Presentation on the conference "Educational Technology", 2009
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  • 1. Networked learning – a case study – online course to develop e-learning competences of VET teachers Presentation on the conference “Educational technology” Faculty of Pedagogy and Psychology, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, 30 of January 2009. Introduction According to recent studies and analyses, e-learning has not been integrated into the pedagogical programmes of European schools, - despite the fact that this initiative has gained considerable support from the government as well as from educational authorities at both the national and European levels. At the “Online Educa Berlin 2008” conference the participants of a session held a discussion on “Content without Sharing” – referring to the fashionable idea of “content sharing” – trying to find out why the teaching material databases carefully developed by universities are so “quiet”. Why are the digital databases not popular enough with students and teachers? The participants’ responses revealed that unless we have a community behind the database, which is highly interested in using the uploaded content (or in uploading content) as a feature of their daily work, we cannot expect considerable response, no matter how easily available these excellently databases structured metadata are. In the interview following the conference session the participants came to the conclusion: the developers did not take this aspect into consideration while designing the database. Recent experience has shown that interactive multimedia and the e-learning framework (LMS, LCMS systems) have not been able to provide sufficient help to schools in their efforts to meet the demands of the information society. The monitoring studies of the development projects do not question the original concept (i.e. the supposition that e-learning can become an efficient teaching tool on the long term), simply they intend to find an explanation to the failures. In spite of the considerable investments high quality IT infrastructure is still not widespread in European schools, surveys show that the teachers have still not obtained the necessary competencies to apply IT tools, there is not sufficient high quality teaching material available etc. One of the most frequently mentioned reasons for the failures is the fact that the developers do not examine the problems in a wide context and the technological aspects frequently precede the pedagogical considerations. Meanwhile the expression “e-learning” seems to be fading and as a common practice in software technology affixes such as 2.0 or even 3.0 are attached to it (as web itself has become web 2.0), referring to the fact that there is an “improved” version available for education. While the adult generation is conducting research, developing and thinking, the development of information communication technology is reaching a turning point, “readable web” is instantly replaced by “writable-readable” web. The net generation growing up in the digital age does not ask questions, it immediately acquires, applies and uses the available tools, lives together with them – and in a way it gives an answer to our dilemmas. We, teachers … Probably it is worth reconsidering the supposition: “The medium is the message”, which can reshape the world. (Marshall McLuhan 1965). Page 1 of 5
  • 2. On the way to networked learning The aim of the following case study is to present what experiences a small national private enterprise specialised in adult education has had in the new age described above, what stages the teachers of this enterprise have gone through from e-learning 1.0 to a Leonardo project, which aims to pilot network learning. Prompt Education Centre is specialised in IT training and adult education, and since it was established at the same time when the professional and examination requirements of the first IT training listed in the National Training Registry were created, it was reasonable to include – in accordance with the regulations issued in 1996 - a “Multimedia developer” and an “IT specialist in education” training (especially offered to teachers) in the list of training programmes. Owing to this fact our teachers have been involved in the history of e-learning since 1993 (the date of the foundation). We have gone through all the above mentioned traps (multimedia euphoria, the development of 1.0 framework system etc.), which we do not regret at all, since we gained invaluable experience during the training programmes, in the course of discussing the examination projects of the participants and in the development projects we carried out co-operating with vocational schools. Since 1996 several hundred teachers have obtained ECDL certificates, have acquired computer operator, software operator, multimedia developer and IT specialist in education qualifications or have participated in distance learning teacher training courses aiming to discuss the opportunities of computer-aided teaching. However, when they want to put the acquired knowledge in practice, they face thousands of problems. According to surveys conducted at European levels, teachers complain about the lack of facilities, lack of time for innovation even in countries with more developed infrastructure, so what could Hungarian teachers say? Online course in Moodle Commissioned by the National Institute of Vocational and Adult Education (NIVE – http://www.nive.hu ) we developed an online course, a three-module teacher further training programme for VET teachers how to use e-learning methods in their pedagogical practice. The first module includes a general overview of e-learning concepts, presenting the successes and failures of recent years; the second module covers the reasonable and practical applications of IT tools in schools through the example of Moodle. In the third module the participants created their own e-learning course and tested it with their students in the school. The training aims to develop teachers’ competencies which are necessary to apply info-communication tools in schools, giving a special emphasis to pedagogical considerations. We did not want to teach how to make a presentation but how to make a presentation which is suitable for demonstration. We wanted to present what aspects should be taken into account if we want our presentation to support and not hinder understanding. For this reason elementary IT skills were required to enter the programme. Nearly 150 teachers (mainly from vocational secondary schools all over the country) participated in the first, contact further training. In order to overcome the time and distance barriers we developed the online version of the course in 2006 using the Moodle environment. This version was piloted in the same year with the participation of 30 teachers and it was deservedly called a “pilot” version, since we had to solve many technical problems and had to modify the content several times. The training held in 2008 was attended by as many as 60 teachers and although it was the “validated and verified” version of the course, we still had to correct many mistakes. As a main principle, our course was based on cooperation, on a high level of active participation throughout the training. In each unit the participants were assigned a task which required research on the Internet, analyzing and considering the Page 2 of 5
