Home » Posts tagged 'tutorial'

Tag Archives: tutorial

Talking it through

When Stephen Hawking lost the ability to speak in 1985 he realised with great frustration that he could no longer talk through a problem with others and in so doing clarify his thoughts.

For a student to be able to talk through a subject with tutors and fellow students is a vital component of learning that risks being absent where e-Learning is supposed to provide all of that. Face to face in tutorials and at other events, such as in a debate or subject-some specific society is ideal. The next best thing is having formal a Google hang-out and other interactions that are live (synchronous) as well as asynchronous.

What is meant by a ‘tutorial’?

From E-Learning V

Fig.1. What is a tutorial?

In my decade+ using these platforms (I first attempted a module of the Open & Distance Learning MA in 2000/2001)we’ve gone from ‘computer-based learning’ and ‘web-based learning’ to ‘online learning’ and ‘e-learning’ or ‘eLearning’. ‘MOOC’ (Massive Open Online Course’ is a dreadful term so ‘Free Online Course’ must surely be better?

It’ll pan out over the years.

I have come to like ‘hang-outs’ (a term coined by Google) as an informal online gathering. A lecture online, is by default something akin to a ‘TED lecture’ surely? Webinars are a reasonable catch-all and perhaps what becomes of an OU Live moderated sessions?

Regarding tutorials, though traditionally small groups, a tutor and one or two, maybe three students for an hour – it is these asynchronous conversations that match this where the role of ‘tutor’ is taken by the educators, but also by well-informed contributors – this can happen here. The learning effect is, I would say the same, or very similar. You offer thoughts, these are challenged, or people agree and add or amend them and in this way you ‘construct’ meaning. Constructivism is one of the older ‘learning theories’, whereas ‘connectivism’ is very much a product of learning like this.

These is called a blog platform, yet it has affordanced of what used to be called a ‘Bulletin Board’ (I did one of these with the OU in 2001. Think text messages strung together in a kind of Excel spreadsheet). A blog, for my money, has a modicum of independence of design, tools and sharing. Go see WordPress. I wouldn’t change much here though. I cherish the new things I learn from people on totally different courses, the company and support that I know is here too.

My thoughts on a FutureLearn MOOC on the Treaty of Versailles that tried to conclude the First World War

From E-Learning V

Fig.1. World War One: Paris 1991. A New World ...

The content here, how produced, presented and managed by FutureLearn is the perfect catalyst for a diversity of contributors. As interested in the strengths and weaknesses of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) as a platform, this from FutureLearn is showing the value of many connected minds coming together and feeding of each other. It strikes me that as people group around a line of thought, with the educators and contributors, the kernel of a tutorial forms: ideas are offered, shared, adjusted, politely corrected, fed, developed and consolidated.

From E-Learning V

Fig.2. The clean design style of Dorling-Kindersley

It intrigues me to understand what the formula for success is here: the simplicity and intuitive nature of the FutureLearn platform; a clarity that in multi-media terms reminds me of those Dorling-Kindersley books; the quality of the ideas professionally, creatively and unpretentiously presented … and a topic that has caught the Zeitgeist of the centenary commemorations of the First World War and its consequences rather than the chronology of the battles and the minutiae of military tactics.

For someone who has studied seven of the eight or nine Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education (MA ODE) modules my continued interest in e-learning is diverse; it includes however not the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) per se, but rather ways to escape the technology in order to recreate or enable the qualities that come from the ‘Oxbridge Tutorial’.

Fig.3. An Oxbridge Tutorial (1960s)

I am specific here because these tutorials are not seminars, webinars or lectures, an ‘Oxbridge Tutorial’ is typically either one-to-one, the ‘great mind’, the ‘subject matter expert’ and his or her student or ‘acolyte’ or one to two or three. The standard pattern of these is for the students deliver a short essay, around 2000 words, on a single topic from a reading list. In theory all the participants write an essay but only one reads his or her essay out that everyone then discusses. The tutorial lasts an hour. You have one a week … per topic. Some tutors, the natural and committed educators extend these tutorials into informal settings, picking up the conversation at meals and in other settings.

From E-Learning V

Fig.4. Learning from others: an exchange of ideas

You cannot simply transpose this kind of ‘tutorial’ to the Internet in the commercial sense as the educator hasn’t the time to give, repeatedly, an hour of time to just one, or two or three students. This is not the model that can support the educational desires of the 5 million in the world who crave a university place. Certainly, these students need peace, a roof over their heads, food and political stability and of course the infrastructure and means to own and operate a device that can get them online … a tall enough order, but smart phones could be as cheap as £10 within ten years … but then, it will be through the kind of connectedness between students, moderated and catalysed by the experts that this ‘tutor-like’ learning experience can be created.

