Category Archives: learning design

Seminar – Rethinking Online Learning: Melding the Best of Teaching, Television and Testing

Today I attended the Rethinking Online Learning: Melding the Best of Teaching, Television and Testing seminar presented by Professor Gosling (Department of Psychology, University of Texas, Austin, USA) as part of the Innovations in Teaching and Learning series of seminars presented by Melbourne University.

Professor Gosling’s seminar was based on the work he’s doing with a colleague from University of Texas in the way of rethinking online learning, particularly a synchronous broadcast delivered to a large number of students. In the description for the seminar, Professor Gosling described his work in the following way:

We teach a Synchronous Massive Online Course (or SMOC), broadcasts live to about 2000 students. With daily quizzes and a television show format, we find that absentee rates are low, test performance high, study habits greatly improved, with large drops in achievement gaps between rich and poor students. The synchronous broadcast model offers a number benefits including facilitating interactive elements and addressing concerns about cheating. Many challenges remain but our experiences (and data) suggest that large online classes taught using this format have great potential.

The seminar

In his seminar Professor Gosling’s spoke about the design, development and delivery of a Synchronous Massive Online Course (or SMOC) for the Introduction to Psychology course at University of Texas. The SMOC was a response to what he called the Big Old Class (BOC) where there was high student attrition and low achievement. Built on Canvas (the learning management system (LMS) by Instructure), Gosling and his colleague were able to broadcast their lecture (in a chat show format with segments such daily news items, lab experiments and interviews with experts) from a studio at the University to a live student audience and students tuned in online. Within the Canvas LMS, students were also able to form mentor-based study groups (known as pods), complete surveys, access online textbooks and resources and complete daily tests (known as benchmarking). Benchmarking featured questions individualised to the student and contained feedback with support that enabled the student to undertake self-regulated learning. Professor Gosling advocated daily benchmarking as a method of providing students with feedback and measurement on their performance in contrast to more traditional mid-term examinations where performance was often measured  too late (which often made it more difficult for the student to do something about it).

The format and production of the SMOC was similar to  live television.
The format and production of the SMOC was similar to live television.

Problems and issues

The only problem or issue with the television show format that was mentioned by Professor Gosling was the cost of production, particularly the team (analagous to live television production) required to coordinate and sequence the broadcast the show.

Although Professor Gosling didn’t mention cheating and collusion as a problem or issue for the course, it isn’t something that’s specific to this course format. It just becomes a little more complex when student behaviour is somewhat obfuscated by online delivery (Professor Gosling did go on to talk about his approach to managing cheating and collusion between his students).

Successes

Professor Gosling went on to tell us that the course had a success with its increase in student retention rates and grades. He attributed the success to the television show format, the intensive benchmarking with feedback (which encouraged self-regulated learning), the student mentoring and facilitated discussions (via the study-group pods). The course was also a success as far as gathering data about student behaviour (online) that could be used for further research and continued course enhancement. Although not mentioned by Professor Gosling, this data could also serve as a potential revenue stream. Based on the success of the course, Professor Gosling told us this model was being strongly considered for adoption by other faculties at his university.

Feedback based on results from benchmarking played an important role in encouraging students to undertake their own self regulated study.
Feedback based on results from benchmarking played an important role in encouraging students to undertake their own self regulated study.

Managing cheating and collusion


Professor Gosling and his team managed cheating and collusion between students throughout the daily benchmarking by consigning someone to write some software that monitored and compared in real-time the order of each question that was completed by each student and the amount of time it took each of them them to complete the question. The software then identified patterns of completion and was able to determine the likelihood of collusion between students during benchmarking. Professor Gosling and his team then decided if they were going to send the suspicious student an email warning them their behaviour was being closely monitored.

Conclusion

There’s no denying the the flexible and fun nature of the online television show style broadcast would have been contributing a factor to the increase in student performance, but I can’t help but think the  mentored study groups and the rather rigorous and regimented daily benchmarking would have also been a major contributing factor to the increase in student performance particularly when the benchmarking provided feedback that helped students undertake their own self-regulated learning). Besides, a fair, reasonable and diverse assessment strategy would probably measure student performance and provide them with feedback and support their self-regulated learning anyway.

