Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Bits of eLearning pieces

As my last role was more focussed on line managing, training, assessing and developing the Digital Learning Design apprentices.  I didn't create as much eLearning as I'd have liked to as I was directing the apprentices in creating it.  I have since been doing a very hands-on role where I have been expanding my creative skills in learning design and exercising my technical abilities using a range of tools.  I feel now is a good time to share some of the things I have been creating in the last few months in this role.

This role has been good to exercise my knowledge and skills of using and creating learning content in Moodle.  H5P is a new tool to me that I've had the pleasure of exploring and developing eLearning content with.  I've had broader use of Articulate 360; Studio, Storyline, Rise and Replay.  As well as exploring the use of bootstrap functions and the Lambda themes in Moodle courses.  I've also extended my enthusiasm for learning design by strategising new approaches to designing distance courses and online learning content.  I'm currently leading on the development of transforming our main blended courses to be fully online.  I also have side projects of designing a short online course preparing learners for online study, as well as continuing my development of a new Moodle module template for higher education.


Below is a rough video demonstrating some pieces of work I have done in a variety of projects.

Bringing something new

The following are new methodologies I introduced to the organisation to help with learning design and evaluation processes.

Events attended

I've been able to keep myself up to date and benchmark my learning technology practices by attending the events below.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Digital Learning Design - from apprenticeship to permanent job

The whole purpose of the Digital Learning Design qualifications was to create and up-skill an eLearning workforce.  An overview of the apprenticeship I designed and ran is shown in this video from 2 minutes 23 seconds onwards and a brief overview of the qualifications are here.  Maybe not all apprentices pursued eLearning or learning technology careers afterwards, but this proves that these courses have ignited the apprentices creativity and been able to apply it into an educational context.

In my previous learning technologist role in further education that included line managing, training, assessing a small team of apprentices and leading on internal verification, which led to me winning the Learning Technologist of the Year Award 2016 and other internal and external awards that the team were recognised for.  Since I moved on I have kept in touch with some of the apprentices.  Some asked for references for when they applied for jobs and I also sent them jobs they could potentially apply for.  But as I managed the apprentices, apprenticeship and qualifications I am keen to see how they have progressed on in their early careers and how the apprenticeship has impacted on their careers and development.

I remember it well when I completed and moved on from my business and administration apprenticeship many years ago.  It's such a scary but exciting feeling that you're going into (usually) your first proper job.  The looming anxiety of working with new people, adapting to a new working environment and knowing how to approach your new seniors.  It's one of those early moments when you realise you're an independent young adult.

I have chosen Brad and Sarah as I know they have continued to work in the eLearning industry and I developed them from the first year we ran the courses from the Level 3 diploma.  They then progressed onto the Level 4 extended diploma for another year.  I interrupted their busy schedules to ask them the following questions and these were their responses.

Brad Brown Lang
Sarah Jones
What is the role you are doing now?  What kinds of tasks do you undertake?
As an instructional designer, it is my role to create engaging learning materials for online students, consisting of a range of multimedia such as graphics and videos, as well as interactive content.
Instructional Designer, I develop online learning resources for students completing online degrees using video and audio which I edit together to engage the learner as well as using other forms of media.
What was your biggest challenge going into the workplace?  Did you feel equipped and ready from the apprenticeship?  If so, what were these?  If not, what would have helped you to be equipped and ready?
The biggest challenge for me were not knowing how well I was going to adapt to the new environment and team. I felt as though the apprenticeship had given me all of the skills I needed. This included technical skills like using programs such as the Adobe Creative Suite, Adobe Captivate and Moodle. However, these also included personal skills such as being able to work more effectively as part of a team, improving my time management, and presentation skills.
I'd say the biggest challenge was moving into a bigger office than previous. I felt ready from the apprenticeship as I could use my knowledge and skills straightaway from what I had learnt and I barely needed any training.
How have you used the knowledge and skills gained from your L3 and L4 apprenticeship?  Was there any particular parts of the apprenticeship that enabled you to use them instantly?
Although I am currently using different programs from what I used during my apprenticeships, they were very similar to each other, which meant that I was able to familiarise myself with the programs pretty quickly, along with a few pointers from my colleagues along the way. Also, the fact that I am already very familiar with 'chunking' is extremely useful, as in my current role I need to break down large chunks of content into smaller and more useful parts. Both of these I feel helped give me a nice smooth start in my role.
I use my video editing skills everyday which I learnt on the course as well as what I learnt about how to keep learners engaged in the content I am producing by using a wide range of media. 
Are there any choices you have changed since doing the L3 and L4 apprenticeship?  Has it met your aspirations or not?
I feel that both of the apprenticeships I completed did meet my aspirations. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent working with my colleagues, as well as learning all of the valuable variety of skills along the way. I feel that without taking part in those apprenticeships, I would not be where I would be now.
When I first started the apprenticeship I wanted to be a Graphic Designer but since doing the apprenticeship and since starting the full time job I definitely want to carry on being an instructional designer.
What future plans do you have for your career?  Is it still in eLearning?  Is there a particular role you are aspiring to do?  Any areas within the company?
I hope to continue being an instructional designer for the next few years at least, however if at some point in the future any jobs arise that would allow me to progress further into the industry such as managing a team of designers, I may give that a try.
I want to carry on doing e-Learning design and instructional design and hopefully move higher up by being a head of learning technology in a company. 
What successes have you had in your job roles since starting them?  Any recognition or feedback from your colleagues and your manager?
One success that I have had since starting my new job is that I have been able to quickly produce content of suitable quality fairly quickly, this was due to the knowledge and skills I had learned during the apprenticeships previously. My new manager has mentioned to me in a meeting about how relieved he was with the quality of my first couple of projects.
My current manager and some colleagues often give me great feedback on my work. I would say a great success for me was passing my 6 month probation.

The qualifications have proved to be well-aligned and valuable for instructional design and have supported the apprentices well in securing a full-time permanent job doing it.  The qualifications have also equipped them with creative, technical, communicative and organisational skills as required for this type of role.  The range of software and instructional design techniques I introduced have also proved useful to them by allowing them to hit the ground from the start and demonstrate their worth.  The qualifications have opened up career pathways and allowed them to aspire into senior roles in the eLearning and learning technology industry.  I'm very pleased to see they want to continue in this industry and direction.

Seeing these positive comments about the quality of their work just makes me feel very proud of them.  Knowing how they both started off on the Level 3 course on a career pathway that was new to them, to the young independent adults they are now.  Just marvellous!  They've reached what we hope of all our learners which is independence in life and a prosperous career.  They're now confident and making their own informed choices towards building their futures.

