Thursday, 13 March 2008

eLearning Guidelines for Quality

I have permission to do an evaluation project at a local college. The curriculum covers a wide range of courses from level 1 foundation studies through to level 3 advanced studies (all post-16 age group). In 2005 Moodle was introduced as a college wide virtual learning environment, VLE, (or learning management system) replacing an in-house intranet. All courses in the college have a presence on the VLE although the depth of that presence differs from course team to course team.

I thought I could concentrate on looking at two curriculum areas - probably small enough for me to manage but enough to provide a comparison of usage.

  • Modern Foreign Languages - they seem to take a web enhanced approach whereby students are expected to use a 'virtual language lab' that is provided through Moodle (with additional software that has been linked to Moodle). This is a department that has a leader who is enthusiastic about the benefits of technology and has supported staff through the introduction of new methods of teaching/learning.
  • Business/ICT - they seem to take a web supported approach whereby students are provided with some online learning material through Moodle to support their face-to-face classroom learning. The development/use of material is left to the discretion of each classroom teacher.
Two elearning issues that I would be interested to evaluate are :-
  1. Do students enjoy the 'blended learning' approach? The students are working towards graded examinations that can help them progress to further or higher education and often there is pressure to gain high grades. This pressure can sometimes lead to resentment of any 'new' or 'different' teaching approaches and I'm curious as to how teachers deliver the online part of their lessons and whether the students enjoy those types of learning experiences and feel they are beneficial/helpful. A variety of learning styles can be catered for more easily through eleaning resources?
  2. Do students learn more effectively as a result of 'blended learning'? Is there anyway to tell? For years I have heard collegues discuss how students today bore easily when presentated with traditional teaching approaches and they therefore don't put in the required effort to achieve to their potential - they're de-motivated by face-to-face classroom learning. Has the introduction of elearning resources improved this situation?
The following guidelines all have relevance to the issues identified.
  • SD3 Do students gain knowledge relevant to employment and/or current thinking in their field?
  • SD4 Do students acquire transferable skills such as communication, information and technology skills?
  • SD5 Do students acquire the learning skills for successfully completing the course?
  • ST4 Does the course require students to engage in analysis, synthesis and evaluation as part of their course and program requirements?
  • ST5 Have activities been identified that allow individuals and groups to learn through experience, including opportunities to demonstrate, reinforce knowledge, develop understanding and practice skills?
  • ST6 Are problem solving skills addressed through project and inquiry-based teaching & learning?
  • ST7 Will the e-learning foster students’ curiosity and creativity?
  • ST8 Rather than just recalling facts, does the course help the student digest, reflect on and review new learning?
  • ST9 Do the technologies employed help students successfully meet the learning outcomes?
But I think the two guidelines I could focus on are:-
  1. ST7 Will the e-learning foster students’ curiosity and creativity?
  2. ST9 Do the technologies employed help students successfully meet the learning outcomes?
I like this guideline too:-
  1. ST5 Have activities been identified that allow individuals and groups to learn through experience, including opportunities to demonstrate, reinforce knowledge, develop understanding and practice skills?

How might the guidelines help address the issues?
The guidelines provide questions that help focus on the issues. This should help with the planning of evidence collection and the data/information eventually gathered should lead to conclusions for the two issues raised.

[Image by Richard]


Bronwyn hegarty said...

Good to see you got carried away with the guidelines Yvonne. The three you have whittled down to in the list really fit with the evaluation project you are planning and the questions.

1. "Do students enjoy the 'blended learning' approach?"
2. "Do students learn more effectively as a result of 'blended learning'? Is there anyway to tell?"

I agree that exploration time and engagement in learning is often inhibited by the need to pass exams. You will probably need to include something to find this out. That is whether assessments impact on their choices of how they learn.

Now the next step is to decide which paradigm and evaluation model you will use for your project.

it is fantastic that you have obtained permission to carry out an evaluation in the area of your interest.

Gordon said...

Hi Yvonne,

I think you have hit on two key points and I would be very interested to see the results of your project.

We are currently implementing an LMS and have previously run a pilot e-learning course to test the viability. The results were overwhelmingly positive, however the main reasons were that the students appreciated the reduced f2f class time that resulted and that they could do the learning at their own convenience.

Whether they preferred/enjoyed the e-learning was never established (though we tried) and whether the learning was more effective was outside the scope of the pilot, so we still don't know.

I will follow with interest.


Helga said...

Great news that you can do the evaluation at the local school. I assume that was the one you were talking about before.
What I mainly pick up from your approach so far is that it helps to select appropriate guidelines if you have a crystalised idea to evaluate.

It will be quite impossible to find out if students learn more effectively as a result of blended learning. It is hard to find a situation where you can compare the 'non blended learning' with the 'blended' learning. Although I was triggered by your commend that students are earier 'bored' with f2f courses.
But finding out if students learn effective something that we have to focus on in all kinds of learning (not only online).

Will definitely keep an eye on your blog!

Hilary said...

Hi Yvonne

Re your comment about f2f teaching as opposed to other/technology based methods. I remember using a language lab at school to learn French, which at the time (a number of years ago) was state of the art. However, I am not confident that I learned any more than in a normal classroom environment. The language lab was something to fiddle around with and we discovered that we could have conversations with each other (not in French) without the teacher noticing! That aside, learning a language should surely be a social subject where vocabulary and knowledge is built on by having interaction with other people. I am not wholly convinced that elearning methods would totally address this but would be interested to learn more.

Bronwyn hegarty said...

I would like to jump in here in response to your comment Hilary to Yvonne about language labs. I can see the benefits of connecting with real french speakers in a global online community. It could easily be done via web conferencing guided by a facilitator.

Social interaction in groups is very important for learning a language.It is important to have some skilled speakers though, otherwise people pick up some terrible slang and annunciation.

This was my experience when working in Lausanne, Switzerland as a nurse - one of the Dutch nurses spoke terrible French and I picked up some very bad habits.

I wonder do you think that the e-side of language learning is useful when people can go over and over pronunciation and hone their listening skills?

Yvonne said...


I studied French without access to language labs and spent most of my time writing instead of speaking and my ability at spoken French reflects this!! I'm now registered with a site called Babbel ( where I can hear the language spoken and can repeat in the comfort of my own home without embarrassing myself in front of others. I've learned that I've been mispronouncing some words for years!

The virtual labs I mentioned allows the teacher to remotely monitor what students are doing and interject if they have drifted off task. I think like all of these tools they are used in conjunction with other methods - blended rather than replacement. Sometimes they can add a bit of fun, or enable focussed attention on a particular weakness or difficult area. They 'add' to existing good f2f practice. Anyway, I'll found out how effective the students/teachers think they are once I get started on my evaluation - should be interesting.


Yvonne said...

I'll *find* out how effective the students/teachers think they are!

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