Saturday, 28 May 2011

E-tivities - integrated into a campus-university module

‘The integration and implementation of a range of “e-tivities” to enhance students’ interaction and learning’, Pavey, J. and Garland, S.W. (2004)

This is a case study of a UK sport science course that used Salmon’s framework to enhance student interaction.

The authors used Salmon’s five-stage framework to develop their e-tivities, and suggest a template which can be used to map the particular aspects of an activity against each of Salmon’s five stages:
Stage in Salmon's model          Activity
1. Access and motivations Instructions given in face to face session. E-tivity objectives set. Encouraged to familiarise selves with the technology.
2. Online socializationFamiliarization task. Information information exchange encouraged.
3. Information exchangeDiscussion board introduced - allocated tasks using synchronous and asynchronous discussion.
4. Knowledge constructionOnline information gathering, quizzes and discussions - the main part of the e-tivities.
5. DevelopmentOngoing discussion boards with tutor moderation as required. 
The e-tivities developed for this course were delivered through the Blackboard VLE, which was also new to the students/course at the time. Plenty of familiarisation and orientation time was therefore built in to the programme before students were required to engage in the course-specific learning e-tivities. Four e-tivities were developed:
  • formative quizzes - based on a range of online resources and readings, and which provided automated marking and feedback (e.g. drag and drop labelling of anatomical diagrams) 
  • interactive web pages and animations - animations of complex processes, helps students to understand concepts 
  • topic discussions - using asynchronous discussion board. 
  • an online 'lecture' - 90 minute online tutorial using synchronous discussion with students participating in small groups at a number of shared PCs.
Take-away thoughts
  • "Students have ample time to read other students' comments, do research and formulate a detailed response" (Clark, 2001)
  • "Providing guidelines for online activity should be rated as an important criterion for keeping online discussions 'on-topic'." (Beaudin, 1999)
  • Examples of such guidelines for communication are given, and include that groups nominate a spokesperson, that messages should only be posted when invited, that all messages must be directly relevant, and that participation is mandatory.
  • Importance of sufficient time to become comfortable with the technology, and that this is carried out separately to the main activities - "this approach supports the work of Salmon (2000) who found that students need to feel competent about how to use a VLE before they are comfortable with exchanging ideas and information".
  • The tutor can sometimes serve best by staying silent (Rohfeld and Hiemstra, 1995) as the effort of learning is passed to the students, individually and as a community. This approach has been demonstrated to be effective in increasing critical thinking and active learning (Hughes & Daykin, 2002)
  • Tutoring skills include knowing when to stay silent, weaving and summarizing ideas, asking the right questions (not necessarily giving answers), providing consistent support, and introducing and integrating activities into the module.
  • 83% of the students felt that web-based material should be developed for other modules... but 69% did not find the online lecture/group chat was a worthwhile experience as an alternative to face-to-face delivery. I wondered whether this might be due to technical challenges, discomfort at potential exposure in front of peers, or an underlying expectation that 'lectures' are didactic rather than constructivist in approach. My own experience has often shown students wanting to be told the answer, and finding it uncomfortable if they are required to construct knowledge more independently or collaboratively. 
  • The paper argues that online discussions might provide a means for students who prefer not to ask questions in front of their peers or lecturer - while this may be true, my gut feeling is that online fora still provide plenty of opportunities for a shy student to feel uncomfortable. They are (usually) still identifiable to the other participants, and there may even be heightened concerns regarding the fact that any comment made may be archived, prolonging the 'agony' of any 'embarrassing' comment or faux pas. 
  • The authors considered that the asynchronous and synchronous discussions were the most innovative aspects of the developments presented. Compared to our current Open University experience on H807 (in 2011), it's hard to feel that this is innovative. However, the paper is from 2004, and more importantly refers to a campus-based module. I think that incorporation of such online discussion in a campus-taught class today may well still be viewed as innovative.
Pavey, J. and Garland, S.W. (2004) ‘The integration and implementation of a range of “e-tivities” to enhance students’ interaction and learning’, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, vol.41, no.3, pp.305–15.

Clark (2001), Beaudin (1999), Rohfeld and Hiemstra (1995), Hughes and Daykin (2002) all cited by Pavey and Garland (2004).

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