Tuesday, 12 October 2010

TILT - microblogging your learning

Just caught up with news of this Today I Learnt That ... pilot from the TRIP database guys Jon Brassey and Chris Price.

Nice one ... and it's another 4 letter acronym beginning with 'T'!

Not to be confused with FT's tilt (note the lower case) which is a digital news site about 'tilting' markets?

TILT looks like a Web 2.0 way of microblogging your own learning especially when reading the evidence-based medicine summaries on the TRIP database. Since they have now got 10,000 registered users it would make great sense to give them some sort of simple way of tracking their reflections. Having a dedicated tool used by this particular community has advantages over, say, a more general microblogging tool such as Twitter since the learning may get mixed up with what you're eating for breakfast or which train you're on. There's the challenge too and I wonder if we may see some linking up of other online tools via fancy tagging. Hey ... the #tilt hashtag is not really widely used so I'd start posting it to reserve it!

Online vs. face-to-face learning

"Focussing on the individual learner, their needs and encouraging their reflection, is more important than fancy online tools".

Reading the report Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. U.S. Department of Education. Revised September 2010.

This is a systematic review of the literature (the principle databases were ERIC, PsycINFO, PubMed, ABI/INFORM, UMI ProQuest Digital Dissertations but manual techniques were also used) 1996 - July 2008 of studies looking for experimental or quasi-experimental studies evaluating face to face and online learning with objective measures of learning. 1132 abstracts screened, 176 studies selected of which 99 used for analysis and 77 used for narrative synthesis.

The authors concluded:
  • "Few rigorous research studies of the effectiveness of online learning for K-12 students have been published." Many of the studies included in this report were from higher education such as medical training. So, even more interest from a medical education perspective.
  • Face to Face plus online learning is better than online learning alone which is better than Face to Face alone. The authors warn against over-interpretation of this finding since the differences may be due to factors other than the media per se. These factors could include content, pedagogy and learning time.
  • Instructor-directed learning and collaborative learning (peer to peer) were effective but individual learning was not.
  • "Most of the variations in the way in which different studies implemented online learning did not affect student learning outcomes significantly." 13 different learning practices had been identified as potential sources of variation but none were found to be.
  • "The effectiveness of online learning approaches appears quite broad across different content and learner types." Undergraduates, graduates and professionals all seem to benefit from online learning.
Also, they observed that studies tending to conclude the following:
  • Blended and purely online learning within a single study have similar effects.
  • Video and quizzes don't seem to have an influence on the amount that is learnt online.
  • Learner control and reflection enhances learning.
  • Guiding groups of online learners tends to influence the way the interact but not the amount they learn. Compare this with the beneficial effect of guiding individuals online.
It is great that this type of work is regularly undertaken in the US. We owe a lot to the public funding and open publication of such research.

I wonder if the conclusions here should be that online learning allows for more opportunities and time for learning, good teaching works regardless of the media used ("Effective teaching transcends course format") and focussing on the individual learner, their needs and encouraging their reflection, is more important than fancy online tools.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Diabetes education project

Started an international diabetes project yesterday for primary care physicians in four different countries. The educational intervention is based on the social learning theory Communities of Practice1. It will be evaluated by colleagues in Canada - hopefully across the two languages - and written up early next year.

There was a lively discussion at our orientation session in Cardiff (thanks all) but all too brief. I hope the platform that we've developed will help extend the discussion.

Before the session we asked some of the GPs to send details about their current clinical practice and plugged them into Wordle to create a visual summary of the themes and issues - a technique I picked up from Bronwyn Stuckey (thanks @BronSt).

Don't know what it means but, like reading tea leaves, it helps to stimulate conversation.

Looking forward to the online discussion and perhaps the possibility of breaking out of our basecamp.

1. Etienne Wenger. Communities of practice: learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge University Press; 1998. Associated website at: http://www.ewenger.com/theory/ .

Friday, 1 October 2010

Sharing presentations

Have a presentation next week where some of the participants can't attend in person so we will, at another time, go through the slides with them remotely but the presentation has been developed by someone else in Office 2007 .pptx format. Boo!

Whilst it is possible to share this with various web conferencing software by sharing screen displays they all rely on either Flash (DimDim), Java (Elluminate) or both. Whilst these are excellent services they can have some 'set up' issues. I'd like a much smaller barrier as this is the first meeting of the group.

I would prefer to present this using a simple interface that needs no logging in and can be used whilst talking over the telephone. i.e. Google Docs. However, Google docs works with ppt files and not pptx files. Also if I open the presentation with Open Office and save it in Office 97/2000/XP version .ppt format then Google thinks it's corrupt. Hmm I wonder who is corrupt. It couldn't be Microsoft could it trying to force people to use a new version of their Office software? (Got a copy of MS Office 2003 on a laptop so will have to go there and do a conversion I suppose. But really ... why?)

Recently seen some excellent examples of document sharing using Google Docs on the CPsquare Foundations course. I think the ability to use simple collaborative and white boarding tools with low barriers for participation is very important for engaging learners especially those who are less experienced with such online participation. Being inclusive is more important than choosing a particular technology. Something that just uses the browser without any need for plugins would be ideal.

Any suggestions for very simple whiteboard viewers?

skrbl looks good but doesn't seem to do pictures / screen shots
Google Docs Drawing seems better but would be a little clunky for a long presentation