I'm very proud to have been a part of their journey and developed them as I have. I quickly evaluated, monitored and coordinated their abilities so that I could facilitate their strengths and transform their weaknesses.  However, they had their own unique ambitions, motivations and determination to succeed in this multi-skilled job role that is instructional design.  When I supplied Sarah and Brad's reference for their current job, it was nice to hear feedback from their now manager telling me how employable they are and that it is a credit to myself.  I feel like this is nice recognition for the efforts I did to ensure they were industry ready.  I'm looking forward to see how the rest of their careers shape up in the future.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

eTutoring - Models for facilitating online discussions

In early 2015 I was studying two modules on my Technology Enhanced Learning MSc, one of which was eTutoring.  From sharing a part of my eTutoring work in the post 'An experience of facilitating an online discussion' (which I received a distinction), after looking through some of my work I've decided to share the accompanying essay (which was graded a B).  It would be a shame not to share it as I really enjoyed the subject of eTutoring - in fact it was one of my favourite pieces of work during my Technology Enhanced Learning MSc, but not forgetting my eLearning package evaluation, ePortfolio and dissertation!  Here is a presentation I made taking excerpts from the essay component of the eTutoring module I did.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Blended Learning Essentials - a summary of curation

I've known about the Blended Learning Essentials course for some time, but I haven't been able to do them until now.  I heard that they have been very successful and read lots of positive things about them.  Since I completed my Technology Enhanced Learning masters last Summer, I haven't done any other formal learning as such.  So I think I was due to participate and learn something new or reinforce things I may have forgotten along my journey.

The course proved very valuable for me as you can see I have taken a lot of knowledge and practice from it.  The first part of the course ran for 5 weeks from February to March and included a variety of topics from the theory of blended learning, to designing it then delivering with it.  The second part of the course ran in May for 3 weeks and explored the practical aspects of implementing blended learning.

Originally this post was in two parts to coincide with the courses, however it made sense to do it as one and delay it until I completed the second course.  In this post I present the interests I have curated during the study of each course and summarised my understandings into categories.  This was a good exercise to review what I have acquired during each week and think about how I can use it.

Blended learning

Blended learning is a mix of traditional and digital technologies that are combined together.  Both learners and teachers use their time more effectively to achieve more.  Because of it's flexibility, it can also make a positive impact on those learners that are hard to reach.  There are five benefits to blended learning; flexibility, active learning, personalisation, learner control and feedback.

We use computers (websites, software) to input data into them which is the content (information) which then becomes interactive for learners to take control of.  Such as self-completion of activities or embedded videos for example.  The activities we create can also give feedback on your decisions, which is personalisation.  Blended learning is useful for enabling active learning where learners can do things the same time the teacher does - making their own sense of the actions as it happens.

There are three simple ways to use blended learning; problem-based learning encourages active learning, using real world scenarios, social learning and applying knowledge to new situations; social constructivism is learning as a result of social interaction and collaboration with others; constructivism through learners constructing their own knowledge and meaning through experience.

Blended learning allows you to use a variety of open tools and dip in and out of different types of learning strategies and experiences.  Open tools can be organised into categories in the context of learning outcomes; multimedia production, presentation tools, collaborative writing tools, reflective tools, collaboration tools, interactive tools, social tools.  You will still have the traditional teaching aspects but you have the appropriate technology within that to enhance and support it, and capture and present material in different ways.  For example the flipped classroom is useful for flipping the activities to the classroom with the instruction at home.  Communication is highly important as it enables the need to check and confirm thoughts.  It awakens internal processes that only happens when a learner is interacting with people in their environment and cooperation with peers.

I found the vocational pedagogy very interesting that was located in the City & Guilds 'Culture, Coaching and Collaboration'.  There are six outcomes of vocational education which are encouraged to be used as the basis of vocational learning and teaching.  These are identified as routine expertise, resourcefulness, functional literacies, craftsmanship, business-like attitudes, and wider skills for growth.  Alongside this are ten dimensions of decision-making.  Each end of the attributes below represents a different option of delivery for learning and teaching, encouraging some variety in practice.  Digital technology can be used to experiment with these learning and teaching practices.

Facilitative > Role of the teacher > Didactic
Authentic > Nature of activities > Contrived
Practice > Means of knowing > Theory
Questioning > Attitude to knowledge > Certain
Extended > Organisation of time > Bell-bound
Workshop > Organisation of space > Classroom
Group > Approach to tasks > Individual
High > Visibility of processes > Hidden
Virtual > Proximity to teacher > Face-to-face
Self-managed > Role of the learner > Directed

Curriculum design

The traditional method of curriculum design is to identify the learning to be understood and the sequence of activities that need to undertaken in order to achieve it.  Curriculum design is the same process for blended or wholly online and should always focus n pedagogy.  These days activities need to be more engaging and interactive which needs to involve the student having ownership of the process of it.  If using a student-centred curriculum (contributing to learning materials and creating content), multimedia production and sharing will be essential.

Curriculum design relies on a structure - instructional design allows us to review how each topic will be taught, what sequence, what methods and tools are going to be used and the outcome.  It's an outcome-focussed process that looks what learners are expected to learn and change as a result - what couldn't be done art the beginning to what they can do at the end.  Designing the assessment (formative, for and of learning, summative assessment) first is a good way of defining the learning outcomes.  It's useful to consider whether the assessment is digitally based or not and aligning to the learning outcomes, curriculum content, learner needs, and the pedagogy.

The instructional design process D(define)ADDIE model demonstrates the value of the iterative design – test – redesign – implement-evaluate cycle. It helps you focus on the importance of considering inclusivity, accessibility, flexibility and usability when planning for implementation.  Define is the link to curriculum design and identifies what is going to be delivered.  Analysis looks at the audience (learners’ needs, expectations and requirements) and how they will or are likely to react to the learning process.  Design takes the information obtained and allows you to create and deliver the learning in a form that is engaging and interactive.  This includes the course sequence, learning outcomes, activities and assessment.  Develop enables you to make your learning design a reality such as the resources, learning activities, and tests.  Implement is about putting your learning design into action ensuring it I accessible, inclusive and usable.  Evaluate allows you to assess whether the learning design was effective or not in meeting the learning outcomes.  Overall instructional design is an iterative process that questions what and who is it all for and did it work and what can be done to make it better in future.  It also ensures that you make the best of the digital technology.

Digital technology

When using digital technology, it should be used to add value to existing teaching practices.  It should enable you to move from one space to another seamlessly due to the open nature of the online learning tools.  A main purpose of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) is that learners will engage in more learning time because they are actively involved in the tasks producing and interacting with content, which leads to technology-supported independent learning.  Digital technology can make a significant impact where there is a clear need to make improvements - pedagogical challenges and problems.  However, we need to think about the people we are going to use digital technology with so that we don't exclude anyone.

Synchronous occurs in real time, not just discussions but creating something as well.  Asynchronous is not in real time where people join in at different times - which provides a benefit in thinking before contributing.

The main benefits to digital technology are; time and place - enables education to offer greater flexibility.  Online resources and activities allow learners to learn at home, at work or when travelling, as well as in their designated place of learning; pace of learning - the learner accesses and uses the digital resources under their control; variety of learning modes - learners can do individual, group work or blend their own digital, physical and social learning; content focus - learners encouraged to follow their own online searches to relevance; differentiation - diverse learner needs can be met through assistive technologies and open educational resources to meet learner’s needs; the educator’s use of time - distribute time in different ways to deliver whole class, small group, individual support, across face-to-face and online learning.  It's much easier to get around a computer than it is a textbook.  With a computer you're connected and can search and change things.  Computers save and record work and progress, plus you can access things as much as you need and at your own speed.  Digital technology does or helps to produce evidence of learning.

