect the forum to do all the heavy lifting. Rather than providing content for students to work through, you give the bare minimum of input – the classic example would be just finding a youtube video for them to watch or recording a brief talking video  –  and then expect the students to do all the learning themselves through interaction in the forum. I’ve taken several courses like that and bailed very early as I realised I wasn’t really getting any substantial content to work through.

                                                      From our perspective, we try to make our courses content rich and then use forums as a way for participants to share ideas and content they have created and as a way to get feedback. However, I have no problems with participants choosing not to engage with the forums, if they prefer to work through the content at their own pace and in their own time and not share, we’re cool with that as well! In fact there are many students who do go through our courses that way, and often they may not have English as a first language (and in some cases they do!).

                                                      Thanks for bringing this up Linda, I think it is an important point to address in an online course and as course designers we do need to be able to justify why we include certain things on our programme. I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on the use of forums, either on this course or any others you are involved. And please remember we are very thick-skinned when it comes to constructive feedback of our courses  so please don’t feel you have to be diplomatic or not express yourself honestly. This is a course about designing online content and courses so we can be a bit ‘meta’ and talk about the way it is designed in an open but hopefully friendly way!



                                                    • #49696
                                                      Richard Davie

                                                          My experiences of e-learning (asynchronously): this is more a summary of (dis)preferences based on my (limited) experience.

                                                          I’ve found myself massively impatient as an on-line learner

                                                          • I always jump straight past the ‘In this unit we will…’ list of aims/outcomes/learning points etc.–they just don’t register and only become meaningful in retrospect, if at all [In contrast, headquotes, short narratives (maybe in jump-out panels), before-you-start questions etc. I can actually read and they do go in.]
                                                          • I usually want to fast-forward / speed-up any audio/video, and am happy to see that speed controls are becoming routine in online play controls. If I don’t follow or lose track, I can just rewind. That does mean that any audio/video interface that doesn’t allow these does then make me grind my teeth… [In digital recording, speeding up/slowing down doesn’t make you sound Pinky & Perky or drunk-and-slury; you just sound a bit faster or slower, certainly if you keep it within the 0.75 – 1.25 range–something I emphasise to learners for their own listening.]
                                                          • Graphics very often don’t say a thousand words, at least to me. Case-in-point: Figure 1.5. The Engagement Matrix on p.16, seemed like a lot of graphical huff-and-puff just to say ‘Pyschological Engagement is far more important than Behavioural’ (though I guess Clark & Mayer get the last laugh, as at least the point has stuck in my mind, if only for the wrong reason!) The danger is that graphics get used gratuitously, not because they’re more effective at putting across any given info. but because it’s often believed that they are. (By graphics, I don’t mean ‘good graphical design’, just the resort to diagrams for comfortably verbal info.)
                                                          • Progress Tests can range from useful to annoying depending on the task complexity relative to the comprehensibility or just intrinic interest of the material being tested. The quick-and-dirty matching or gap-fills like we’ve been doing so far have the great value of being, well, quick-and-dirty. In other on-line courses I’ve done (more Inform/Receptive-based ones which I’ve had to do as part of staff awareness training on this or that), the tasks can be a dreary obstacle rather than a useful test. (Interestingly, with the Clark & Mayer text, I’d skipped through pretty fast, but then found the last task actually sent me back in to the text to check up on a point; so thanks for that.) On the other hand I would much rather do a task than read the ‘In this unit we have…’ summary (again, nothing goes in), or worse: be invited to fill an empty box with reflections–see below.
                                                          • Specific Responses rather than Open-ended Thoughts: I’d much rather respond to specific questions/tasks than muse in a more open-ended way. A very specific question (or scenario, or some other response form) can act as a catalyst for wider thinking, in a way that apparently broader/more inclusive questions don’t; the former are more immediately motivating. This is especially the case if whatever we write is going out to an anonymous or uncertain audience. Choice is nice, as well: ‘Pick one of the following statements. Which one summarises your thinking so far about XXX? How would you rewrite it to better reflect your understanding?’ Something like that, maybe?

                                                          On the subject of Forums that was raised & responded to above, the previous point applies: the quality of contributions & motivation to do so can depend on how sharp the provocation to respond is (as well as the consequence of not responding!). In my experience, for some folk the option of anonymity really helps (especially also for encouraging questions). A real time graphically appealing medium like Padlet also seems to  encourage responses (though less so in the form of dialogic interaction via Comments).

                                                          One more thing: anything in the design of a course and its material that enables ‘chat’ may be helpful. When I’ve been teaching on-line, folk seem far freer to chat than talk, and it helps to normalise the slower back-and-forth interactional pace, as people are focused on writing, posting, reading & responding, so the long gaps don’t hang so heavily. In an aysnchronous course, I wonder whether the chance to tag up material with bits of chat (outside of the normal spaces for comment & feedback) would help foster interaction and enagement. That’s a tall order for a lot of standard platforms, but I’ve noticed in the revised form of the Blackboard VLE we’ve got at my place, there is a ‘Conversations’ tool, which allows Q&A tagged to a particular item such as an uploaded document.

                                                          Anyway, enough for the moment.


                                                        • #49699
                                                          David Read

                                                              Thanks @egq22rd (Richard) for some fascinating thoughts on online learning, many that do chime with my own.

                                                              Like you I feel that objectives are something that’s become largely mechanical in courses (whether face to face or online) , I find myself – as I suspect many others do – writing them retrospectively once you’ve created the materials and then head-scratching over which damn verb to use to make sure you don’t dare use a word like ‘understand’ or ‘comprehend’ because it’s not observable. I’m not sure all learning is visible, and I think it’s perfectly reasonable sometimes to use phrases like ‘raise awareness’ in objectives when you are introducing a concept and giving students time to get their heads round it.

                                                              Like you I prefer a summary/narrative, and it’s something we try to do both at the start of the units and at the beginning of each topic. Neither of these are really ‘objectives’ in a traditional sense of the word, more a kind of ‘hey, this is what you’re going to be doing here’. Learning is a really messy business and trying to constrain it down to one or two outcomes can be counter-productive at times. However, It can be useful when talking about the course as a whole and trying to help people understand what some of the takeaways from it might be.

                                                              Also agree about graphics and like you, I found that Engagement Matrix particularly difficult to grasp, it feels like an unnecessarily complicated Venn Diagram. But a great example where use of media must be relevant or where you need to offer an alternative (table/text) to accommodate different ways of processing information. Just sticking in a table/diagram/picture because well, that’s what we’re supposed to do, is as unhelpful as just using banks of text.

                                                              You make an interesting point about chat, and the ability to comment on a specific thing in a course or text can be really helpful. I think that’s why tools like Google Docs have become so popular, they help create a living, organic document that can be commented and changed in real time. There is a danger with letting chat become a dominant option though as it seems to demand an immediate response, which can be quite exhausting for the tutors and also may lead to hasty decision making (’oh my god, they didn’t like that activity, I’d better change it’).

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