Learner experience research: report from our second ELESIG Northwest event (Oct 8 2014)

The early start of the day and autumn cold didn’t deter our ELESIG NW participants! ELESIG is a Special interest Group of those interested in Learner Experience Research with a focus on technology. There are a number of regional groups now: in London, Midlands, Scotland. Wales and with an ELESIG South forming in December this year. Thanks to all the speakers, participant contributions and Roger Harrison, ELESIG NW co-conveyor, University of Manchester, who ensured the smooth running of the day.

ELESIG NW - audience participation
ELESIG NW – audience participation

Note: presentations available under ‘Podcasts’ athttps://www.softchalkcloud.com/lesson/serve/XNvZFLDt5uzRfI/html

Presentation

Damien Keil & Adrian, MMU on their iBook development for sport science students presenting at ELESIG NW symposium
Damian Keil & Adam Palin, MMU, photo credit Sarah Copeland

Damian Keil and Adam Palin from MMU started off the day talking about their development of e-learning resources in a sport sciences course using iBooks. Each student worked with the electronic learning materials on an iPad. We got an insight into the development process, the scale of the investment and benefits for the students. These were evidenced by observing exam results, surveys and focus groups. Participants interested in developing quality resources or engaging students in a distance learning course all took an interest in this initiative.

Members’ corner sessions

In the Members’ corner section, a ten-minute appetiser format allowed ELESIG members to talk about their research plans or table ideas for feedback and discussion.

First, we heard from Huw Morgan in the Salford Business School, who developed video resources and adopted a flipped classroom approach with his students. We got an insight into student patterns using these videos for their learning. Jim Turner, our  #elesig tweeter on the day even had his tweet about Huw Morgan’s #elesig presentation retweeted by Eric Mazur! This was another example of developing an active learning approach with some useful learning points from Huw.

Second up was, Roger Harrison, who proposed the question ‘What strategies can we use to evaluate PG distance learning programmes?’  Finally, Carol Wakeford, University of Manchester, Life Sciences also put forward an evaluation challenge in their third year undergraduate module. This module has students design, create and evaluate an e-learning resource. Carol wanted to elicit strategies from ELESIG participants on overcoming the problem of not having enough student volunteers to do the evaluation of these resources. The discussion that followed the appetiser presentations showed that this was a helpful and engaging format. It’s always useful to hear what colleagues are working on and how they are formulating and overcoming challenges of curriculum design and evaluation of learner experiences.

Just-before our tea break, Roger managed to engage us in a vibrant discussion: we had to imagine how we would evaluate our ‘student’ (a dog) if they couldn’t speak? This inspired activity certainly made us think of a repertoire of evaluation strategies available to us!

Professor Allison Littlejohn – keynote

Professor Allison Littlejohn keynote
Professor Allison Littlejohn keynote

Professor Allison Littlejohn’s ‘Seeing the invisible: understanding learner experiences’ challenged us to think of the meaning-making process of student learning data. Utilising Zimermann’s theory of self-regulation, their team of researchers investigated the activities and strategies that adult learners use to self-regulate their learning in the context of a MOOC. Resources arising from a project on investigating professional learning in MOOCs are also available on their website – a useful resource for anyone interested in professional learning or in MOOCs (see also References below). Conclusions were drawn examining learning behaviour of those who perceived themselves high- and low self-regulators.  For instance, high regulators focused on the learning and performance, low regulators focused on the participation in the MOOC! The study also concluded that the learning environment had an effect on the way participants learned, irrespective whether they perceived themselves high- or low self-regulators. To me, the keynote was an excellent demonstration how quality insights can be gained from research underpinned by theory.

Professor Allison Littlejohn’s summary of the day:

“The NW ELESIG was an example of a network of practitioners striving to ‘do things better’ by capitalising on and contributing to knowledge of how students can take forward their own learning. Theories and concepts generated in other arenas can inform what we do in higher education, though they have to be tested and (sometimes) reimagined. The key message I hope people take from my presentation on ‘Seeing the Invisible’  is the importance of theory and methodology underpinning data gathering and interpretation. All too often rigour is missing from technology-enhanced learning, yet there are lots of theories, methods and conceptual tools for us to draw from.

For just the One Small Thing: Take a look at the design guide and recommendations for MOOC design from the PL-MOOC project, which was part of the Gates Foundation MOOC Research Initiative http://www.gcu.ac.uk/academy/pl-mooc/outputs/ ” 

Reflections from Jim Turner, ELESIG NW co-convenor, LJMU, on the day:

“The experience of helping to run and attend these this events have galvanised my initial reasons for getting involved. There is an incredible amount of innovative practice which could lead to a significant understanding and development within this area. However, the problems of time, evaluation expertise and organisation leads to a sporadic release of interesting yet disjointed body of evidence in this area. Herding cats comes to mind of course, and there is a limitation in trying to over manage the process. But if at least a few connections are made at these events I hope it leads to a growth in all our understandings. Perhaps the most radical step taken in this last event was to have presenters actually ask for help and suggestions in how to evaluate quite complex scenarios. I have attended many of these types of events over these, and welcome a greater openness and direct calls for help, rather than listen to experts present their answers, without seeing any of their ‘working out’. “

For your diary: next ELESIG NW event: 25 Feb 2015 – Keynote from Professor Martin Oliver, hosted by Liverpool John Moores University & Jim Turner, co-convenor of ELESIG NW.