Learner data

When a learner interacts with a digital system, tool or resource, they leave a digital footprint.  There are opportunities to collect data on individuals or groups which can be used in various ways to improve the learner experience.  This is also referred to as ‘big data or learning analytics’ which enables educators to collect, analyse and report large datasets to identify any patterns and trends of their learners.  Therefore this data can be used to inform a learners own progress, learner activity, behaviour and preferences on how they learn and interact with digital content.  Data analytics should not only be used to capture what student have done or are doing, but it has scope to inform and improve online learning design, online learning interactions, assessment needs and digital marketing of online courses and provisions.
Data collected for improving learning outcomes can derive from performance on tests and learners’ online engagement in discussions, questions, or even comments in focus groups and surveys.  The key questions to ask are; what data to collect, what implications there are for collecting data, and how to interpret and use the data.  I made this comment at the recent MoodleMoot; "Perhaps focus on promoting learning analytic tools to learners to encourage managing their own learning = independent learning."

Culture change with digital technology

I found this interesting and reassuring to know as it reminds me of what I experienced and lead on in my previous role at a further education college.   To enable and manage culture change with digital technology in an organisation, the following pointers are useful to consider.

  • Assess whether blended learning is where it should be - challenge the current culture that exists
  • Specify that senior management need to be involved by modelling (at the beginning), setting the direction and supportive otherwise it will depend on the motivated enthusiasts to lead it all
  • Listen to issues that teaching staff have and work through it with them to build confidence
  • Discuss good practice with curriculum staff but allow time for leaders to model the use of it.  Failure of this will stymie the culture change process
  • Planning and delivering staff development needs to aimed at leaders not just curriculum staff - develop enthusiasm
  • Harness the enthusiasm and create an environment for learning where progress can happen
  • Create an environment that is not just about technology and the latest gadget but about making learning more effective
  • Enable the environment to be encouraging, rewarding and risk taking - something I was in the process of
  • Include early adopters and keep them a focus in the process.  Get the early majority and the late majority will join.  But always expect people that won't want to engage
  • Identifying the reluctant and guiding them back to the direction (imperative) set by leaders and innovators
  • Ask the reluctant 'how could we make this easier for you?', 'what in this could save you time?', 'where will you get the time back?'
  • Invest time to sit and show people the impact and possibilities of blended learning and digital technology.  Ask what they want and what they are comfortable with (learners too)
  • Explain how digital tools and resources can be helpful to their practices.  Ask how they are going to make an impact in their curriculum and pedagogy
  • Explain blended learning as you can't force people to use digital technology without understanding the pedagogy for it
  • Raising confidence with digital technology in the classroom can alleviate many issues of engaging in innovation
  • Get managers to make digital technology part of a conversation.  How are teams and individuals using it in their practices?
  • Ask learners what is working well and not well for them
  • Plan and run workshops, presentations, one to ones, formal and informal meetings, coffee mornings, twilight sessions for people to talk and share about their good practices
  • Be proactive and follow up how people are getting on with using digital technology - they might hit a problem and be put off.  Work with them on a solution - problem-based sessions might be useful
  • Identify and celebrate successes and promote them.  Others will see the benefits and be inspired to try in their practice and share with others in their department
  • Accept that changing culture won't happen quickly or over night - little wins can be a key to bigger wins

The above guidelines embolden what I did for my masters dissertation where I presented the argument of how a further education college's eLearning strategy lacked direction and articulation of pedagogical change in a digital age by not having underpinning pedagogy running through it.

The following are other key factors to consider when making a culture change with digital technology; leadership, vision and strategy, developing staff buy-in, using champions, reward and recognition for staff, working with students and other stakeholders, using evidence to support change, providing a supportive environment, developing skills and providing a robust technology landscape.

To achieve effective change the following stakeholders are useful to bring together to collaborate; teachers and trainers (design, develop and test new digital pedagogies and technologies); teaching support staff (online learner support); learning technology specialists (support innovation and digital awareness); media and technical specialists (quality resources and tools); library staff (source online resources, tools and services); IT staff (technology purchases and infrastructure requirements); marketing staff (promote online and blended learning courses); leaders and managers (support and champion change); students (develop change and provide feedback).

eLearning resources

  • Course map - very useful for laying out the sequence and activities of an online course.
  • Quick poll - asked my attitude towards blended learning if I was convinced of it or now and how much I use it in my practices.  Good to start off that reflective thinking and how I may approach the course material to come.
  • Crib sheets (how to's') - available to download at the end of a topic or module
  • Video case study crib sheet - can be used for 5m Publishing and Improve International H5P Moodle activities
  • Typeform - a new digital technology to try out.  Whilst not free it is a good way for learners to be questioned/surveyed and responses are saved.
  • Typeform reflection questions asking my attitude towards blended learning and how often I use it in my practices.
  • FutureLearn course design could be implemented into our Moodle courses.  Activities structured around the course map, transcripts can be put under the video along with crib sheets.
  • Linking back to correct/incorrect answers from a quiz to content/resources in Moodle
  • Matching pedagogy to digital technology exercise - selected approaches from above and decided from the example activities which was most appropriate to implement.
  • The VLE should be used for interactive activities and learner-generated content.
  • OERs can be used for student experience, digital literacy, recognition, marketing and external relations, efficiency.
  • Storytelling techniques can be used as a process of trying to get them to treat the course as a quest so they're actually discovering new facts as they go through.  It becomes an adventure for learners rather than a sequence of activities.  Moodle lends itself very well to digital storytelling as it allows the use of rich media like animation, video, podcasting, as well as the written narrative
  • Using a basic structure like Moodle you can use it to build a storyline of the course including where learner control is and a clear end point where they can clearly demonstrate what they've learned.
  • Communicate with learners a day before a new week so they know what is coming up and can be prepared and have the right frame of mind for it
  • Blended Learning Essentials Moodle Hub - good for pre-made Moodle activities
  • Different types of learning in action through; acquisition (reading, watching, listening); inquiry (investigate and compare); discussion (exchanging ideas with each other); practice (putting concepts into practice in an exercise with feedback); collaboration (participating and exchanging); production (producing something)
  • Moodle Workshop for peer review as a form of active learning - review at least 2 other learners’ drafts, score them in terms of the criteria, and provide constructive comments
  • Jorum, Khan Academy, Merlot, The Excellence Gateway and OpenLearn - good for OERs

Taking it forward

Talk about excellent timing!  In my organisation we are at the start of reviewing it's strategy for evolving it's blended and distance learning courses.  This is an excellent time as the knowledge I have just acquired and refreshed on will be very useful to feed forward in the conversations I will be participating in.  The blended learning, curriculum design and digital technology knowledge will be useful to shape a strategic vision and purpose of what we want to achieve.  A well-thought foundation will be discussed and agreed in which we can build upon.  Learner data and eLearning resources will be considered in the learning design process, when deciding on the best and appropriate ways to deliver the digital content.  The culture change with digital technology is useful for engaging and supporting change in the organisation.  It was a firm reminder of the work I was carrying out in my previous job in further education.