From what Professor Gosling told us, the SMOC has been a success, but I can’t also help but think the broadcast model is somewhat traditional and doesn’t consider constructivist and connectivist approaches to course design that incorporate the network (as a learning environment with peers) and the large number tools available to enable students to become authors and contribute to course content.

There’s certainly a place for student generated, curated, moderated and broadcast content (with the teacher and other students as well in response to content) particularly with a premise of a television show format. Unfortunately, the broadcast (without feedback or input from students) method of guiding, monitoring and directing students could be considered a fairly regular and popular instructional strategy for those yearning to repetitively deliver learning at scale.

User flow for the completion of a safe work method statement (SWMS)

This sketch demonstrates the preliminary user flow for a web application/mobile experience that permits the completion and submission of a safe work method statement (SWMS) as part of a vocational training and assessment experience.

A SWMS is a site-specific form that must be completed before any high-risk construction work is commenced. Generally, the completion and submission of a SWMS is a paper-based.

This web application/mobile experience seeks to take advantages of the affordances of mobile technology and allow users (students in a vocational training and assessment context) to complete this form prior to commencement of work.

In a training and assessment context, the completion and submission of the SMWS is predicated on learning management system (LMS) connectivity and established user permissions.

2014-07-17_userflow_swms

Based on the preparatory user flow sketch, I then worked with developers and designers to extend the Mobas web application with the SWMS template.

SWMS_developed_as_web_application
Sequence of screens that make up the SWMS completion experience for the Mobas web application.

User flow for a practical task capture: Technical report

This sketch demonstrates the preliminary user flow for a web application/mobile experience for a practical task capture, more specifically the completion of a technical report or similar documentation as part of a vocational training and assessment experience.

prac_task_capture_user_flow

Like the safe work method statement (SWMS) template, this web application/mobile experience seeks to take advantages of the affordances of mobile technology and allow users (students in a vocational training and assessment context) to complete this form in the workplace or training environment.

In a training and assessment context, the completion and submission of a practical task capture is predicated on learning management system (LMS) connectivity and established user permissions.

Based on the preparatory user flow sketch, I then worked with developers and designers to extend the Mobas web application with the practical task capture template.

practical_task
Sequence of screens that make up the practical task capture experience for the Mobas web application.

Prototyping augmented contextual instruction with Metaio Creator (Demo mode) and Toolbox

2013-07-31 18.32.49
The obtuse futuristic device that can only be serviced by a fearless technician with a little help from some augmented contextual instruction.

For this prototype, I’m using Metaio Creator image and object recognition features of Toolbox in restrictive Demo Mode to further explore some aspects of my concept of augmented contextual instruction. Unfortunately, in Demo Mode I can’t use the excellent 3D point cloud data  captured in Toolbox to prototype all aspects of my augmented contextual instruction. In Demo Mode augments can only be triggered by a QR code, which is kinda okay for testing while you’re building. I’m thinking about buying a license.

This video shows some of the features of the augmented contextual help I’m trying to prototype with Metaio Creator in Demo Mode.

Concept: Augmented contextual instruction

Augmented contextual instruction provides users with procedural demonstrations based on recognisable features and attributes of an object. Augmented contextual instruction could be used in vocational training and assessment contexts. Users can add (record), edit and share their own contextual instruction.

Planning the augmented contextual instruction with pen and envelope.
Planning the augmented contextual instruction with pen and envelope.

Modelling a simple door/entry area to Dr Softain’s lab with Blender for an augment with Aurasma Studio

A work-in-progress render of the scene and 50 frame animated geometry for an augment of door/entry area to Dr Softain’s laboratory. Thematically, this scene takes place around the same time as Dr Softain’s emergency broadcast.