I see it in this MOOC. I have seen it with a variety of activities in OU modules.

From E-Learning V

Fig.5. My takes on ‘Connectivism’ as a burgeoning theory of learning 

‘Connectedness’ is a learning theory developed and espoused by George Siemens.

The value of the OULive Session

With six OU modules under my belt, five MA ODE and one MBA module and a year working at the OU Business School my personal and in-house experience of these live tutor moderate sessions convinces me that, for all their foibles Elluminate before and OU Live now are vital tools – they can give you some of that residential school/tutorial feel but CRUCIALLY they are an often well needed injection of ‘humanity’ if I can put it that way: humour, friendship, sharing and even team building and committment. My very best experiences of the MA ODE have been during and after such sessions – I wonder therefore if I go back through this OU student blog I can identify a ‘bounce in my tone’ coming out of them. There may be stats that if nothing else coming into and leaving a Live session increases activity and improves motivation – even works in favour of commitment and seeing it through?

Sometimes the appeal of the Elluminate sessions was so great that we’d meet up in Google Hangouts too afterwards to keep it going … the most memorable, and ‘clean, open and honest’ in an OU student way, was the ‘pyjama party’ we had. A laugh and worthy as a ‘memory making’ experience – and this with people across several time zones. We clearly had amongst us something of a hyper-gregarious ‘party girl’ (not a sexist term I trust, would ‘party person’ be better? Anyway, it isn’t gender specific, more the outgoing, gregarious, organising, doing person).

So yes, a crucial ingredient that personally I feel should be right at the start of any module. Hear a person laugh or sneeze, get a sense of who we all are and buy into that natural inclination amongst us to want to learn together, help each other out and feel we belong to a thing.

To add to my experience of this I will keep signing up to things so it is about time I wrote this up … doing a traditional, on campus MA is an extraordinary contrast. I really feel that it had might as well be the 1960s: long reading lists, back to back lectures (I fall asleep in the afternoon) and picking an essay title every couple of months for assessment … but you chat over coffee and share a sandwich in the canteen and slowly form a bond, even if it’s as if we are fellow galley slaves and to graduate will require two years of rowing! And come to think of it, one of the impromptu ‘hang outs’ we did in an MA ODE module included food and drink …

What I miss was getting to know six or seven people as people – not the 2dimensional ‘Gravatar’ and biog, but, as it can slip out, a person doing ‘person’ things even as simple as ducking out to answer the door or put on the kettle. Though odd if you think of them as a formal learning gathering where in one case a fellow student always brought a plate of food to the session and the other tended to be in bed – once, LOL, with her grumbling husband at her side trying to read a book! People eh!?

This is the point, to a degree, the door just open a chink, you see a little bit into the lives of your fellow students.

And do we learn something? I don’t remember, but is the learning the LEAST important reason for doing these things?

Fascinating, but possibly a couple of years since I did one.

What is digital ‘academic’ scholarship? Should 19th and 20th century definitions even apply?

20131006-084853.jpg

Martin Weller published ‘The Digital Scholar’ in 2011 on a Creative Commons Licence. You can download it for free, or purchase the book or eBook, and then do as you will with it. When I read it I share short excerpts on Twitter. I’ve blogged it from end to end and am now having fun with a simple tool for ‘mashing up’ designs called ‘Studio’. It’s a photo editing tool that allows you to add multiple layers of stuff. I rather see it as a revision tool – it makes you spend more time with the excerpts you pick out.

You cannot be so open that you become an empty vessel … you have to create stuff, get your thoughts out there in one way or another so that others can knock ’em down and make more of them. Ideas need legs. In all this ‘play’ though have I burried my head in its contents and with effort read it deeply? Do we invoke shallow learning and distraction with openness? If we each read the book and met for a tutorial is that not, educationally, a more focused and constructive form of ‘oppenness’?

In relation to scholarship shoulf the old rules, the ‘measures’ of academic prowess count? In the connected world of the 21st century ‘scholarship’ is able to emerge in unconventional ways, freed of the school-to-university conveyor belt.

REFERENCE

Weller, M (2011) The Digital scholar

Social Learning when it works – a convenient means of critical evaluation and discrimination of these ideas.

20121010-081713.jpg

From Chapter 1. Educational Implications

Gagne (1970 pp29-30) suggests that instruction in an organized group discussion develops the use and generalization of knowledge – or knowledge transfer. Oxbridge tutors contend that the ‘Oxbridge Tutorial’ – a weekly, structured micro-meeting of two or three people, achieves this. One student reads out a short essay that the tutor and students discuss.

‘When properly led’, Gagne continues, ‘such discussions, where the knowledge itself has been initially mastered’, not only stimulates the production of new extensions of knowledge by students but also provides a convenient means of critical evaluation and discrimination of these ideas. Gagne (ibid).