I have also been using some of this material in other conversations and learning designs I am working on.  This will be a solid post to refer to from time to time when I need to go to the core of blended learning design.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Digital inauthenticity - the rising epidemic

When it comes to making informed decisions you have to be proactive.  I'll briefly discuss some points you can consider when making informed decisions relating to the information via social media or any websites.  This post is inspired through personal observation of social media that I have been seeing a lot of recently.  This is useful for everyday life such as work and study when searching material on the internet.  By no means is this a politically charged narrative nor am I a politics enthusiast, however this also very useful for making educated political voting decisions.

The rise of social-hungry-attention-seekers and 'fake news' has been amplified more than ever through social media.  Everyone is allowed to make an opinion and the freedom to express themselves whichever way they like, as I am doing now.  So you could say at this point you may ask why should you believe this?  But you should as you know it to be true if you look deep enough.  A lot of this can relate back to early literacy skills - English to interpret and analyse others tone of communication; reading, writing, listening and speaking.  Is it expository, persuasive, narrative or descriptive?  Like marketing, some write their articles to a targeted audience and tap into your existing preconceptions.  Which make you want to agree with them, which could then eventually lead onto the inappropriate use of propaganda.  Organisations pay people to follow them or employ people to go on social media to generate interest and sometimes troll for reactions.

I see a lot of posts written by non-professionals claiming '10 things you should do to make a better relationship...' or 'these daily ingredients that are slowly killing you...'.  Even worse, I see a lot of memes written with clumsy information on and people believing and reacting to them as if it's true.  It's subjective and unreliable rubbish and we can be just like vacuums sucking it in.  Are we really 'Chained to the Rhythm'?  It's a rising epidemic and it needs to dealt with.  Imagine that all of your life choices were informed by these unauthentic articles.  Scary isn't it!  Ask yourself, who are you responding to, them or yourself?

A lot of this stems from a post I wrote many years ago 'Evolutionary not revolutionary?' where I said; "technology is our greatest invention and I think it will be our greatest killer".  If we do not learn how to adapt to this epidemic positively and effectively, it could result in a huge outbreak of social separation and divide, which has actually been happening for some time.  When people have claimed the end of the world years ago, I've always thought it's nothing to do with a asteroid on a collision course with earth, nor any ancient calendar etc.  I believe it's things like this where humans will just implode on themselves and societies and communities will be so disconnected and divided it will be hard to recover.

Most of us have become somewhat lazy and believing what is laid upon us.  It takes effort and time to search for information and even the truth.  However, we must make effort to learn true facts.  Here is a few points to consider to help inform yourself when searching for authentic material:

  • Read and share the information if you only feel they are credible enough
  • Be aware of trolls. Some people find joy in putting out misinformation and comments to provoke others into anger or to create intentional negative reactions
  • Avoid being drawn into unrealistic and catchy headlines.  It's usually 'click bait' to gain more views to their websites.  If it looks and sounds unreal, it most likely is. Be suspicious but in moderation
  • Investigate the source of the information.  How legitimate and genuine are they?  What is their reputation for accuracy like?  Do they have a background in that subject that allows authenticity?  Are they experts and qualified in this area?  What organisations are they attached to?  Check the language, spelling, punctuation and grammar they use - if it's flakey they cannot be professional
  • Look at the website address/Uniform Resource Locator (URL) closely to see if it matches or belongs to the same company.  A webpage could be an excellent clone of the real webpage but the URL will give away its identity
  • Review the images used.  They might look authentic but if you look closely they could be manipulated or doctored and be taken out of context.  Search for the image to check it's authenticity
  • Check the dates and reporting of the information.  It could be old and reused information or the actual event is out of timeline.  If it's not being reported by other trusted sources then it's unauthentic and unreliable
  • Distinguish if the information is for humour.  Again check if the source is a known parody or comedy establishment/personality, it might just be for fun - like April Fools

Overall, consider if the information is true, helpful, inspiring, necessary or kind.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Evaluating Technology Enhanced Learning

I've been in my new job role for 5 months now and as I work with a range of universities on developing their undergraduate and postgraduate distance learning courses.  I wanted to introduce an effective Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) evaluation process and to increase the quality of the learning activities, experience and overall online learning environment itself.  By proactively seeking to improve the way our online learning is presented and delivered, I understood more about the programmes and the students enrolling to them.

I took it upon myself to investigate appropriate ways of evaluating Technology Enhanced Learning using a really useful guide by the E-Learning Development Team at the University of York.  This came after the success of my efforts of researching and reporting on learning design, which is being implemented into my new organisation as a result.

This little report was a very complex task and I didn't want to over complicate it (which it did at one point), so I brought in the LearningWheel to help me simplify what I was trying to do and generate further ideas.  The following is a video of the visual report I produced and sent to my colleagues at the University of St Andrews to introduce the process and to start a discussion around it.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

MoodleMoot-ivated - post reflection

After my first experience of MoodleMoot from the 10th to 12th April here is a brief, rough and ready reflective summary of some things I found useful over the 3 day event.  There were heaps of information to take in, but I captured what I needed to in my reflection here and by capturing nuggets of information and dispensing my knowledge throughout the event via Twitter.


It's been a while since I have been to a dedicated Moodle group/conference, however this was my first visit and experience of going to MoodleMoot.  I was unsure of what to expect (besides the hints from the program outline) and I wasn't disappointed.  It was a non-stop Moodle extravaganza happening around me and in my head.  The enthusiasm and passion that people showed towards Moodle and their own Moodle sites was empowering.  Years of being a learning technologist you hear the odd negative comment from users saying they are unhappy with Moodle and that it is dead and buried.  I knew it wasn't and know it as excellent tool (and usually the go to one) that relies on an existing enthusiastic Moodle expert to develop and maintain the site effectively.  Then throw in a learning technologist/eLearning developer (like me) for pedagogy and momentum then boom - you have cracked it.

When going to events especially ones like MoodleMoot, where there is knowledge not just in the sessions or presentations but who attends.  It's important to focus on what you want to get from the event and how that impacts on your professionalism and practice.  I had a think of some areas and questions I wanted to see and know more about over the course of the event - what learning design processes do organisations undertake?  The types of higher education eLearning content they produce and how.  But I was also intrigued in ideas for mobile course learning design - if it exists and how learner analytics and feedback can be used to inform Moodle course design.  Some of these questions did get answered, but I am still in pursuit of overall learning design.

