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September 15, 2011

So, finally it’s finished!  3 and a half years since the beginning and now finally I have the results…but not the piece of paper.

It’s odd.  I’ve finished lots of modules before but never had such a sense of relief…or anticlimax.  I thought I’d feel elated at being able to say ‘I have’ rather than ‘I’m doing’ this MA.  I can feel satisfaction dawning though as I talk to my peers about results and plans for the future.  I thought maybe I’d feel disappointed not to be in class with all the fascinating people I’ve met over the course of my studies, but I guess I felt that when the module ended.  Thankfully, after my experience of H807, I’m not too fussed that I’m not studying anymore and the rose tinted view of intellectual inquiry has yet to appear.  I’m enjoying having weekends and the lack of guilt at not doing any work (although I should really be doing some course writing now).

And of course, all the best to everyone who just finished – do let me know how you got on and what you’re up to next:)



August 9, 2011

Or blogging on the bus. This is what I’m reduced to. So much for finishing my MA and having lots of time to write and learn other stuff. Hmm.  Probably shouldn’t say finished yet either as results are pending…

Having fun with Netvibes today. Jing and VLEs tomorrow. Wonder if I can do that on public transport too?

End of H807

July 10, 2011

So just to show you I haven’t been ignoring my blog for the last few weeks.  Here’s a Wordle image of my 4000 word ECA (End of Course Assignment) for H807, entitled E-tivities for Assessment.  More to come on H807.
Wordle: ECA H807

Learning pattern feedback request

June 17, 2011

The background:
As part of the final assignment for my MA, I have written a learning pattern for an e-tivity to support IELTS candidates preparing for Speaking Part 3. The pattern draws on the Alexandrian notion of architectural patterns as described by Goodyear et al (forthcoming).
The request:
In the assignment rubric I am asked to ‘provide evidence that[I] have collected feedback on [my] designs’ so… Even if you are not familiar with this type of specification (lesson plan), please have a look at the learning pattern, both text and diagram and answer the 6 questions in the survey below.  It should take about 5 minutes (certainly no more than 10). Please note that by answering the questions you are giving me permission to quote your comments in my assignment, attributed to you of course!
The gratitude:
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this – it will really help to have different perspectives to refer to in the write up. I am happy to return the favour and to share the final assignment (once it’s been graded) with anyone who is interested.

I am aware that this is my first LP so I’m sure it’s a bit wonky in places. I’m also aware there’s a bit of overload in the noticing section – this is more to provide examples than to suggest covering all of these things at once.

Thanks again
Click here to take survey

Gift Culture and the Global ELT CLassroom

June 14, 2011

Gift culture here refers to the willingness that exists today to contribute to the global melting pot of knowledge that can be found mostly online i.e. user generated content (UCG) made available on the web for anyone who wants to read, listen to or look at it online with neither desire nor demand for compensation.  Examples include blogs, YouTube, Flickr but the list is long.  Educational institutions have been looking at how to put this generous behaviour to good learning use.

In the face to face classroom, UCG might refer to a piece of writing or a recording a student or group of students has produced for review by peers or even a presentation of research findings given to peers to assist in decision making, as in the case of webquests, but unless a record is made of it for reference later, its usefulness is limited to that one occasion in that one place and that one set of peers.  If we extend the possibilities into a face to face class supported with an online component, value increases by making those same artifacts i.e. the piece of writing or a recording available via a class website along with the peer feedback each piece received.  Add to this a wiki of useful words required to complete the initial task, or a list of web resources and their descriptions (reviews) and maybe a voting system to show how useful learners find it.  We might also want to have a discussion board to allow learners to share their impressions or a blog where each lesson can be scribed or minuted for the benefit of absentees or as a reminder during revision.  All of these would become the primary tools for interaction with content and peers in a fully online course and are all student generated.

This may all sound a bit idealistic but with the right support and guidance via a simple, accessible, shallow-learning-curve ‘hold-all’ platform, it is definitely achievable.  It would be lovely to let the students loose on the web and its vast abyss of information and ways of uploading things and trust that they will come up with beautiful, purposeful, helpful content.  However, students need to learn how to ‘take it with a pinch of salt’, how to participate meaningfully, how to evaluate their output and their experience and how to tell others what they think of their work in a personally and culturally sensitive way and teachers need to learn how to let them get on with it and nudge them in the right direction when appropriate.

What is the advantage of this?  In addition to being a naturally motivating medium (Kukulsa-Hulme, 2010, Morgenstern et al, 2003) for young adults, meaningful use of UCG facilitates the creative process, exposes creators to more ‘critics’ improving awareness of audience and appropriacy, gives them more control over what becomes a more exploratory learning experience, learners learn from others’ contributions and leads to greater interaction with the target language and the other learners.  Cook and Light (2003) suggest that learners have input into the design process as well, which is not so different from the needs analysis undertaken with many adult classes although this would require considerable flexibility in the planning process, which in itself might be more difficult to attain in online learning than face to face.