Forty years on from when Gagne wrote this there are what are meant to be or hoped to be learning contexts where this kind of knowledge transfer through group discussion can still work – or may fail to work – either because the degree of subject mastery between students is too broad or there are too many students, or the wrong mix of students. For example, in the Open University’s Masters of Open and Distance Education (MAODE) between 12 and 16 postgraduate students meet online in a series of structured online tutor forums – some of these work, some do not. As these meetings are largely not compulsory and as they are asynchronous and online, it is rare to have people in them together – the discussions are threaded. What is more, in any tutor group there will typically be a mixture of students who are on their first, their second, third, fourth or even fifth module of the Master’s – some of whom, given the parameters offered by flexible and distance learning, may have spread these modules over five years. Then there is the task and how it is set, whether the participants are meant to work alone or collaboratively – the simplest and most frequent model online is an expectation to read resources and share notes and thoughts. However, personal experience over five such modules suggests that the committed engagement of say six people, working collaboratively on a clear set of tasks and activities with a time limit and climactic conclusion of delivering a joint project, works best. Too many of these online tutorials drift, or fizzle out: too few posts, posts that are two long, fragmented posts linking to pages elsewhere, the indifference of participants, the lack of, or nature of the tutor involvement, excessive and misplaced social chat, or discussing subjects that are off topic … It depends very much on the mix, inclinations, availability and level of ‘knowledge mastery’ as to how such online tutorials work out. As well as the eclectic combination of students the role, availability, online and other teaching skills, even the personality of the tutor and of course THEIR knowledge experience and mastery matters.

Just reflect on how such workshops or seminars may work or fail face–to–face – the hunger for knowledge on the topic under discussion, the mix of personalities and the degree to which their experience or level of understanding is the same, at slight or considerable variance, let alone any differences of culture, background, gender or in a business setting – position and the department they have come from.

Ideally the workshop convener, or what the French call an ‘animateur’ should, assemble or construct such groups with great care, like a director casting actors to perform a piece of improvisation. Different contexts offer different opportunities. As a graduate trainee in an advertising agency six of us were repeatedly assembled, the various departmental specialists and directors playing roles at specific times – bit players in these scenarios. On reflection, stage management by a team in the HR department had been vital. It is therefore ‘stage management’ that I consider of significant importance when trying to construct such collective learning experiences online in a corporate setting.

CONCLUSION

Know your players, cast with care, give direction, record what goes on and step in to nudge, re–kindle, stop or start conversations or activities.

REFERENCE

Gagne, R (1970) The Conditions of Learning

ADDITIONAL LINKS

Robert Gagne Wikispaces

Theories of Learning

Cognitive Design Principles

The Nine Events – from Kevin the Librarian

Various Models of learning – Illustrated

A forum is not a tutorial, yet it aspires to be so

First posted in my OU student blog 9 September 2010

I drag these back into the open, to give them an extended life off a platform that self distructs two years after graduation, but also as a theme comes up for discussion and I need to see where my head has travelled.

A forum is not a tutorial, yet it aspires to be so.

The tutor is afforded no more privileges than any other contributor, democratic, but hardly giving them the attributes or affordances of the ‘chair.’ (Although I’m sure they have some useful control and buttons behind the scenes!)

A tutorial works best one-to-one (like therapy), face-to-face, or in a small group, say six at most, discussing in an synchronous environment.

(James Turner, Policy Director at the Sutton Trust suggested supplementary tutoring of school students one-to-one was most common, two-to-one worked even better because of the collaboratory experience. BBC Radio 4 10.00 Tuesday 7th September 2010, Accessed again 16.00 Saturday 12th September 2010)

You get a cue from the tutor to speak or contribute while body language and human politeness typically results in each person making contributions. Often the person who says nothing for long spells has the most insightful contribution because they have been listening.

I respect the person who says nothing the most – they have the most to say.

Twelve or more is a class. This is an e-classroom.

Easy to define as such, just consider the numbers.

I have taught classes of forty+ in secondary schools and taken ‘classes’ of sixty (with assistance) in an eight lane swimming pool. Numbers mean something, one to one is perfection, with two to one you lose nothing (and academics suggest you probably gain).

Moving up from this … a tutor group in the real world might be six.

No surprises when things don’t work so well, whatever the affordances, or excuses of asynchronous learning/messaging when there are groups of twelve or more.

Asynchronous forums are not a listening environment, nor due to the limitations of an OU Forums affordances and attributes does in foster the kind of discussion you’d have in real life.

A suggested improvement would be:

1) Put the tutor in the chair and have this position reflected in the layout of and the way message ‘tumble’ into the forum.