Share and share alike

I did a bit of networking and had some good chats with fellow Moodlers - most of which I will be contacting in due course.  Although I should have networked more than I did and built some friendships for future events too - rather than floating around and perching myself in a quiet corner at times.  However, it was good to see and chat to some colleagues from my older days of the Yorkshire and Humber Jisc Moodle User Group.  I also re-connected with a colleague who ran the Digital Learning Design qualifications in the south of England.  They deal with aquaculture and land based industries courses too, so I will be getting in touch with them afterwards.

I attended a masterclass on online course design which included the following topics; content assessment, communication and structure.  I was given a good overview of the features and functions that could be used to deliver learning.  Groups around the table were asked to share their experiences and usage of Moodle's tools.  This day session has made me want to re-examine all Moodle tools for the new context I am now in as it is a different approach to further education.  But most importantly to ensure why I am choosing the right tools for the pedagogical need.  So I intend on briefly evaluating and making a list on Moodle's activities and functions I can use in postgraduate and Continuous Professional Development online courses.  It will also be a good exercise to get me familiar with course subjects I deal with.  I'm going to further explore plugins and blocks too, although blocks is being faded out eventually.  It's all about the pedagogy and enhancing the learner experience.  I need to understand our learners to determine the most effective pedagogy, which I have previously identified as HE, adult education, distance and workplace learning.

Delivering learning via mobile devices is a high priority and seems to be a key development initiative for Moodle to become more accessible and flexible through it's app.  So how can our online provision be adapted for mobile learning?  Development has already started with using the Moodle app and running our Moodle sites through it.  But what about the content, does that have a different design to typical online learning?  As I learned through my Tweets on the discussion, it's a compliment to the online course you are offering but not a means of delivering it entirely - not everyone learns effectively through mobile devices.

Learning analytics is still being discussed and debated on how it can be useful to assist learners in online learning and inform online design approaches.  I've yet to explore what data we can collect and how we can use it with learners and for course design.

Below are other points I got from some of the presentations on the second and third days:

Course design

  • Make online courses that you can engage in and enjoy - not just passively download content
  • Deliver core knowledge better through right choices of online activities
  • Develop new online course templates that make the best and most of useful plugins and activities that increase the user experience
  • Re-design and implement quizzes and exams using Moodle Quiz and Questionnaire.  If possible create 'are you ready' ones
  • A lot of learning can occur socially through Moodle Forums (Groups and Grouping) - if designed, promoted and facilitated effectively.
  • Display all course information and deadlines clearly and logically - use Lambda theme to display types of engagement, levels of effort and instruction and Bootstrap buttons to condense information
  • Ask what staff are looking to achieve from an activity - then decide options
  • Engaging and supporting others in the effective use of Technology Enhanced Learning - still a challenge but collect good practice, create examples and lead with educational benefits, especially learner perspectives and needs


  • Innovate in eLearning content, test and evaluate it - don't just take and reshape
  • Increase interaction in eLearning content - but not for the sake of it.  Just ensure its used for the right pedagogical purpose
  • Explore further potential of H5P plugin
  • Ensure eLearning content is optimised and compatible with mobile devices
  • Allow lots of content on a page, but important how it's released and presented
  • Use a variety of eLearning resources but with a consistent approach
  • Enable emotion (engagement and realism) through well written scenarios.  Case studies look at a single experience.  Scenarios enable to work across a number of situations and build competence.  Moodle can be used for learners to submit a scenario they come across in their work, then analyse and re-assess them.  Build in a loop that keeps going back and improve the outcome.
  • Consider; critical reviews shared to the class with peers and lecturers; group working - Moodle Forum and Wiki, Skype groups etc; feedback and peer review; submit presentations and assignments; reflection; test of knowledge; student recorded audio/video feedback; group choice for learning pathways in Moodle; Moodle User Tours - instructional overlays
  • Invest in some time to refine activities

Preparing for online learning

  • I've decided to task myself with a side project of developing a 'preparing for online study' course for our learners.  As our learners come from a diverse range of countries and vary in digital literacy skills, we need to support as much as we can in terms of their requirements and commitment from them as well as what is expected at academic of professional level.  So I am going to develop a range of short taster courses to build up learners online learning skills.  The first course perhaps starting with; what is online learning, being a successful online learner and communicating online - netiquette.  It can include a variety of activities that promotes what they will encounter in future courses.  Perhaps also including an area for study skills on how to source information and write assignments etc.  So maybe a total of three short courses; learning online introduction, study skills then lead onto a taster course to get to know the site, tools and services to build up online competence.

I knew Moodle was very popular, but after coming to this event I could see and feel the passion for this system.  Everybody seemed very proud to use this system and are very keen to keep innovating with and for it.  Perhaps it's due to the community that it was founded upon that provides a sense of ownership of it.  I've had a great time at my first MoodleMoot and I've experienced how valuable it is to anyone who uses and develops it.  I'm hoping to return next year and I may do a presentation myself!  As a result of this event, me and my colleague are now going to pull the rest of our team together to discuss and revise our current plan for the next 12 months.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Resource > reader > reviewer - a TEL-ing chapter

Early foundations

I first started my initial teacher training by completing the 'Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector' qualifications PTLLS (2011), CTLLS (2012) and DTLLS (2014) - now named 'Education and Training'.  Then later successfully completing assessing vocational achievement and lead internal verifier.  I referred to Ann's books not only for assessment criteria like demonstrating employability and later in my Technology Enhanced Learning MSc work, but throughout my job role in training and teaching and picking them up to remind me of things I had forgot.  It's ok to forget as you can't retain everything, especially in this diverse role of a teacher.  That's why books are here and Continuous Professional Development to reinforce our professionalism when needed.

I first came across Ann's books as recommended resources for reading during PTLLS.  I found her books to be very easy to read and could to jump to any point where I needed.  As teaching is really heavy on pedagogical theory it is no easy feat to make it appealing and easily digestible to beginner teachers and trainers - without putting them off.  And with my simplistic mind, I needed all the help I could get!  Ann does a brilliant job in making reader friendly text through her choice of language, format and structure in her books.  There's no doubt in me saying that Ann has provided a backbone to my teacher education in my career.  Especially during my initial teacher training, where I acquired more from her text than face-to-face support as a lot of it was through self-help.  I had no 'official' mentor to support and guide me throughout my teaching, assessing and internal verifying qualifications, I became my own tutor and being proactive as I am, I knew who to ask and go to for information.  Especially when I delivered, assessed and managed my own course, L4TLD.  Plus, I knew where I was taking my education and career so I could tailor my knowledge and skills.  It all worked out in the end because look where it has taken to me.

I remember when Ann first set up a LinkedIn group for PTLLS, CTLLS and DTLLS learners and practitioners.  Ann facilitated this by sharing industry updates and good practices as well as replying back to others on their queries.  I joined the group to ask (too many) questions, build up my knowledge and to network for good practice.

When my previous learning technologist role expanded where I had the responsibility of line managing, developing and assessing the Digital Learning Design apprentices.  I used Ann's text and YouTube videos to introduce the teacher role to support the apprentices understanding.  Ann's materials were useful in getting the essential teacher role knowledge across to young adults - which is an extremely complex task to do!

