eLearning colloquium, UWC

27 October, 2009

These are my notes from the presentations, as well as some of my thoughts on what the speakers were saying

Opening statement

Professor Brian O'Connell

  • We need to be “nimble” if we're going to embrace the transformation that is essential
  • Historical context (geography, colonialism, apartheid) is inextricably linked to where we stand today in terms of access to knowledge
  • 1976 march in Soweto was about education (“Down with gutter education”)…what has happened since then?
  • How do we personalise learning? Students take personal responsibility for their learning?

Welcome address

Professor Ramashwar Bharauthram

Relocation of eLearning from ICS to it's own separate “Department” with direct access to the Vice Rector, highlights the importance placed on this idea

How do you transfer IP generated in HEI to the community?

Institutionalising eLearning in a complex HEI

Juliet Stoltenkamp

Requires a transformed organisational culture. Non-coercive approach to buy-in, met with ++ resistance / barriers (“lack of support infrastructure”):

  • Marketing
  • Support
  • Infrastructure
  • Vision and mission
  • Strategy
  • Leadership
  • Knowledge economy; all sustained by…
  • Research based pilot projects
  • Communities of practice
  • Blended eLearning practices
  • ePedagogy
  • Organisational culture

More bad news about KEWL and all it's different versions. Can't understand why everything has to be rebuilt? Use open technologies and integrate

Pharmacy podcast assignments

Nadine Butler

4th year level course on pharmacy management, specifically patient management

Pre-podcast = written assignments, would like to have more OSCE style approach, but no time, class size: 70-80

Used Audacity to protect confidentiality of patients who were interviewed, by altering voice

Rubric designed to assess podcasts:

  • Introduction
  • Content / communication techniques
  • Delivery / language use
  • Time
  • Technical (dead space / music)
  • Students had to remain within time constraints set as part of the assignment


  • Enjoyed, practical rather than theoretical component
  • Made lives easier
  • Been a great tool
  • Helped to concentrate
  • Gained confidence
  • Highlighted strong and weak points
  • Had fun
  • Encourage more use of podcasts
  • Asked to start in 2nd year


  • Frustrating initially
  • Access / technology
  • Uploading slow

Lecturers feelings:

  • Superior to written assignments
  • Able to identify tone, rapport, empathy, confidence, fluency
  • Track improvements
  • Confidentiality
  • Evaluation is time consuming, but playback time can be increased
  • Used a paper form to mark, would prefer if the rubric was digital

This is not podcasting…it's just recording audio and making it available for download. Podcasting only seems to make sense to use with students if it's done as a series of audio reflections that include interviews, assessments, private notes, etc., and which can be streamed and shared among the class in order to promote discussion / dialogue. Recording a patient interview and uploading it to a server does have advantages, but is not podcasting. There also needs to be another form of interaction with either an associated wiki / commenting system involved, to make sure that the audio file doesn't exist in isolation.

Lecturer didn't participate in the process / didn't know how to use Audacity, felt left out of the loop as a result

Personal reflections on MCQs using KEWL

Dawn Hector (Stellenbosch University)

4th year nursing students

Test itself:

  • Focused questions in the cognitive domain of assessment
  • Questions can be scrambled, so every student gets the questions in a different order
  • Feedback was immediate


  • MCQ is a powerful tool for assessment
  • Planning for implementation and feedback is important for development
  • Must be to the students advantage
  • Development of a bank of questions for new lecturers
  • “Tools are available but we need to make them alive”

The tools are there but how to get students to use them?

Margaret Spicer

4th year students, differential calculus module

Students have trouble accessing any information, even textbooks (language barriers, cost of purchase, etc.), let alone the internet. It was difficult to get students to attend initial workshop.

Used a website to look forward to see what was coming up, as well as to look backwards to revise

A lot of proficiency in using cellphones (students would send emails from cellphone, but struggled with computers). Style of communication (text speak) inappropriate in a HE environment.

Website must be a part of the course from the beginning, so include relevant content in the course handouts to indicate what the website is useful for. This prevents student frustration trying to use the website for tasks it is not designed for.

Workshops must be very basic. Start at the beginning of the process to make sure that students understand each step. Don't assume that they know anything. Use screenshots with additional content added to walk through the process.

Get feedback from students in order to refine the tools, using open ended questions

Students don't use the help that is available, don't attend orientation sessions

A podcast pilot project for eLearning in EED law

Anthony Jacobs

274 students chose to participate (about 50%)

Assignment = record interview, edit down to 2 minutes, add audio (used Audacity)

For those students who didn't want to participate, an alternative assignment was provided

Must be able to cater for individual learning styles

Clear that there is limited understanding of MP3's / players / podcasts

It's one thing to “tell” students about something, and another thing altogether for them to explore that topic by themselves, with the freedom to see where that story takes them. It seems clear that every student will take a different path and tell a different story.