The main obstacle to this is that learners want as much one on one time with the teacher as possible, only trust what is produced by native speakers so a tension between quality and freedom is produced.  I would argue against moderating contributions before they are made public is helpful as it exacerbates teacher dependency and increases moderating workload, though  some (private?) tutor feedback would be valuable as well.   Awareness that not everything on the internet is totally correct is very healthy too.


Cook, J. and Light, A. (2006) ‘New patterns of power and participation? Designing ICT for informal and community learning’, E-learning, vol.3, no.1, pp.51–61; also available online at
(Accessed 14 June 2011).

Kukulsa-Hulme (2007) H807 Course Materials.  Open University

Morgenstern, D., Plasencia, A. and Seiz, R. (2003) ‘Students as designers and content creators: an online multimedia exchange between the U.S. and Spain’ [online], Campus Technology, 11 January 2003, (Accessed 14 June 2011).


Learning Technology – more learning or more technology?

June 7, 2011

4 weeks left on my 3 and half year weekendless MA and naturally I’m getting busy looking for jobs.  I can’t say I’m feeling too encouraged.  There are lots of jobs out there with titles like Instructional Designer, E-learning Product Manager, E-learning Development Consultant and varying combinations of the same words.  While some of them demand a bit of line managing or finance or programming, all of them seem to want a person to consult with stakeholders and help them decide what they want by advising on the educational potential of the technologies available.  So I think – great!  I’ll apply for this one… and then I scroll down to the person specification and they want degrees in IT.  As I don’t have a degree in IT, I don’t apply but as I’m about to have an MA in Online and Distance Education, I think I should.  Am I alone in thinking the balance is a little off?  What do you think?

Learner Support, Retention and Success

May 31, 2011

Who are my prospective learners?

Well, who aren’t they?  English language learners could be high school or university age students cramming before exams or working more sensibly towards their exams.  They could be adults coming back to education after a long absence with rusty study skills and battered confidence.  They may all have had marvellous, encouraging, positively reinforcing experiences in their previous or other learning lives or they may bave been spoon fed and asked to regurgitate facts and made to feel bad when they got it wrong.  They may love or loathe teachers and the formal education system they are familiar with.  They may be young and carefree or they could have families and dependent parents, health issues, unpredictable or overly demanding work patterns.  They may have enrolled because their parents/boss told them they had to come, or because they realise the doors English could open in their professional and social lives, or because they are total language nerds and just love English.  They may be thrilled, terrified or begrudgingly resigned about the course they are undertaking.

With this in mind, deciding what kind of support they’ll need seems a bit of a task.  The Dearnley (2003) article ‘Student Support in Open Learning: Sustaining the process’ concentrates mainly on responsible adults obliged to particpate in addition to working full time with little or distant experience of study and not heaps of confidence.  The types of support required according to the students themselves were: practical, technical, academic and emotional and were provided through social, professional and academic networks. (Dearney, 2003, p3).  See table below.

Many individuals will belong to more than one support network.  The organisation’s responsibility is to provide the relevant practical and technical advice, allow room for the interpersonal things to happen by  setting up the social interaction as early as possible in the course and putting a tutor in place who is knowledgeable, approachable and sufficiently supported by the organisation to be able to direct students to appropriate support at appropriate times.  Does that sound realistic?

Types of support my students need and how they might get it:






Family taking up slack on non academic chores or taking responsibility

Hours down to allow for study

Flexible hours, easier tasks

Time management training


Pre-course advice on how much time and task type required.

Support making study plan/managing time


Just in time support from knowledgeable friend

Directions to You-tube videos etc

Ask IT savvy colleagues to help

Help desk

self access ‘how to’ resources

self help forum (OU)

peers in tutor group who have come across similar problems


Friend proof-reading essays

Discussing similar theories that cross over into other disciplines

Discussing ‘problems’ with non expert can give alternative perspective

If course mirrors work, discussion of ‘problems to solve’ with like-minded colleagues – someone to bounce ideas off

Permission/ability to apply new understandings in the work place and get feedback from peers – experiment and make learning real

Proof reading

Asking tutor or peers how best to go about something

FAQs on skills

Study skills sessions

Discussions of meanings within content within tutor group


Friends and family being there when tiredness and stress overwhelm

Colleagues demonstrating interest and willingness to help (even if help is not required)

Being in regular on/off task dialogue with classmates

Non course forums

Getting to Know You activities

‘there there’ messages when expressing stress in course forum

Tutor stepping in to ‘rescue’ someone falling behind

With all of this in place they are more likely to see their course through to the end not to mention enjoy and benefit from it. I hope…