Archive for category Teaching
Had a great time on a Writing Week in the Peak District with the Open World Learning PhD students funded by Leverhulme. The project is now in its third year, so all the students are now at least a year into their studies. It was an opportunity to catch up with the students and their supervisors, to engage in fascinating discussions about how all this work links up, and to read about the work so far in drafts of chapters and reports. I think everyone in the picture below is from a different country – bringing together a set of diverse perspectives from around the world.
I joined a team of experts from across The Open University to contribute to the BBC Learning English co-production, Go The Distance: ‘a 10-week taste of what distance learning is really like – with real students, real tutors, key study and digital literacy skills and lots of help with your English.’
My contribution was to Academic Insights ‘the series where we meet real distance learning tutors and get their top tips for successful studying.’
You can watch the video via the BBC site or via OpenLearn.
- My name’s Rebecca Ferguson. I work as a lecturer in distance learning. My field is educational technology.
- There are several reasons for working together. One of them is because it’s a way of learning in itself. You share perspectives and you discuss things. The second reason is it’s a very effective way of learning. And the third reason is employability. You need to be able to work with your team.
- Student collaborative tasks depend on the level of study. They might be contributing to a forum; they might be responding to somebody else in a forum. But when you get to final years you’d be working on a project with others. You might be carrying out research with others.
- Shyness and confidence can be a problem for some students especially when they’re in video conferences but in forums it’s a very good way of communicating if you’re shy.
- Something that a tutor can do is to encourage people to introduce themselves and to talk on a safe subject that they don’t feel stressed about, just introduce themselves and deal with something relatively impersonal.
- A solution for that is to share information about when you can work and for how long you can work. Another solution is to timetable how you’re going to work together.
- Learners feel that it’s very beneficial because it reflects what they’re going to be doing in a working environment. It’s something they felt unconfident about before and they now know how to do it.
This weekend, I travelled up to Edinburgh to see one of my PhD students, Duygu Bektik, receive her doctorate in the Usher Hall.
As always, the ceremony was a very emotional occasion. Several people told me they were near tears while watching the opening video, which showed some student journeys to graduation, and the subsequent stirring organ music. I missed that – as an academic I was standing in a robe in a corridor, waiting to process in – but the entire event was very inspiring.
The ceremony was one of two OU degree ceremonies to be held in Edinburgh that day, while another took place in Birmingham. The OU is such a big institution that degree ceremonies are held from March to November, from Edinburgh to Torquay, and from Dublin to Ely. In our case, the graduates filled half the stalls of the massive Usher Hall, while their family and friends filled the rest of the stalls and the theatre circle.
For everyone concerned, this is a very big occasion. It is the culmination of many years of part-time study, typically alongside work, or family responsibilities, or caring responsibilities, or sometimes all three. Some have also been dealing with serious illness or disability. Many had their families out in force, cheering and whistling at their success. One young boy was waving encouragement to his mum from the aisle.
Some students walked or wheeled on steadily, others waved or bowed or danced or dabbed. One did a Morecambe and Wise ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ dance. Many were dressed in their best clothes, one was in evening dress and another in full-on Scottish punk. This being Edinburgh, several of the men were in their kilts, and the ceremony ended with a rousing rendition of ‘Scotland the Brave’ by a piper.
Amongst the robed university staff on stage were not only me, as Duygu’s supervisor, but also her husband, who works at the university. She was one of just two students receiving their doctorate that morning, and was the first to walk up and claim her new status. Once that was done, she joined us on stage, as a new member of the Open University academic community. Well done, Duygu – a great achievement.
On 26 October, I was at the University of Birmingham for the viva of Matthew Johnson. His focus was on ‘The Impact of Technology on Metacognition in Computer-mediated Learning’ and, more specifically, on the use of open learner models.