2) Compress or concertina all messages by an individual so that the ‘weight’ of their message, either the frequency of contribution or length is not given prominence. i.e. the short, infrequent post has equal weight with the more verbose or frequent contribution. This mimics real life.

3) To make all things equal the images files and silhouettes are reduced in size, to a pinpoint if necessary. Their only relevance is to identify who is speaking or who spoke, in which case our names would do. I’d just as happily pick a character icon from the Monopoly or Cludo, my gender, face, mood at the time of the picture etc: are not only irrelevant but they are probably counter to my usual stern disposition.

4) Use something like Harvard’s ‘Rotisserie’ system, deploy games and other events tactically i.e hosts/tutors and other strategically deployed postgraduate and/or PhD students are invited in from time to time to make a contribution.

Some suggestions. Some ideas.

How to improve academic results by taking the student society or club and putting it online

Reading the biography of Dr Zbigniew Pelczynski is to gain a fascinating insight into a natural educator – an academic who is passionate about supporting and motivating learners. Faced with a cohort of students who were producing poor exam results he set up a couple of student societies where undergraduates could meet informally to hear an inspiring guest speaker, have a drink and talk around the subject and what they’d just heard – it worked. Results began to improve in the termly and annual exam results.

  1. This is what it requires for social learning to work online.
  2. A champion to make it happen

The incentive of a great mind or celebrity academic to offer an insightful short talk as an incentive to the later discussion.

But what about the food and drink, nibbles and tea (it doesn’t have to be alcohol). A couple of times in previous modules a bunch of us ‘Hung Out’ in Google+ and on one occasion we were meant to ‘bring along a drink’ while in on one memorable occasion, which was a giggle and truly innocent, one suggestion was to make it a pyjama party!

They key thing was to fix a date, which we coordinated in Google Events or some such, then be prepared to chill out, and keep the orientation on topic without the pressure of a formal tutorial.

How though to give it the continuity and impact of a student society? Given the session a name? How would we flatter, even pay guest speakers?

Or could we just watch a selected TED lecture first?

And why do results improve?

Motivation

Social cohesion and responsibility to the group?

How do we perceive and share knowledge? What matters most in this equation

How do we perceive and share knowledge? What matters most in this equation?

Society, the institution, department or the individual educator?

Learning occurs at the interface between individuals, between the teacher and pupil, between pupils and of course between the thinkers, the educators, researchers and academics.

This interface is expressed as an artefact: a lecture, a book, a TV appearance, a podcast, a chapter in a book or a paper – as an expression of a set of ideas. This interface is also a conversation, in a tutorial, at a conference or less formally in passing over a meal, or drink (in the Oxbridge experience at the High Table, in the senior, middle or junior common rooms, in halls and rooms where societies and loose groupings of people meet, as well as in studies and rooms). Recreation of this online as minds meet, discuss and share. Informal or proactive groups or societies coming together. People with people.

On the one hand we like to put the institution above the person, whether in academia or the commercial world we rank and recognise Oxbridge and the Russell Group ‘above’ other universities while, for example, in Law we put Freshfields, Clifford Chance and Herbert Smith in the top ten of 125 or 500 legal practices.

However, it is an the individual level, at the interface between one person and another, one mind and another, where the learning occurs, where the knowledge is applied and changed, and in various forms written up or written out to cause or record effect.

It is at this interface, where minds meet, where ideas are catalysed and formed.

Towards my own theory of learning ?

Or trying to get my head around Engestrom’s Activity Theory that fits the bill for me?

 

Does the learning ever end? Not in this family

I introduce  an 85 year old to an iPad, he wants one for what he can read, spots Engestrom’s ‘From Knots to Networking’ and he doesn’t look back.

Here he is taking a tutorial on Hegel some 50 years ago.

How the iPad works is less interesting than the subject matter. He takes to his first touch screen with little introduction.

He set up ‘The School for Leaders’ in Poland some 20 years ago and thinks he can use Engestrom’s ideas; I bought this and a few other elearning related books. Googling his name he stumblesupon a gallery of pictures of himself he’d never known had been taken and decides he wants at least one of these for his biography so calls his son over as the book is due to be published in the New Year. Prof. Zbigniew Pelczynski makes for an interesting father in law; he’s not the only academic in the house, art history, philosophy and politics are always part of the conversation between meals, walks and picking through bundles of papers and journals that sit in stacks around the house.

 As my daughter is thinking about A Levels that includes History and Philosophy she is invited to sit with her grandfather so they retire to another room and listening in to bits of  it I overhear what by all accounts becomes her first tutorial. He has such a gentle touch, listening, showing interest in how she is schooled, what she knows, how she is taught. 

I press on through Book 2 B822 and reach chapter 6. Through-out I think how I might apply the ideas. 

%d bloggers like this: