Topic 5: Course reflection

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It is hard to believe our 10 week ONL journey is drawing to a close, feels like our group has accomplished loads in that short time. Through networking and collaborative learning, my colleagues in our PBL 5 group have contributed to the development of my teaching. My knowledge of online resources has been enhanced as I have gained increased confidence in my digital literacy skills. I hope to embrace more of a blended learning approach when teaching my law students going forward. I need to reflect on how best to achieve this. The timing of this course has been opportune for me with the imminent need to design several modules on a new qualification we have been working on at our institute. Being a student on this course has given me a refreshing lense to see what it is like to be a learner once again. I have truly realised the value of sharing responsibly and openness in learning, right from the initial guidance provided by our patient facilitator, to this week when we have reflected on the lessons learnt from this course. I also believe my creativity and explorative approach to trying new ways to connecting with my students has been piqued, and this excites me for the future.

I learnt that at the start of running an online course, the importance of establishing an effective communication plan with the group members is critical. Clear and instructions that are easily understandable to students starting a new course is also key to allowing them to feel confident in taking the first step in their learning journey.

I realise that just as I was a student on this ONL course, there is considerable value for students to become more active learners and thereby enhancing their lifelong learning skills, which they can take with them into the practice of law. After all, lawyers never stop learning and researching throughout their careers.

The more digitally experienced members of my group were fantastic in providing guidance initially, and sharing their skills. I have gained the opportunity to use a host of new digital tools including Flickr, Weebly, Kahoot, Padlet, Sway, Canva, Creative Commons, MOOC’s to name a few and realise the value of sharing the benefits of these tools with my fellow law teachers, and of course my students. This of course will be an interesting challenge for me in 2017 as the discipline of Law sometimes trails other fields in embracing change.

I also realise that learning in an online space still requires a recognition of the value of human emotion and feeling connected, as this inspires students to be more collaborative in their learning approach. Our group had experience on this when we came up with a script for a play for Topic 3, and had a lot of fun doing this.

I have learnt the importance of incorporating a blended learning approach to my future teaching as this is certainly the space into which the world is moving. Choosing the correct blend of learning activities is also key to the success of any course. Analysing your student group and their needs is vital before the designing of any course even occurs. The benefit of ADDIE and Professor Salmon’s 5 step models are takeaways from this course I would like to explore further at a more leisurely pace.

I will look back on my ONL162 journey with the fondest of memories and know that a path of deeper discovery of digital literacies still awaits me. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity of networked learning and to my fellow ONL162er’s for taking this journey with me.

References:

http://teachonline.ca/tools-trends/blended-learning-successful-design-delivery-and-student-engagement/making-sense-blended-learning-treasuring-older-tradition-or-finding-better-future

 

Topic 4: Design for online and blended learning

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For this topic, pinning down the most suitable theoretical framework proved rather a challenge for our PBL group initially, but then after sharing our views on this topic, our group really got to the heart of identifying what counts in formulating a learning activity. We considered the 5-stage model (Salmon, 2013) which seemed to suggest that the last stage of the model should be looked at first, to see what exactly the students are supposed to have learnt by the end of the course. We aligned our views and came up with an innovative product to share with our fellow ONL’ers.

To start designing a course, the facilitator needs to understand what the instructor want to accomplish from the course design, what the needs of those students might be, and what the learners need to learn. This can be done by interviewing different stakeholders in the process.

We learnt that the most important aspects of a good online or blended course design are (i) giving clear instructions on the structure of the course from the outset, (ii) keeping the students motivated by engaging with them on a regular basis and (iii) giving guidance where needed. I realised that I can assist in achieving this with my students by setting a friendly, explorative tone at the start of an online course, where the students feel comfortable to learn from one another in a meaningful manner. This could also be achieved by providing a communication strategy, as one of my colleagues on PBL5 Daniel suggested in our group discussions.

So as to avoid being overwhelmed with information, I see that some guidance on how to use your time effectively on the course, should be provided to the students. This could be done by having a link to a “How to” guide, to orientate students on expectations for the course.

We were tasked with designing an appropriate online learning activity to illustrate how best we could scaffold the students’ learning and align this to the outcomes. After some deliberation we elected to use only some of the stages of the ADDIE model (ADDIE Model Instructional Strategies, 2011) This model represents the generic components of a learning/instructional design process involving (i) analysis, (ii) design, (iii) development, (iv) implementation and (v) evaluation. As we only needed to design one learning activity contained within a course, our group selected 3 of the 5 stages of the ADDIE model, to illustrate how student learning can be scaffolded, namely, (i) analysis, (ii) design and (v) evaluation.

The topic we chose to present to the wider ONL group was how to motivate students to becoming more active online learners. I led some of the group chats for this topic with my colleagues Janus. We compiled a learner analysis form, inviting participation from our target group, the ONL students. A mindmap was also created to understand the characteristics of this specific group of students.

I made a contribution as a member of this target group on the padlet we created for our learning activity. Students were invited to read selected articles and give feedback of their understanding of what it means to engage in online active learning.  Instructions to participate were made to be clear and concise. The Jigsaw technique was identified as the most practical activity for students to give their feedback on active learning, as discerned from the articles they read. I contributed to our group presentation on Sway by drafting the Evaluation section, presenting our results from the contributions made by participants of the learning activity on padlet, and how we did the evaluation using the ADDIE model. I realised the importance of assessing the clarity, impact and feasibility of the learning activity. I also critiqued the ADDIE model, noting the strengths and weaknesses of the learning activity, what we could improve on in the formative evaluation process, in the design and implementation of the learning activity. The most important the evaluation process helped us determine that the time we allocated to invite student participation on the padlet was not sufficient and this is something we could improve on in the next instructional design.

My take-aways from this topic, are that I need to review whether students are able to internalise and apply the skills and knowledge learnt, into life-long changes in behaviour. Furthermore I would like to introduce more online tools into my teaching such as hosting webinars to encourage students to be more collaborative and learn from one another and to encourage more online discussions to keep the students engaged and active in their study of the law.

References

Biggs, J.B. (1996) Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment, Higher Education, 32: 1–18.

 Bates, T (2016). The 10 Fundamentals of Teaching Online for Faculty and Instructors.

http://www.tonybates.ca/2014/09/09/is-the-addie-model-appropriate-for-teaching-in-a-digital-age/

 http://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html

https://teachingcommons.stanford.edu/resources/learning-resources/promoting-active- learning

http://cet.usc.edu/resources/teaching_learning/docs/Active_Learning_Florida.pdf

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Topic 3: Becoming a part of a learning community through collaborative learning

Collaborative learning is based on the view that knowledge is a social construct. It suggests a form of group learning in which learners achieve a deeper level of knowledge generation, while moving from independence to interdependence (Pallof & Pratt, 2005). Discussion forms an integral part of the learning process, and I find the description by Johnson and Johnson (2005) of the foundation of collaboration being:”When I succeed, we succeed”, particularly apt for the process of community that is built through this learning method.

The process of learning together as online students removes the element of loneliness, and rather offers the opportunity of trying out new ideas, and receiving constructive feedback from other members of the group. This may be viewed as social learning and provides the chance for reflection and importantly, the development of critical thinking skills.

It is the benefit of developing critical reasoning skills as part  of collaborative learning that has piqued my interest, as this is an essential outcome for law graduates as identified by the Law Society of South Africa. Going forward I would support the introduction of more collaborative learning opportunities for our law students, in the preparation of their assignments and other group projects. The pedagogical benefits of collaborative learning including the accommodation of diverse learning styles and cultures, developing an innate ability to interact with various sources of knowledge and being able to transfer the shared and networked learning experience to a team-based environment (Chapman, Ramondt and Smiley, 2005) will be advantageous to law students, particularly when they go out into industry.

Various strategies (as suggested by Brindley, J., Blaschke, L. M. & Walti, C. 2009) can be incorporated into any courses where I act as an online facilitator, to improve the quality of group collaboration and increase the prospect of student participation. These include:

  • the provision of scaffolding in the instructional design, to build skills
  • setting clear guidelines to ensure optimal performance by all team members
  • creating a sense of community within the collaborative group
  • ensuring my availability for feedback and guidance, at all stages
  • utilising topics of mutual interest and relevance to everyday life
  • allowing sufficient time to complete projects successfully

Law students need to realise the value of peer to peer learning in their conceptualisation of legal terms and solving of complex legal scenarios. The “takeaway” for me from this topic is that I need to pose questions in an online environment which will stimulate deep exploration of a topic and the development of the students’ critical reasoning skills. Students need to expect constructive feedback from their peers so that points of connection can be created, and interdependence established. Ultimately this will assist them in developing their oral and communication skills, essential for their chosen profession. The potential for collaborative learning leading to the students’ ability to engage in a tranformative learning process, I see as a critical step towards student engagement in lifelong learning.

Image result for collaboration free images

References:

Brindley, J., Blaschke, L. M. & Walti, C. (2009). Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3).

Anderson, T. (2008). Teaching in an online learning context. In The theory and practice of online learning (pp. 343-395). Athabasca university press

https://www.cte.cornell.edu/teaching-ideas/engaging-students/collaborative-learning.html

Palloff , R. and Pratt, K.(2005) Building online learning communities.

 

 

 

 

Topic 2: Open learning

During this International Open Access week 2016, I find it particularly apt that we are dealing with the concept of openness in education in our ONL162 course. This year’s theme of “Open in Action” is designed to encourage us as educators to explore possibilities of opening up research and scholarship, and encouraging colleagues and students to do the same. I was motivated to take up this challenge.

The topic of sharing resources and copyright challenges around this issue is one that has certainly piqued my interest to research into this area more. How “open” our respective institutions are, in the sharing of digital content was one that produced robust discussion amongst our PBL Group 5 members. It was interesting to note the varied positions, depending on the countries representing within our group,. as to who exactly owns academic material produced by an educator affiliated to a particular academic institution. This question becomes even more complex, I discovered, in the context of a private Higher Education Tertiary provider, where many independent contractors use the study material owned by the institution, and then adapt the material for reuse by their students.

I was motivated to seek out what the position of our institution is, regarding this very relevant and topical area of education. I was encouraged to discover that our institution is in the throes of solidifying our position regarding the dissemination of slides or presentations by lecturers, whilst employed and under contract with our institution. Interestingly many of our lecturers refer to themselves as someone associated with us in a public domain. As they say, the stance of our institution is a willingness to embrace the sharing of resources, yet is still “a work in progress”.

During my research for this topic and group work undertaken, I have learnt additional digital tools including Flickr, Weebley, Kahoot and hope to incorporate these tools in my future teaching.

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Topic 1: Connecting online and digital literacies

Having read some very interesting articles on different digital literacies, I realised that in this era of rapidly changing technological change, it is indeed time for me to embrace the many advantages presented by engaging online. Although I see myself as a “collaborater”, I was initially somewhat reluctant to having such a public presence online. However I am beginning to see that the benefits of sharing my views and experiences and learning from others, will ultimately far outweigh my perceived fear of online visibility and enhance the way I engage with my law students in an online space.

I am beginning to see that I can utilise a range of digital literacies to develop and expand my students’ ability to learn, and assist them with ways to optimise creating and sharing content online. I am keen to explore the concept of transliteracy further.

From my synchronous meetings with my colleagues on this course it is evident that despite our different backgrounds and experiences, we have a lot to learn from each other in the way we engage and explore the different digital tools on offer. The analogy of “crossing a bridge” into the digital world which our Group 5 came up with (as suggested by our colleagues Janus) resonates with me in my own journey into discovering the best ways to incorporate the tools we are learning, into my own teaching on the law programmes I teach and develop.

 

ONL162, LET THE JOURNEY BEGIN…

Greetings from Durban on the east coast of South Africa. I am excited to be embarking on a new journey into completely new territory that is the online digital learning space. Although I have been involved in legal education for about a decade, heading up the School of Law at Varsity College, a brand of the Independent Institute of Education. My passion lies in Mercantile Law and I will shortly be completing my Masters in Business Rescue through the University of Free State. The opportunity to engage with a diverse range of colleagues from differing backgrounds presents an exciting opportunity in a new area of Learning and Teaching for me.