I'm not sure when formal dialogue began between us both.  However, I think it was around the time when I shared my experience of 'Improving Work Based Learning' of our Digital Learning Design apprenticeship programme I was managing and the way I assessed our apprentices.  In Spring 2016, we shared a few conversations on eLearning and education - I remember being a bit star struck on one particular impromptu call; I was like 'I'm talking to the Ann Gravells!'  Following these conversations I then approached Ann for advice and guidance about writing my own book, which I had in my head for a while.  Being inspired by Ann's presentation of her books, I had the idea of writing my own book which I first described in last year's summary - also mentioned in my Learning Technologist of the Year Award 2016 and at the end of my postgraduate Technology Enhanced Learning student profile.  I sent her my proposal which she kindly supported me in before it was submitted to SAGE Publications.  The feedback I received from the editor was very positive and had excellent readership, but sadly it was rejected due to it not being a business need.  I then sent it to Critical Publishing as recommended by Ann and they suggested I reposition my proposal, which I have yet to do and re-submit.

Invitation to review

At the end of February 2017, I was overwhelmed when Ann invited me to review the 'technology' chapter for her new book 'Principles and Practices of Teaching and Training' - which is due late 2017.  I found it such a privilege that the author of someone I am influenced by was asking me to assist them in their new book.  Pinch me, is this real?!  In the past I have made a small contribution to Gilly Salmon's 'E-tivities' (2013) book on ePortfolios and last year I assisted in the development of a new level 2 digital literacy qualification.  However, I'm new to reviewing an entire chapter of a new book.  I saw that this would be a good opportunity to experience a small part of the publishing process, exercise my critical thinking and to reflect and test my own knowledge to date.

When I received the chapter from Ann, I particularly liked the practical technological elements; examples and activities of digital technology use, synchronous, asynchronous, eTutoring etc as these provide the understanding that is not always taught in teacher education.  Ann's technology chapter contained the following sub-headings which I was required to read and make comments on:

  • The role of technology in teaching, learning and assessment
  • Learning technology
  • E-learning
  • Social networking and social media
  • Digital technology
  • Online safety and security

As my background is Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), I was able to draw on my knowledge and own experiences of using digital technology in teaching and training - plus all of the resources I have curated over the years.  It allowed me to go back to where I started and how I was introduced to the role of digital technology in this challenging subject and skill that is teaching and training.  I put myself in the positon of a beginner teacher/trainer that was being encouraged to experiment with different types of digital technology to enhance their knowledge, skills and practices.  Due to this I contributed a variety of comments; relevant TEL theory, purposes of and approaches to TEL, internal experiences, learning technology and eLearning are different, practical activities - exploring own role and around the organisation, understanding and effective use of Virtual Learning Environments, eTutoring, online presence and authenticity, encouraged Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT), suggested heading changes and links to some digital technologies.  It was also good to give some fresh knowledge that came off the back of doing my recent TEL MSc which was good to share with Ann.  I also sent links to further information and practice on blog and external web links I have.

Ready, steady, go publish!

After being involved in reviewing this chapter and further encouragement from Ann, I've had a good insight and influence into writing a book.  I feel I am now ready to give focus and return to writing my own book that I mentioned previously.  Inspired by Ann's skilful way of writing I hope mine to be as instant, readable and accessible as hers.

Thank you Ann for sharing your wisdom; making the complex role that is teaching easy to understand but also allowing me to be involved in your new book.  I hope it is as much success as your previous ones!  I hope to maintain our contact for years to come.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Designing digitally-enhanced curricula

In January 2017 I was invited to guest speak (invitation only) at the next 'student experience experts group meeting on the 29 March 2017' which is organised by Jisc.  It was such a nice a privilege to be invited and be a part of.  In the past I have presented bits and pieces at many Jisc's regional Summer conferences and meetings.  So I am now returning to summarise some of the main things I have done during my previous role as a learning technologist, around the theme I was given; 'Designing digitally-enhanced curricula'.

Thank you again Jisc for the invitation and the time to present some of my practices and experiences.  It was also good to see familiar faces I have met over the years.  Below is the description of the session I did and a video of my presentation that I delivered with.

"Daniel Scott was awarded Learning Technologist of the Year 2016, by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) and in this session he will share his practices as a learning technologist.

Daniel will describe the methods and approaches of how he encouraged, trained and supported teaching staff to use digital technology in their practices.

He will also share how he coordinated and trained digital learning design apprentices to create attractive and interactive e-learning materials for Moodle.

Daniel will draw on the key points from his masters research (2016); 'Putting learning into learning technology: developing a pedagogical rationale to deliver eLearning', that studied how tutors use digital technology in a FE college, whilst exploring the purpose of digital literacy, being a digital practitioner and considering a digital pedagogy to support the college’s e-learning strategy."

Here is a recording of me delivering the presentation:

Friday, 10 March 2017

A postgraduate Technology Enhanced Learning student profile

Because I have an interesting educational story and career to tell, in November 2016 I was invited by the University of Huddersfield to record a postgraduate student profile.  The profile is focussed on my recent completion of the Technology Enhanced Learning MSc (now Technology Enhanced Learning and Innovation MA).  The video is to be used to encourage and inspire future students to do the same.

Because it's a great professional video and invoked the emotional journey I have undertaken.  I had to give the video a caption and what came to me was; "never give up on your educational goals towards your passion."

I am extremely grateful for the University of Huddersfield for this opportunity and had a great time filming it.  Thank you.

My dissertation and journey can be found here.  I hope you enjoy the video.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Conquering learning design

Setting the thinking

Not long after I started my new job in January 2017, I asked out to the ALT community about designing for higher education distance learning.  As I recently started my new job, I wanted to refresh myself on the whole development process and the ways that people and organisations approach this.  I was interested to know the processes that they undertook when planning, designing and delivering their distance learning programmes.

I then thought it's a bit like writing a song; which comes first, the lyrics or the melody?  Which one do you start with first?  Attack the melody and lace with lyrics, or write the lyrics and wrap the music around the words?  I was trying to remind myself of a process I can easily follow and get into a routine with.  As there are lots of inspiring models, cycles and processes you can follow - which always appeal to me.  However, I struggled to find which one was suitable to my simplistic mind set and which I could jump straight into without reading too much into it.  This thinking then evolved into higher-level learning design (LD).  LD has fast become an area I want to specialise in, which I introduced previously at the end of this post.  I am keen to introduce LD into my new organisation as it would be extremely useful to us, especially being a fast-paced commercial organisation.  I decided to understand what LD is first then produce a brief report of  how it impacts on my new organisation.

Investigating and making sense of learning design

I began investigating LD by sourcing good practice done by The Open University and then came across a wealth of information by them and the learning design community.  However, I thought it was best to contact someone who is currently doing lots of work in this area; Sheila MacNeill who kindly responded to my questions below (off the top of my head) and briefly analysed and interpreted her responses into my own understanding using track changes in Microsoft Word.