The modelling is based on measurements and reference photos taken at the scene. The animated door opening was achieved by creating a simple bone system, skinning the mesh and then animated the bones. I did this because I thought animated rigid geometry wasn’t supported by Aurasma Studio. I was wrong. Animated rigid geometry is supported by Aurasma Studio. I may continue to use bones to animate the opening of the door and other geometry that makes up the scene.

If all goes to plan, the final .dae export and augment with Aurasma Studio of the alternate animated door/entry area should replace the real door/entry area entirely.

Work to be completed

The completed scene will be made up of a partially visible collapsed Dr Softain, handing lights and elements such as strange equipment and tools you may expect to find in a laboratory. I’m also considering replacing animated versions of the fridge and bin seen in the reference photos. Each element will need to be low-poly and  combined with other geometry into a single mesh to meet the 3D guidelines for Aurasma Studio. Further visual effects such as dirt, spilt chemicals, blood etc will be painted onto 512 x 512 material that is then applied to the mesh. The animation looks a bit stiff, so I’ll give that a bit of tweak too!

Thinking out loud

Sketching out the door/entry scene and thinking about the limitations of designing and developing augments. There’s something about them that makes them merely passive observational pieces. They seem read-only. Web 1.0. Augments and the fictional layer should be read/write by those who interact with the space. That’s more web 2.0 – beyond. I guess that’s the challenge. Integrate them into/with something else where action is required and/or make the diorama read/write.

Dr Softain's surgery
An example of the type of elements that could used in the scene.
New equipment for Dr Softain's laboratory.
An example of the type of elements that could used in the scene.

Dr Softain’s emergency broadcast

Dr Sigmeund Softain is specialist surgeon. He was responsible for pioneering The Softain Biopsy medical procedure. Dr Softain’s research is experimental and ongoing. He Tweets his day-to-day research activities and also discusses his work and recent findings on his blog.

One day everything changed. Something went wrong in Dr Softain’s laboratory. An experimental medical procedure went awry. An outbreak. Amidst all the chaos and confusion Dr Softain recorded his final broadcast. An emergency broadcast warning us of an unknown peril.

Dr Softain’s emergency broadcast

Outside Dr Softain’s laboratory
All that was remained was a pool of blood and Dr Softain’s laboratory pass.
Door to Dr Softain's laboratory

Door to Dr Softain's laboratory

User engagement
I recorded and edited Dr Softain’s emergency video on my iPad. I then used Aurasma to create the video augment. Early one morning I set up the installation made up of the pool of blood, Softain’s lab pass, iPad with Aurasma and instructions outside a fire door in the kitchen of my workplace and then waited for work colleagues to discover the installation as they visited the kitchen for their morning coffee.

Reflection

Thinking about it, this wasn’t really an augment. It didn’t augment reality with a fictional layer. The layer was simply triggered, much like a QR code. Also the metaphorical container for displaying the augment was wrong. Lame. A better augment would have been to animate the pool of blood or design an intercom to display the video. The situation was also goofy. This kind of scenario (minus the zombies) could be used as an element of a larger campus-wide activities such as student induction or OHS/ workplace hazard identification audit.

Putting it together

I used my iPad to shoot the video and then edited the video and overdubbed my own sound effects with Pinnacle Studio 2.0.

Dr Softain issued new medical research pass amidst controversy

Prototyping AR with processing and blender

I’m interested in exploring the use of augmented reality (AR) in learning experiences.  I’ve decided to prototype my early simple AR experiments with Processing and Blender. These early explorations will make use of augments placed with fiducial markers. My goal is to then explore developing AR learning experiences with Layar that can then be viewed through iOS and Android mobile devices. I’d then like to explore placing augments without using fiducial markers. These augment could be determined by location. One step at a time.

I used Processing, Blender and NyARToolkit to create this very simple zombie wound augment. This needs a bit more work as the augment is displaying bounding box information and the low-poly modelling is not as smooth as it should be. The augment could be made to look a little more integrated with my body with improved modelling and texturing. That will come with the next iteration.