28 May, 2008

Running a University using iPhones

I liked this video from ACU in Texas. It's a fictional exploration of how a University could use mobile devices to connect with students in different ways.

The video is arguing that giving all students an internet connected device might increase their connection to the university, to resources and experiences provided for learning, and to each other. Also if the university supplies a device like that, perhaps the students would be OK with it being used for learning and not feel like it was intruding in their personal, informal space, as has been an argument against using Facebook for example.

I guess the students need to see why they might want to use the technology to enhance their learning, and we can start explaining that now. If we can communicate the value of a personal learning environment which makes use of RSS and mobile video and audio, and which is easy to develop, then students would use the resources that they've got to build and maintain it. Without this understanding, the students wouldn't end up using their university iPhones for learning anyway.

I like the idea of using a piece of hardware like an iPhone that is designed primarily with the user experience in mind (rather than technical specifications), and which is designed to just work. Surely that could only improve the student experience and retention?

16 May, 2008

Blackboard World Europe 08: Student Led Audio Creation as a Group Assessment

Been at Blackboard World 08 in Manchester this week, and the food was great. There were also some sessions that I thought brought up important points for people thinking of doing similar projects. I'll try to communicate the content of one here.

Using Blackboard Technology for Student Led Podcasting and Group Assessment:

This session by Christopher Stokes and Paul Wigfield from the University of Sheffield was the story of what happened when they asked the dental students to create group presentations as audio files rather than as classroom presentations.

They were asked to create 5 minute audio files on their topic, where the whole group had to speak. They admitted that these aren't really podcasts, but that's what the students wanted to call them. Submission was by attaching the audio file to a message on the VLE's discussion board.

They gave the students little advice on recording and equipment, and were surprised to find that none of the groups came to them with technical problems. They assume that there must have been someone in all the groups who had the understanding to sort out any issues, and said that it might had been different if the assignments had been individual ones.

They also thought that recording in this format meant that the individuals in the groups worked together more, where in the past the students had split the responsibilities. For example they might have had one person creating the presentation slides for the introduction, one person putting all the slides together and one presenting in class. This was what the presenters were most pleased with.

Other important issues brought up were:

-When feedback was collected on the students' experiences they said that it was good to do this near the start of term when people had more time, meaning that it was easier to get together.

-Some students raised concerns that the assignment was crossing over in to their personal/informal spaces (e.g. Garageband software that they usually use to make their own music rather than University work) and later on when students were offered the audio files as a podcast, they weren't interested in subscribing to it with iTunes for similar reasons. Their MP3 players are seen as being for music and not University stuff. It would be useful to find research or undertake research around these student perceptions of informal online spaces.

-Accessibility. Will Deaf or hard of hearing students be able to participate fully in creation and peer review? Do students need to produce transcripts?

-Students awareness of copyright issues. Home made music is OK, but if some use commercial music are you going to refuse to accept their assignment?