  • What typical project(s) and the processes you undergo?
  • What theoretical and digital approaches do you use for LD?
  • Where and how do you enter a LD cycle/process?
  • Do learners get involved?
  • Are learning analytics used?
  • Do you have focus groups with both staff and learners to collect feedback and conduct evaluation?
  • How do you implement feedback?

The main thing I want to report back to my team is:

  • How does LD relate to and impact on our post/undergraduate and subscription CPD courses?

Framing my understanding of learning design

To consolidate my understanding I collected good practice from my research and ideas from the questions I asked Sheila.  Instead of writing up a dull report, I turned the information into something meaningful and relatable to my organisation through a presentation (below), which I then delivered to curriculum and quality members in my organisation.  I can say that it was well received and the process of implementing it has begun.

Friday, 3 March 2017

A journey of an educational underdog - a masters dissertation trailer

For a bit of fun and for the biggest piece of work I have ever done - my masters dissertation; 'Putting learning into learning technology: developing a pedagogical rationale to deliver eLearning'.  I feel it deserves a visual introduction, plus I need to celebrate this empowering educational journey as much as I can!  So I've attempted to create a 1920's style trailer using content from my dissertation. I drew inspiration from The Great Gatsby and American Horror Story: Hotel.  I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Found in transition


I have been in my new job role for about two months now.  I feel I have settled in really well and it was the best decision I made for my career.  Not only is it doing what I love, developing eLearning, but the company is about animal sustainability and healthcare which falls in line with my passion for natural history.  Taking a closer look, it's like I have come full circle from when I pursued animal care after I left school in 2002.

I felt the need to depart from my previous job due to their being no progression opportunities within the learning technology department where I had been employed since it's conception.  After years of experience and recognition in the learning technology field, I was developing into a leadership role which I was encouraged to do alongside my duties.  I had applied for a learning technology manager position that came up in September 2016, which is something that I was aspiring and deeply committed to fulfilling.  I was also building competence towards the role as I was carrying out those managerial duties and encouraged to do them.  I even based the research of my masters dissertation on my learning technology understandings and leadership of the role.  Unfortunately I was unsuccessful as the role was offered to a teacher in another department.  If I was successful I would have lead on the development and implementation of learning technology at the college and directed my successor and the Digital Learning Design apprentices.

But all wasn't lost, I had brought some internal awards to the organisation and I celebrated lots of external recognition and praise for my efforts during my time in that position.  I wanted to progress into Higher Education (HE) at some stage in my career.  I also had a growing interest in working in the commercial sector to apply my knowledge and skills in a new context and environment.  I'm a big believer in things happen for a reason and this is where I was meant to be heading.  Like I once read, if you are rejected then you are simply being re-directed to better opportunities.  I can continue to develop my creativity, as this is something that needs to be nurtured not stifled.  However, I am still aspiring to be some sort of digital learning leader, my time just hasn't arrived yet.  The adventure continues...

Army of you

A strong point I do want to make is for people not to fear in voicing what they believe is right for the greater good.  Nobody wants hassle in their life, but sometimes you have to challenge what is right – equal opportunities.  At Christmas I needed to remind myself and others to just do that:

I hope you all enjoyed a relaxing Christmas. Wishing you all a wonderful 2017, may it bring you lots of peace, happiness and love!  On a more serious note, don't ever stop challenging and fighting for what is right and what you believe in.  You are an army of you, don't you ever forget that... "You have all the weapons you need. Now fight!" From Sucker Punch.

Ever seen the 2011 movie Sucker Punch?  Well you should!  Depending on how you view this movie you can see it as very inspirational piece of work.  It's a great kick ass movie where the main character imagines her sombre environment as alternative world as a means to escape.

It's important to challenge things you believe are right as this can remove barriers, push boundaries and most of all discover the truth.  Don't be afraid of saying of how conditions and opinions are effecting you.  In my younger years it took me a while to find my voice and not be as timid.  But I now know that I can fight and challenge adversity.  I reckon it's because I have experienced unnecessary workplace stress and bullying in previous organisations that have lead me to being more observant of people and environments.  Equally, burnout in the workplace is real and is a serious health problem.  After experiencing this myself, I no longer support or endorse organisations that create these unhealthy work conditions.  It can eventually lead to mental health problems.  If you are experiencing this, you need to stop it and challenge it.

So whatever your position, keep it positive and know that you can challenge things that are morally and ethically unfair.  Be victorious in your battles and watch yourself be triumphant in your efforts.  But don't ever back down, stand tall, stay firm on the ground and present the truth.  People might not agree because you are going against their expectations and perceptions of you.  But isn't that the point of a challenge?  Fighting for the right for peace and happiness for all.  As long as you have a voice and make it known, this will drive you forward and you will have endless energy and determination.

A final point on a different topic; jealousy is such a wasted energy, yet it is a human emotion we are allowed to feel.  However, before you feel jealous, ask yourself how much effort you have done towards the things you want.

Adapting to a new environment

When your used to working in an environment where you feel constantly overwhelmed, it's hard to adapt to a new environment that doesn't consist of this.  This doesn't mean that I am working  slower or the organisation is not proactive, but it does mean that my time is focussed on what I need to do and the quality of it, rather than a scattergun approach of duties.

When I started working, there were days I felt confident and wanted to smash it, but then I had anxious moments where I felt I wasn't as strong as I should be.  But I shouldn't try not to be too hard on myself as I am adapting to a completely different work environment and industry.  I just wanted to get fully into things but my mind needed to adjust to the new work and social approaches of the organisation.  When I felt ready I asserted my confidence and position, it was just a matter of settling in.

Affirmation of specialist area

Recently I have been reminded that everyone in the learning technology field have a particular focus amongst their actual job role.  I feel like I have had such a wide experience of being a learning technologist which covers all of aspects of developing, designing and training.  Plus being a tutor, assessor and internal verifier.  All of which has given me an abundance of soft and hard skills.  But what about my specialist area?  You know, an area that I give particular focus to alongside my main duties.  I seem to have lost track of my specialist area along my journey.  Learning technology and eLearning are a specialism in their own right, but they have all sorts of avenues that pathways that stem from them.

This is something that is encouraged during the Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT) process to help you be specific about your specialist area.  In my last CMALT re-submission I mentioned in my future plans that I had achieved some long term professional development goals, and that I am now at the start of creating some new goals.  I said I was extremely adamant in utilising my Technology Enhanced Learning MSc (or what was the point) in a HE context, may that be in a University or private company.  However, I am also interested in expanding in other areas that I have a strong passion for, such as, Work Based Learning, innovative and intelligent use of Virtual Learning Environments and developing the use of eLearning packages in both design and interactivity.

However, learning design has always been a huge interest since my Open University studying days from 2009 and my involvement of the Digital Learning Design qualifications and apprentices.  When I look back, learning design has been a theme running through my learning technology career.  I've always been fond of designing and structuring learning in different online mediums.  This has always been at the back of my mind when using learning technology and creating eLearning materials.  As I am predominately developing HE distance learning courses, I feel I am being drawn back to a former passion - which should be my specialist area.

