Posts tagged ‘elearning’
The presentation I gave about an hour ago at eLearning Africa 2011 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania:
Last week we set up Digital Campus as a not-for-profit company to continue and expand the work we have been doing over the last couple of years in ICT infrastructure development, technology enhanced learning and using technology to improve public health. You can read more on the Digital Campus website. Below is a presentation to give an overview the types of services and solutions we’re providing to improve ICT infrastructure:
Next week I return to Ethiopia for a few days and will then go to present at the eLearning Africa conference in Tanzania.
As I mentioned in my previous posting, we’ve been spending some time recently developing a Creative Commons Certificate in Online Education specifically tailored to those teachers new to using online and blended learning. We’ve just released the first version of the course and made it available for download.
You can view the course on our Moodle installation at: http://moodle.alexlittle.net/course/view.php?id=13 (use the ‘login as guest’ option).
You can also download the course in Moodle (1.9) backup format from: http://alexlittle.net/blog/download.php?file=coe.zip so you can install it on your own server to edit/remix/reuse or deliver as-is within your organisation.
The course is still under development, there are many aspects that we’d like to improve, a priority will be to try and reduce the download size, currently it’s around 36Mb, which is likely to be too big for anyone to download on a dial-up speed connection. Any feedback on the course is very welcome and if you use the course materials in your organisation I’d be really interested in hearing about it.
Although this is the first release, we have delivered the content to several groups of teachers over the past 18 months in Mekelle, so it is a product of our experiences running these training courses.
So far, we’ve been delivering the course in blended mode: face to face workshops at the start and end with an online period inbetween. We’re also like to run the course purely online, so we hope to start a facilitated/tutored presentation of the course in the coming months. If you’re interested in participating in this then please contact me.
Our original plan for delivering the elearning training in Mekelle was to develop our own Moodle training content, maybe not all from scratch, but at least the general structure and depth, reusing existing videos and open content wherever possible. Given the time constraints we had before starting the first training sessions, we were unable to complete writing our own content. Instead we licensed the MoodleBites for Teachers and Course Designers courses so we were able to upload this onto the servers in Mekelle. We did reorganise the content slightly to fit in with what we were trying to achieve, but this was far less effort that writing our own.
Using the MoodleBites content gave us good quality and well structured content and activities and has worked very well for us over the training we’ve been giving for the last 18 months. They’ve also been very helpful in providing a facilitator (Anna) for us to help give some alternative approaches and other perspectives on delivering course online for our course participants. They’ve also generously allowed us to use the content for limited groups outside our original license, without any extra payment.
However in the longer term, as we’re looking to provide elearning training and support to other universities in Ethiopia and further afield, it’s unsustainable for us (or the organisations we’d like to work with) to license the content at each new organisation. So we’ve returned to the idea of developing our own content, specifically, writing a Certificate in Online Education (COE) distributed under a creative commons license.
As with most other open content, the real value comes from the facilitation, tutoring and mentoring along with the actual certificate, rather than the content itself. We’re hoping to use our new content for the training we’ll give in the coming few weeks and takes into account the environmental factors (such as limited bandwidth, initial tutor skills/training) which are different when delivering elearning training in European or US organisations.
Our aim with the Certification in Online Education is not to produce a technical training course in Moodle alone, nor to provide solely elearning/pedagogy theory, but a balance between the two. The MoodleBites training, as it’s name suggests, is focused mainly on Moodle, leading to develop the Moodle skills necessary to complete the Moodle Certification. Our COE isn’t designed as preparation for Moodle Certification, but to provide teachers who have probably never written or used online courses a way in which they can begin to see what’s possible to provide effective (blended) elearning courses by using free software tools and Open Educational Resources.
I’ll post again once we have the course published and available for download.
Over the last week, as well as preparing for next weeks delivery of our Basic Certificate in Online Education to nearly 50 new staff, I’ve also been looking at ways in which we can extend the project. Possibilities we’re investigating include offering the certification to staff at other Ethiopian universities, testing the thin client infrastructure at another organisation and taking thin clients attached to a data projectors/whiteboards into the classroom.
Getting the network into the classroom would allow us to help close the gap between the classroom teaching and the online activities – currently they are very separate, but if students can see the Moodle content/activities in the classroom, they’re more likely to realise they can access this content and more in the computer labs. It also gives us the possibility to test out whiteboards and other technologies.
The labs we installed last November are still working well, only a few of the terminals aren’t working and these are almost all due to poor network or power connection, rather than the terminals themselves. We still have a few issues regarding getting the labs open outside normal working hours. The Health Sciences lab is well used as it’s always open during the normal working day, but we still have to work on extending these hours and also make sure we can get the Technology Institute lab open.
In the Technology Institute, as well as ordering several hundred new PCs (not yet all purchased/distributed) they are building a new thin client lab on a similar model to our existing lab. This lab is reusing old PCs as thin clients – with the new PCs arriving there should be plenty of old PCs available for use. It’s a huge room, space for 60 terminals. All the furniture is being produced by the university’s workshop and I was pleased to see that they are using my design for the hexagonal tables which we have in the other labs.
[Our labs need some better names – any suggestions welcome :-)]
We begin delivery of the elearning training again on Monday and we have had a lot of interest from staff. Our plan was to deliver to 15-20 staff, but we had over 50 staff asking to join. Only a few who have told us they are leaving for masters soon we’ve had to turn down. I expect that, similar to last year, we’ll have a fairly high drop out rate, but even if half complete we’ll have more than 20 new courses online for student access.
In personal news, I was very pleased to get my first shower in over a week on Friday – the water in our area of town had been completely off. The well near our house was restricting the amount of water anyone could take, despite the best rainy season for 10 years only just ending.
Have now been back in Mekelle for a few days – I arrived on Monday evening, and got back into life here amazingly quickly when I think how strange it all seemed when I first arrived in Sept 2008.
I’m staying back at my old house, even have my old room back for the next month. Meeting up with everyone again has been great, it feels as if I’ve been away for such a long time, even though it’s only been around 2 months and I had expected more changes, but then I guess things don’t change here that quickly. The road that had been dug up near the house is still unfinished, in fact in an even worse state than before. Almost everyone has mentioned how fat I’ve become being back in the UK, but with the amount of eating out I’ve been doing the past few days seems unlikely I’ll lose any weight whilst here
I got straight back into work at the Uni on Tuesday morning, Jaime had been here for the week before I’d arrived and we’re ran the third of our face to face training weeks with our tutors. On Friday evening we had another meal out at the Axum hotel and had a short presentation of the tutors certificates (Basic Certificate in Online Education, accredited by Alcala University).
My to-do list for this visit seems to be getting longer by the minute, there are still a large number of technical and management issues that we need to get resolved. There is still confusion over who is responsible for the opening of one of the labs and there needs to be better coordination and management from the university. At the moment it seems that no-one at the university has overall responsibility.
On the plus side, the Engineering College (now an independent Institute of Technology), has employed 3 new staff as elearning specialists, so I will spend some time training them over the coming weeks. As they’re part of the IoT rather than the university generally, we can’t get them to support the Health Sciences college. So I can see a big divide opening between the IoT and the rest of the university in elearning infrastructure, capacity and capability.
I can see my time here flying past, I’ve already been here a week and only have 3 left, so will be back in the UK before I know it!
After 24 hours travel (London – Addis – Harare – Lusaka), yesterday afternoon I arrived in Lusaka, Zambia for the eLearning Africa conference, where I’ll be presenting the Digital Campus project later this week. The conference starts properly tomorrow and today I attended one of the pre-conference workshops, on policies for successful elearning programmes.
My impressions so far have been very good, having Ethiopia as the only other sub-Saharan Africa country that I’ve visited, Lusaka couldn’t be more different to Addis, everything appears much more up together and organised. The roads and traffic seem far less chaotic, lined with advertisements for various mobile operators. We were even given free sim cards when we were waiting for our baggage – such a contrast to Ethiopia when getting a sim card is quite a tedious process and certainly not cheap.
The conference is huge, but show how small the world is when one of the first people I met here is a PhD student at the OU Business School. I’m going to have a tricky job of deciding which presentations to go to, as there are 10 parallel sessions. The contrast with Ethiopia is made even more pronounced talking to some of the other participants from other African countries where they seem to be much further down the road than Ethiopia in terms of elearning implementation and technologies.
Assuming the wireless stays up and running well I hope I’ll be blogging regularly. For anyone reading this who is at the conference, my presentation is on Friday afternoon (track 56A1).
Last week we had our second full weeks training course with our elearning tutors. Jaime came over from Alcala University to deliver most of the training and I was there to help out with more of the technical aspects and generally lend a hand.
It was a completely different week to the previous training week we had back in November. Then it was the start of the training so it was much more hectic and we had more participants – who seemed to flit between attending or not – so it was difficult to manage with everyone working at different paces. In November we gave people plenty of time for practical work as well as giving presentations – but at the end of the week, some people thought there was too much time to work on their own. I suspect that many of these were the people who were more interested in getting the certificate to say they’ve done the training than actually implementing anything.
This week we had a core group of about 12 tutors who attended the whole week, which was almost entirely practical sessions – just a few presentations. Jaime had much of the previous week meeting with the tutors for individual tutorials and catch up, which worked out to be time well spent. The outcome was a very productive week and we now have many courses (around 15) almost fully uploaded on our Moodle server (see: http://www.mu.edu.et/elearning) – many of the courses allow guest access if you would like to take a look. Next challenge is to make sure the student accounts have been created and that they have received some form of induction to the lab.
Unfortunately we still have some unresolved technical issues in the labs which has been making things a little tricky to manage. None of the issues by themselves are show-stoppers, but all the little issues add up and we’ve already experienced the fact that we’re not always told when there are issues – instead people just don’t use the lab. So we need to make sure there are plenty of ways in which staff and students can communicate when they are having difficulties.
At the end of the week we had a nice meal out with all the tutors at the Axum hotel. Even though it was a Friday night, most places are very quiet – it’s still fasting time in the run up to Easter and many people won’t go out to restaurants/bars if they’re not able to eat meat!
Today I held the first student induction session for Seyoum’s ‘Marketing Management for Industrial Engineers’ course. All seemed to go very well, we had far fewer problems with the students logging in than I was expecting – I think this was mainly due to Seyoum being able to explain in Amharic what they needed to do.