For those who haven’t encountered open learner models before, they begin with a domain model. This takes a subject area and sets out which knowledge underpins other knowledge. For example, in primary-school mathematics, pupils will struggle to understand multiplication if they haven’t first understood addition, and they will struggle to understand addition if they haven’t first understood number. Multiple-choice tests can be used to assess where a learner is in terms of the domain model. The result of these tests is a learner model, which can be used to make automated decisions about which subject knowledge a student should cover next. An open learner model exposes the logic behind this model to the learner. For example, a learner might wonder why they have been give work to do on simple multiplication, and they could explore the open learner model to find out it was because they had got three specific test questions wrong. This would provide a basis for reflection on their learning and on the subject area, and could also give an opportunity to challenge the learner model.
A thesis abstract remains a work in progress until the final version is printed and agreed, but this paragraph from it gives a sense of what Matthew has been working on:
The thesis finds it is possible to measure metacognition using indirect methods that correspond to post-hoc learner accounts, and that technology does not influence metacognition for all learners. Evidence supports claims that: technology can support elements of interaction important to the regulation of cognition; significant themes of metacognition transfer to OLMs; defining a profile for those identifying as stronger self-assessors is possible; and that OLMs remain relevant in metacognition research.
Matthew was originaly supervised by Susan Bull and later by Chris Baber.
A sunny week in May away in the Peak District with most of the Leverhulme-funded PhD students in open world learning and many of their supervisors. Lots of writing was done, but also a lot of community building.
A very busy week in Vancouver at the LAK17 (learning analytics and knowledge) conference kicked off with the all-day doctoral consortium on 14 March (funded by SoLAR and the NSF). I joined Bodong Chen and Ani Aghababyan as an organiser this year and we enjoyed working with the ten talented doctoral students from across the world who gained a place in the consortium.
- Alexander Whitelock-Wainwright: Students’ intentions to use technology in their learning: The effects of internal and external conditions
- Alisa Acosta: The design of learning analytics to support a knowledge community and inquiry approach to secondary science
- Daniele Di Mitri: Digital learning shadow: digital projection, state estimation and cognitive inference for the learning self
- Danielle Hagood: Learning analytics in non-cognitive domains
- Justian Knobbout: Designing a learning analytics capabilities model
- Leif Nelson: The purpose of higher education in the discourse of learning analytics
- Quan Nguyen: Unravelling the dynamics of learning design within and between disciplines in higher education using learning analytics
- Stijn Van Laer: Design guidelines for blended learning environments to support self-regulation: event sequence analysis for investigating learners’ self-regulatory behavior
- Tracie Farrell Frey: Seeking relevance: affordances of learning analytics for self-regulated learning
- Ye Xiong: Write-and-learn: promoting meaningful learning through concept map-based formative feedback on writing assignments
The intention of the doctoral consortium was to support and inspire doctoral students in their ongoing research efforts. The objectives were to:
- Provide a setting for mutual feedback on participants’ current research and guidance on future research directions from a mentor panel
- Create a forum for engaging in dialogue aimed at building capacity in the field with respect to current issues in learning analytics ranging from methods of gathering analytics, interpreting analytics with respect to learning issues, considering ethical issues, relaying the meaning of analytics to impact teaching and learning, etc.
- Develop a supportive, multidisciplinary community of learning analytics scholars
- Foster a spirit of collaborative research across countries, institutions and disciplinary background
- Enhance participating students’ conference experience by connecting participants to other LAK attendees
On 14th December, Duygu Bektik defended her thesis successfully, and now only minor corrections stand between her and her doctorate.
Learning Analytics for Academic Writing through Automatic Identification of Meta-Discourse
When assessing student writing, tutors look for ability to present well-reasoned arguments, signalled by elements of meta-discourse. Some natural language processing systems can detect rhetorical moves in scholarly texts, but no previous work has investigated whether these tools can analyse student writing reliably. Duygu’s thesis evaluates the Xerox Incremental Parser (XIP), sets out ways in which it could be changed to support the analysis of student writing and proposes how its output could be delivered to tutors. It also investigates how tutors define the quality of undergraduate writing and identifies key elements that can be used to identify good student writing in the social sciences.