If learner experience research is an area you are interested in, do join the ELESIG ning site and come along to one of our events. You can also follow @ELESIG on Twitter!

Tünde Varga-Atkins, co-convenor of ELESIG NW, University of Liverpool

Links & References 

ELESIG NW Mendeley group – we are adding useful references here, please do join the group and contribute to the resources too.

ELESIG – we have a ning site with resources and details of funding, do join and have a browse.

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An invite for the North West: Researching the learner experience – Inaugural Symposium

ELESIG North West

Researching the learner experience

Inaugural Symposium organised by ELESIG North West

Thursday 15 May 2014, 12.00 – 16.30

Are you interested in sharing knowledge and practice around
researching the learner experience and technology?

ELESIG North West is a regional group aiming to
promote networking and the sharing of good practice
in learner experience research within a collegial setting.
Come and find out more at our inaugural event.

Speakers include Dr Paul Ashwin, University of Lancaster.
Paul will lead an interactive session on researching the learner experience
to inform teaching and institutional practices and add to the existing literature on this topic. During the session, you will have a chance
develop your own idea and turn it into an action plan for research.

Venue: G-Flex Room, Central Teaching Laboratories (building number 802 on campus map), University of Liverpool, Liverpool, L69 7ZJ

Register: It is a free event open to staff at North West England HEIs/FE colleges. You can register at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/elesig-north-west-researching-the-learner-experience-tickets-10988965291 (For those outside the North West, we will post details of the event after.)

Twitter: #elesig

Full programme detailsELESIG North West Symposium flyer.

Contact: Tunde Varga-Atkins, tva@liv.ac.uk

Learner Analytics – and ELESIG Symposium at University of Liverpool

On 4th November, an international gathering of 33 ELESIG members took part in the ELESIG symposium on Learner Analytics, which was hosted by the University of Liverpool. It was a pleasure to be part of organising this event, and the fact that many came from a distance was a testament to the interest in this topic. For those not familiar with ELESIG, it is a special interest group with a remit of  developing a shared repertoire of resources which will be of benefit to the community and the sector and which build on shared knowledge and practice about learner experience research.

ELESIG  co-founder Prof Rhona Sharpe, Oxford Brookes University opened the event by celebrating  the fact that ELESIG is now 5 years old – remarking how a long time for a SIG to thrive and further evidence of the continuing commitment and enthusiasm of its members.

Below is the day’s summary from Jaye McIsaac, ELESIG grant holder, member and my colleague at the University of Liverpool, with links to slides and the interviews held with each speaker.

Prof Chris Jones, Liverpool John Moores University on ‘Learner and student experience in an age of austerity: how is the agenda set?‘, gave us the big picture of the relationship between the student learning experience and in an age of austerity.  He got us thinking about the new sources of analytics used in Higher Education and how the data is managed and owned – just a few of the cautions and considerations.

Reflecting on
Presentation summary by Prof Chris Jones on ‘learner and student experience in an age of austerity: how is the agenda set?’ [interview available to those joining the ELESIG community at elesig.ning.com]
This was followed by two practical examples:

Dr Cath Ellis, University of Huddersfield on ‘Assessment Analytics: should we do it and, if so, what might it look like?’ focussed on the risks and benefits of assessment analytics, interrogating assessment and e-learning technologies to harvest data at a more meaningful level. With a range of tools available, she reminded use of the need to use them with care.

Dr Cath Ellis
Dr Cath Ellis, presentation summary on ‘Assessment Analytics’  [interview available to those joining the ELESIG community at elesig.ning.com]
Prof Luke Dawson, University of Liverpool, introduced us to a tool designed at the University of Liverpool – LIFTUPP (Longitudinal Integrated Fully Transferable Undergraduate Postgraduate Portfolio) – that usefully identifies longitudinal patterns of student’s competencies for learning.  Feedback to students and action plans enables them to see where changes are made. Both students and staff report the tool as beneficial for their learning and teaching.  
Prof Luke Dawson presentation summary on LIFTUPP
Prof Luke Dawson presentation summary on LIFTUPP [interview available to those joining the ELESIG community at elesig.ning.com]
We finished the day in Member’s Corner with a whistle-stop tour of projects, new ideas, advice requests and some big questions!Thanks to contributing speakers, to Rhona Sharpe for coordination and advice, to the University of Liverpool team in making this event happen and to all of you for making the time to attend and actively participate and contribute. “

We also talked about setting up a North-West ELESIG group; there are similar groups: ELESIG Midlands, ELESIG Wales and ELESIG Scotland. If anyone is interested in becoming a member, please joint the ELESIG community and join our ELESIG North West regional group on there – we look forward to getting together with all those enthusiastic about learner experience research.