Open Educational Resources / Turnitin anti-plagiarism roll out for UWC

Tinashe Ruswa

OER OER are “an internet (?) empowered worldwide community effort to create an education commons”…what does the internet have to do with it? OER in itself has no association with the internet, they exist independently of the internet, although they may be distributed online.

Open Courseware is self-funded project within UWC

UWC is a board member of the OCWC, first African insitution to join the OCWC

UWC has an official policy for publishing open content and open courseware that applies to all educational content produced at UWC

What is the Dscribe process?

Can be a showcase of excellent academic resources, highlight international collaboration opportunities, reduce the cost of obtaining academic materials

Turnitin It looks like the university is going to use Turnitin as a learning tool i.e. students can submit as part of the drafting process to get feedback on where their works need to be modified before final submission.

My concerns re. Turnitin in general: * What is the UWC policy on the use of Turnitin? * Who will determine what is an “acceptable” orginality score? * Will each lecturer be able to choose what, if anything they want to submit? * Does everything get submitted, or only suspicious works? * How do we feel about the assumption of guilt that submission to Turnitin implies? * Is the work anonymised? * Will we have to get student consent to submit their works to a third party? * What if they refuse? * Will we take that to mean an implied guilt? * Wouldn't it be better to create an environment in which students want to submit their own works, without resorting to plagiarism?

eLearning experiences from the other side

Kobus Smit (Utrecht University of Applied Sciences)

Using KEWL while teaching in the Netherlands (extension of a project while lecturing at UWC):

  • 66 students across both institutions
  • 5 groups, each group with students from both institutions
  • Intended to do video conferences, but not able to due to a lack of access in the Netherlands
  • Assignments in discussion forums
  • Force research and discussion
  • Assessed by studying individual contributions to the forum (amount, relevance, mearningfulness, understanding demonstrated, etc.)…must contribute and respond i.e. engage with each other and with the material. Early feedback allowed students to modify online behaviour to fall in line with expected outcomes, which had to be very clear, language not used as criteria for assessment


  • Students were very interested in each other
  • Quickly worked out how the systems work
  • Enjoy robust discussion as opposed to solitary work
  • Seemed to think that providing a summary of a topic is enough work
  • UWC students started later than HU students
  • They learn when they have to engage with the material and then discuss it critically
  • Support was important, and important to be promptly provided

Lessons learned:

  • Facilitators need to force interaction, debate
  • Face to face contact is still important
  • There must be two committed co-ordinators on both sides
  • Time spent is similar, if not, more than traditional assignments

Used a simple marking rubric to determine contributions in discussion forum (0, 1, or 2)

Workgroups as a peer collaborative learning tool

Nicolette Roman


  • Dillenbourg (1999) – something about collaborative learning, groups
  • Vygotsky (1978) to understand learning – zone of proximal development
  • Warschauer (1995) – interaction, texts, “thinking devices” used to collaboratively generate new meanings

Used small groups of 2 students who wrote reflective pieces after reading assigned work, and commented on each others reflections, using constructive feedback aimed at improving the original reflection. Identify common themes among the 2 students, and how it relates to the readings. This seems similar to my blogging assignment.


  • Sharing of information and perspectives
  • Role change i.e. the student becomes a teacher
  • Cultivation of new ideas
  • Accommodation of another's perspective
  • New ways of learning and problem solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Increased content knowledge

Gave more marks for individual components than for group assignments, to try and alleviate the problems that arise with group dynamics that become dysfunctional

Using eLearning to foster a culture of reading with comprehension

Jakobus Abrahams

Reading a text several times for understanding is normal. Can we expect students to comprehend things immediately, when it has taken us years to reach that point?

Reading with comprehension = able to identify main ideas and thoughts that expose the structure, argument and reasoning of the text

“interrogating” texts

argument = debate i.e. is structured and has a conclusion, not a fight

Used online worksheets for “old-fashioned” comprehension tests

Deconstructing texts can result in a framework that can then be used to write an essay

Classes writing skills improved over the results of previous years i.e. good reading skills can translate into good writing skills

“Online” allowed students to re-read, review, edit documents during drafting process without having to print / rewrite work

Be careful about making assumptions about students background and understanding of the subject matter

A survivor's guide to eLearning

Sandy Zinn

eLearning environment at UWC is not user-friendly

Know your students and their backgrounds / contexts

Used a blended approach to teaching eLearning in the first trial

Do things incrementally – begin with pages, hyperlinks and work to podcasts and wikis / link to experts who are doing things independently

Wikis involve ++ collaboration and our students are not there yet

Just because students know about technology, doesn't mean they can critically use it. Having a Facebook profile doesn't mean students understand Facebook.

Don't expect different results using the same teaching techniques

Learn from your mistakes

Offer students a variety of approaches to learning and assessment

elearning_colloquium.txt · Last modified: 2009/10/27 14:42 by Michael Rowe