Notes from an e-learning workshop
This past week, my colleague and I had the pleasure of having with us a group of 25 faculty members from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In cooperation with the National Center For e-learning and Distance Learning, we held a two week workshop/training session for them on e-learning, digital technologies and education. Our conversations over these days touched upon multiple aspects of online and distance learning, ranging from cultural issues to techno-social affordances, to LMS evaluation, quality assurance, creativity, and pedagogical transformation. While I had a curriculum designed for my workshop days, I followed about half of it. The rest was revised on the spot according to what we felt we needed to cover and the needs that arose. In reality, the workshop wouldn’t have been successful had the curriculum was set in stone, but, if you are reading this far, I am probably preaching to the wrong choir :)
Below, is a list of items/ideas surrounding workshop issues. Other than being helpful to me, they might also be helpful to you if you are planning on leading a workshop/training session:
- People seem to like lists. I don’t know why, but they do. I think it was Curt Bonk who had wrote that people like lists and acronyms (probably because they are memorable), but the last item that I gave to my colleagues before they left today was a list of 10 things to keep in mind when using technology in education.
- This group was especially interested in learning from our experience with e-learning. Frequent questions were: How does the University of Manchester do e-learning? How do you train instructors/professors in using technology in education? What is your e-learning agenda? How do you convince instructors to adopt technology? What went wrong and what did you learn?
- Pedagogy and technology-enhanced pedagogy should be central and this should be made explicit from the very beginning. By George (!) enough with pedagogy-enhanced technology!
- University networks are just plain weird. On the one hand, my computer (that is registered on the network by its mac address, which is a unique identifier) would not connect to the network via ethernet. On the other hand, more than 1 person can log on the lab machines using the same username and password. The reason why the first issue arises while the second issue is ok is baffling me.
- Practical activities and discussion trump theory.
- People also seem to like to explore the courses that others have created and investigate specific design ideas or specific things that worked well or didn’t. I had my own courses to showcase and a few other open courses, but I wasn’t able to invite others to talk about their own experiences/courses. Perhaps the next time.
- Every university is different and it’s always difficult to give specific input on what might work in a specific situation. Recipes for success are generally recipes for disaster. For example, in some of these universities, the university’s budget is a non-issue. Yes, you read this right. In this economic climate. This was something new for me. To be more specific, it doesn’t matter if Blackboard costs money and Moodle doesn’t.
- Studying your learners helps. Did you know that online learning and distance education are pressing matters in Suadi Arabia due to the fact that 38% of the country’s population is between the ages of 10-14 and the country needs to provide higher education to these people? It’s an exciting time for our field in this part of the world.
- Respectfulness, politeness, openness, appreciation, and kindness (along with a desire to improve education) go a long way.
I will end by posting a link to a twitpic posting that occurred during class time when we were trying to explore how the college of applied arts could promote student work online. And, in the spirit of the cross-cultural learning that transpired during the sessions, I look forward to visiting my newfound colleagues in the near future in Saudi Arabia. Inshallah (which, incidentally is a common Cypriot expression and is not derived from a specific religion)… oh, the things that this blog’s visitors learn are never-ending :)