Jaye McIsaac, Educational Development &  Tünde Varga-Atkins, eLearning Unit, University of Liverpool

How to run a webinar? We have Followed the Sun….

The video recording above is of our second, really successful webinar on using the Nominal Group Technique  that we ran at the wholly online Follow the Sun conference in March 2012, hosted by Leicester in the UK as well as Australia and the US.  (Our first session for the ELESIG group was summarised by one of the participants, Olivia Fox, in her blog.) This blog summarises our experiences and tips for running a webinar, in case you are thinking of trying it out.

So what is a webinar? A webinarweb-based seminar. It has all the elements of the face-to-face seminar but it is running completely online, with participants logging on at a distance, and is usually conducted through a web-conferencing platform, like Blackboard Collaborate (nee Elluminate) or Adobe Connect. Webinars can also be recorded for reviewing, or for those who miss the session.

Our first session, back in Feb 2012, was facilitated by the ELESIG committee members, Helen Whitehead and Carol Higgison, who spent two occasions with our four-member team to help us get to know the software, Blackboard Collaborate, and its features and layout so that we could plan the interactivity used in the session. We were quite ambitious in that we  not only delivered the one-hour session with four presenters (where you normally only have one or two), but we also planned to run a real Nominal Group Technique session online. The Nominal Group Technique is a useful  student evaluation technique of learning experiences. Our focus was on evaluation for the purpose of curriculum design or review.

The 3 stages of the Nominal Group Technique
The 3 stages of the Nominal Group Technique

We had set ourselves the task of finding an online way to mimic the ‘real world’ process of people writing ideas on post-it notes, then clarifying and consolidating the different post-it-note items and then finally ranking them, as in the pictures to the right.  We devised a system where participants wrote their entries on a virtual whiteboard, then one of our team organised them as we were clarifying, by grouping the same items together, and then the voting stage was simulated by drawing circles next to the vote items (the above video is of our second session which was shorter and did not include this step). The process was a bit clunky but it worked as it did get the idea of each of the stages of the Nominal Group Technique across to the participants. We also made use of other interactive features such as polling. Participants followed the webinar using their headphones, and asked questions using the chat text entry box as we went along. So it was good fun and we were very happy with the interactions during the session.

Finally, we just wanted to share some of the tips we have learnt about running webinars.

What do you need for running a webinar?

  • A web-conferencing system e.g. Blackboard Collaborate. At the University of Liverpool we currently have Adobe Connect available for web-conferencing.
  • Headphones and microphone for each team member.
  • Powerpoint slides (optional) or other resources.

So what did we learn about conducting a webinar?

  • Set up time: practice with the same PC, same sound equipment that you will be using for your final, live session, (make sure you won’t have interruptions like phone calls or colleagues)
  • Don’t use speakers, use headphones, as speakers may echo.
  • Show video or not to show (of presenters)? Advice here can be event-specific; some say it looks more professional if you don’t show video, just sound; others like showing video. We used screenshots of ourselves on the slides.
  • Interactivity is key.
  • Use of smiley icons or hands up for questions, or quick yes/no button to clarify e.g. if participants hear or understood something.
  • Ask participants’ prior experiences as a quick poll (see about 8 mins in the above video).
  • Moderator: one of their roles is to welcome participants, and ensure all is working with their audio.
  • Practice practice practice – especially the interactive bits! And timings.
  • Switch sound off if you are not presenting.
  • Think about how to manage silence (when participants are engaged in a task or waiting for responses).
  • Someone needs to monitor chat.
  • Lack of non-verbal cues: keep having slots for questions, clarification + at the end – ask about how they may use it in their practice?
  • Ask some experienced colleagues, if available, to run it with you to practise and offer feedback about session interactivity.

and finally,

  • Be brave. Have a go!

Tünde, Jaye, Nick and Ray

ps: If you have experience of running or participating in/attending a webinar before, please share your tips and reflections in the comment box below.

For more information and advice, contact Tunde elearning @ liv ac  uk

The ELESIG project team was:

  • Tünde Varga-Atkins, eLearning Unit, University of Liverpool
  • Jaye McIsaac, Educational Development Division, University of Liverpool
  • Nick Bunyan, eLearning Unit, University of Liverpool
  • Ray Fewtrell, School of Medicine, University of Liverpool
Project outputs:

Project report: Varga-Atkins, T. with contributions from Bunyan, N; McIsaac, J and Fewtrell, R. (2011) Using the nominal group technique with clickers to research student experiences of e-learning. Project Report written for the ELESIG Small Grants Scheme. Liverpool: University of Liverpool. Available from slideshare.net at http://slidesha.re/sc8gwT

Practical guide: Varga-Atkins, T., with contributions from Bunyan, N; McIsaac, J; Fewtrell J. (2011) The Nominal Group Technique: a practical guide for facilitators. Written for the ELESIG Small Grants Scheme. Liverpool: University of Liverpool. October. Version 1.0. Available at http://slidesha.re/s5KPUr