I feel like my career in learning technology is still in the early stages of development and I've yet to bloom.  It's like an awakening of sorts and I'm present.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Display, Engage, Participation

This is a video illustrating my model 'Display, Engage, Participation‘ in more detail.  It was created in 2014 and first appeared in my blog post ‘A little deeper with eLearning’.  I've shown and discussed it in many places such as training sessions, conferences and more recently in my masters dissertation; ‘Putting learning into learning technology: developing a pedagogical rationale to deliver eLearning’ to give it a more detailed explanation.  The following is an excerpt from my masters dissertation that provides a wider explanation of it's use and purpose.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

New course design for reflective learning

Further from my ALT Online Winter Conference 2016 'The rounded self – exploring how digital technology can be used to help student’s present soft-skills'.  I was invited by Geoff Rebbeck to provide a webinar on 22 February 2017 for the FELTAG (Further Education Learning Technology Action Group) SIG (Special Interest Group) and contribute to its manifesto.  Thank you Geoff for the opportunity to share my practices and thinking.

I chose the theme 'new course design for reflective learning' in Digital Learning Environments and eLearning objects because it's an interesting area to me, plus it's quite fitting as reflection is a big part of my personality too.  I decided to present this as a 'walk and talk' presentation, meaning that I wanted it to be like you were asking for an informal chat about it and we’d take a walk to discuss it.  It's most likely nothing new but reinforcing some points.  Below is the outline of my webinar that I delivered and a video of my presentation.

"Dan will lead a ‘walk and talk’ webinar, exploring ideas on how reflection can be utilised more in online course design, drawing on his own experience as an expert in e-learning both in a college setting and in the commercial world."

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Get my rocks on

From a very young age, I've always been attracted to spiritual things.  May that be beliefs in the afterlife, crystals, spirit cards, dreamcatchers etc.  Back then I didn't know how to explain, interpret or work with these things, but the interest was there.  It just was unfathomable to me.

Years later I stumbled across the Ghost Whisperer TV show.  I bought season one but didn't actually get to watching until a year or so later.  Yes it is scripted TV, but the programme was written and underpinned with mediums and real stories that explain how the spirit world works.  It was also through this show that I was inspired by Melinda Gordon's character.  Her character expressed her unique gift in communicating with spirits of people who have passed.  But more so her empathetic personality, which inspired me want to become a more compassionate person - and still does today.  I have been to many mediumship services and demonstrations and witnessed lots of evidence and question marks, that have left me even more curious of what is beyond the material earth plane.

Over the years I have always been drawn to collecting polished crystals, fossils and volcanic rocks etc.  I must have had a helping hand from the 'Treasures of the Earth' magazine that was out way back when!  I have been drawn to rocks purely due to their natural history and aesthetic formations but always knew there was some sort of deeper connection with them.  Many people (and I feel it myself) say that I have a good soul and the ability to heal others.  So due to my interest in spirituality, crystals and wanting to learn something completely different to my profession, crystal healing was at the top!  For years I have carried crystals with me every now and again depending what I need to a boost of.  Fruit and vegetables come from the ground and are good for you, so surely crystals have healthy properties.  So now is the time to learn crystals properly in a healing context.

Not sure when my crystal collection began, but below is what I have at present.  I know many that I have in my collection, but some I need to re-identify.  I like to collect them as well as use for healing.  I do have a lot of other raw crystals, rocks and fossils in my collection, which I may share in a later blog post. 

At the end of 2016, I bought a cool box (above) to put them all in and I bought Judy Hall's 'Complete Crystal Workshop' book.  I have always been a bit dubious buying crystal healing books as I once learned that you need to experience the vibrations from the crystals, not by another person's experience.  However, this book is based exactly on what I experience and feel from the crystals - just what I was looking for.  Here's to the start to my 'official' informal journey of learning and practicing crystal healing!

Friday, 3 February 2017

Learning Technologies Event 2017 - findings and thoughts

On 1st and 2nd of February I visited the Learning Technologies event in London.  I've been to this a fair few times in the past and the free sessions are very useful to see good practice, new thinking and innovations.  I attended most of the free sessions and I acquired a small heap that we can use to progress our developments further, which are the following notes I took during the event.  This became a little report that I shared with my colleagues.  It was also good to review this against my new job and how they could be used within the organisation.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and adaptive learning

AI was a common theme. Social media services, adaptive learning, learning analytics and Amazon Web Servers (machine learning) were highlighted as tools to obtain user data that informs their behaviours, which results in recommendations and preferences. Essentially you won’t have to search for content, it will recommend content for you as it predicts on what you do.

AI is tied in with adaptive learning where learning materials and scores can be predicted – we need to think if this is any use to use in Higher Education/business or for CPD subscription courses. Coursera, Udacity and Khan Academy are now looking at adaptive learning. Moodle does have features to enable this, again is it useful to us?

Other common aspects:

  • AI is the new User Interface (UI)
  • Storytelling – in eLearning content design = more memorable and relatable 
  • Content curation – enabling users to collect and use as and when they need it 
  • Structural gamification - points, badges, achievements and levels
  • Content gamification – adding story elements or starting a course with a challenge instead of a list of objectives
  • Micro learning strategies – no need for 2 hours courses just content and finger tips to dip and out of
  • Courses are trainer constructs which can be restrictive. Just use competencies in the real world

Virtual reality

Growing and having more prominence in education. I suggest we explore this more diligently and seeing what we could develop or enhance using this innovation. Perhaps trial in the new practical room here at Sheffield?


Review. Plan. Do. Using agile more effectively for project management – alongside Asana for daily publishing and testing on developments. Ask more about ‘whys’ than ‘wants’. See as dolphins with small jumps rather than whales with big leaps.

Can bring project management into one timeframe – see image below. Maybe we could develop a framework for using Asana more effectively around an approach like this?


Explore further uses of Articulate 360 and the products we have access to. Some that were mentioned:

  • Replay – use more screen casting for training and ‘how to’s’
  • Review (instant feedback on eLearning designs – but we use Asana for this)
  • Content Library (items come with triggers)
  • New publishing options for mobile in Storyline 2

Modern workplace

Micro learning to be the growing innovation for workplace training. Learning is broken down into small chunks that can be dipped in and out and that last no longer than 20 mins – due to human attention and memory span.

PowerPoint tips

Productivity – faster and more efficient

  • Quick access toolbar. Enable. Things you can't find under ribbon
  • Selection pane. Record of anything on slides. Hide and unhide. Change stuff without moving stuff around
  • Alignment and distribution
  • Alignment centre etc. Distribute horizontally to slide

Design tips for non-designers

  • Use formatting tools to change focus
  • Artistic effects on images
  • Image blurs when clicked and can put text in better focus
  • Use text boxes not bullet points
  • Left and right margins in text boxes
  • Divide space – rule of thirds
  • Grid of three columns
  • Leave a third that is not a focal point
  • Or two columns straight down the middle


  • Basic motion path
  • Animation pane
  • Timings
  • Grow and shrink
  • Vertical. Only for graphs