  • 3. teacher’s own opportunities as well as the possibilities of the school. In addition, at the end of each module participants had to complete on-line tests. The assessment was carried out by tutors, whose work was co-ordinated by two professional supervisors. The teachers who fulfilled the requirements (min. 60%) were awarded 30 credit points in the teacher further training system. Experiences The quality and quantity of the tutor’s work We came to the conclusion that the quality of online training is primarily determined by the quality of the tutor’s work. We found huge differences between the groups depending on how seriously the tutor took the task, how much time he/she spent on getting to know the group, how actively he/she worked on team building, how diligent and quick he/she was at assessing the individual tasks. (The participants required a quick feedback after they submitted their assignments, delay was not tolerated.) However, assessing the ten groups we also experienced cases when the participants’ online communication was not successful despite the tutor’s maximum efforts. The participants in this group completed the assigned tasks but they did not join the discussions and debates. The course was originally scheduled for 4 months but it took 6 months for us to complete it. During this time our concept that online course requires less work for the teachers than contact teaching was proven completely wrong. Despite the fact that everything was available in electronic format, the exercises, the tests were ready and we knew that the LMS partly prevented us of such tasks of evaluating tests, it became obvious that the plan that a tutor works with only 6 “students” was far from being exaggerated. In one assignment – taking the findings of a study as a starting point – we asked the members of the groups to carry out research on the Internet and examine to what extent they can discover the behaviour patterns of the often cited net generation in their own classroom. The participants were very enthusiastic, some of them even carried out a survey and came to interesting conclusion, were discussed and analysed on the forums. As many as 440 (2-6 pages each) short surveys, studies, reports were uploaded and a large amount of online, user generated content was compiled. Throughout the whole training the tutors spent several hours a day analysing and assessing the studies, communicating in forums and via e-mails, chatting and answering the messages. Monitoring, assessment – the opportunities of networked learning Moddle platform enabled us to assess how far the planned learning objectives could have been achieved. As a final assignment the teachers were asked to design and to elaborate their own online course and to pilot it with their classroom students. As a result 52 reports were published describing the experiences of the experiments. From the reports we can conclude about the teachers’ creativity, ambitions, the students’ responses, the standard of IT infrastructure in the given school, the level of technical support and the school director’s attitude to the experiment. The generated online content would deserve to be discussed in a separate study. We were not aware of the fact that this course was our first experience with e- learning 2.0 - in an e-learning 1.0 platform – it was example of how teachers and students could become peers in the online collaboration. Page 3 of 5
  • 4. What we failed to plan – to collect teachers’ e-portfolios By the end of the course every teacher had an electronic portfolio including course design, synopsis, storyboard of the e-learning event, units of electronic content implemented in Moodle, along with reports and conclusions derived after their classroom pilots. We concluded that all these artefacts should be collected in a professional e-portfolio of the teachers – but only in the next further training programme. The participants’ feedback Out of 60 teachers 52 completed all the three modules of the course. At the end of each module and that of the whole course the participants were asked to evaluate the content of the course, the applied methods, the extent of their own progress, the practical applicability of the acquired knowledge by filling in an online anonymous questionnaire, which was a completed version of the one used by NSZFI (National Vocational and Adult Training Institute). In spite of the many-many mistakes we realised during the course, the general feedback of the participants was positive. Here is a short summary of the assessment of the course (Scale:1-5; number of respondents: 46) Question Result To what extent did the further training meet your 4: 42,55%, 5: 34,04% expectations? To what extent did the course help with your professional development and reconsidering your 4: 29,79%, 5: 46,81% teaching methods? To what extent can you utilize the acquired knowledge 4:38,30%, 5: 38,30% in the future? To what extent was the further training objective 4: 34,04%, 5: 34,04% achieved? Evaluate the organizers’ work. 4: 36,17%, 5: 46,81% Did you enjoy the course? 4: 31,91%, 5: 42,55% Describe your general impression about the course 4: 44,68%, 5: 36,17% Economic considerations Distance learning via the internet can be cost saving in some respects (saves the cost of travelling, it has a relatively flexible schedule, it does not load the working hours, there is no need for substituting for the teachers) but if we carefully examine the opportunities lying in distance learning, we must admit that it costs much higher than contact teaching. Just consider how much less work is needed when we give a lecture or seminar to a group compared to dealing with each student individually and assessing, assisting and communicating via the Internet. Page 4 of 5
  • 5. Project Tenegen – Connect the Teachers to teach and reach the Net Generation LLP-LdV-TOI-2008-HU-016 While the course was being held, more and more articles and studies were published on the Internet on web 2.0 novelties and networked learning became a key concept in e-learning. While browsing these articles we found information on a successful project coordinated by a Hungarian institution “Network for Teaching Information Society, NETIS” in the framework of the Leonardo programme. Among the project publications we read an article by Dr. István Bessenyei, in which the author presents the main principles of a new teaching paradigm developing in the information society: networked learning, connectivism. This was the point when the idea of submitting an “innovation transfer” type project proposal was born within the Leonardo programme. Prompt-G Educational Centre for Informatics prepared and submitted the proposal, which was accepted by the programme agency. In the 24-month innovation transfer project the results of two Leonardo projects are integrated into the existing teacher further training programme as a result of the co-operation between 11 partners from 5 countries. The SLOOP (“Sharing Learning Objects in an open Perspective”) project co-ordinated by an Italian institution integrates the concept of “open source code” - used in software development – into the educational environment. The Tenegen consortium develops a teaching/learning environment based on co- operation, which intends to integrate the teachers in developing new methods, applying network communication and knowledge sharing, instead of teaching e- learning methods to them. Tenegen partnership In order to form a partnership we invited five schools, the teachers of which had previously participated in our training. (By the time we were informed about accepting the proposal, one of the institutions had been closed down). The partnership includes teachers, experts of pedagogy and education research (CNR, ISERG-Information Society Research Group), the professional representatives of institutions (CAPDM, DEKRA) responsible for the standards and quality requirements of digital content, the institution responsible for co-ordinating national vocational training (NSZFI) and a Turkish university (BUNI), which aims to apply the results of the project in their teaching practice. Budapest, January 2009. Mária Hartyányi Prompt-G Educational Centre for Informatics Page 5 of 5