“What is the strange profound attraction that this rectangular piece of concrete holds for them? Do we now observe the rights of passage of a newly emerging civilisation?” – Dr Eugene D Mander (Public Domain, 1988)
“Skateboarding is not a hobby. And it is not a sport. Skateboarding is a way of learning how to redefine the world around you. For most people, when they saw a swimming pool, they thought, ‘Let’s take a swim.’ But I thought, ‘Let’s ride it.’ When they saw the curb or a street, they would think about driving on it. I would think about the texture. I slowly developed the ability to look at the world through totally different means.” – Ian MacKaye
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
Interesting design considerations when designing across the fold for an audience that may only see one part of the display.
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.
Based on the preparatory user flow sketch, I then worked with developers and designers to extend the Mobas web application with the SWMS template.
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.
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.
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.
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.