The (Blended) Online Orientation (LCF) : Reflections

I’ve just been looking back through my posts and to my surprise I find I haven’t blogged* anything about the London College of Fashion Online Orientation (OO) project (or if I have its hidden in a more blue sky waffling post and not very easy to find)…

*Let me amend that : this brief post does talk about the development challenges and issues I’m outlining in this post… actually its quite satisfying to look back at that snap shot of my concerns after the first orientation iteration and to think what has been improved… anyway back to this post…

And that being the case I feel I’ve done the project a little bit of an injustice, because from my perspective it’s one of the stand out projects I worked on last year both in terms of outputs but also in terms of its ‘lofty’ ideals!

So what’s so special about the OO?

Well let me tell you 🙂

We devised the OO back over the Spring and Summer of 2014 in preparation for the Autumn 2015 intake. The aim was to digitise the services information and content from the old / traditional Learning Technology Support induction programme which filled out most of the first month of term delivering a 45 – 60 minute ‘this is what’s on offer’ slideshow presentation to over 100 groups of 15 – 50 students at a time.

The sessions were ostensibly identical although we did try to tailor them a bit to the cohort in session (ie more businessy sorts of learning tools referenced for business students, more artsy tools for artists) but the core information was there.

But it wasn’t a great solution.

  1. We all lost our voices.
  2. The information and reference links to resources and tools were ‘transient’… if you missed noting them that was it.
  3. Students in the larger sessions often looked to be disengaged.
  4. Explaining fiddly tasks like printing didn’t translate very well into the format…
  5. It was a very one way transfer of information.

So we decided to make some adjustments in line with  an Learning Technology approach to Learning and Teaching.

  1. We created a Moodle course with all the information contained in the traditional induction.
  2. We got all students  enrolled on the course. (We did a separate staff course which all staff were enrolled on too).
  3. We sent out emails to all students and staff via the course and via curse teams advising students to undertake the course.
  4. We added a feedback survey tot he course.

The benefits of this approach are tangible.

  1. Service information can be efficiently maintained in one place (up to date and without variation). (If something changes we can update the course with the new details).
  2. Links and resources are accessible directly from the course.
  3. The information is always there for reference throughout the year.
  4. We could include multimedia content as well as text to better suit different learning styles.
  5. Students could undertake it at their own speed and in their own time.
  6. It free’s up the LT team to support LT!
  7. We could gather feedback (over 700 respsonses … see below!)

So in terms of achievements for the 2014 Autumn intake you can see  we’re entering into that self paced online mode of delivering services information.

(We did end up offering the ‘trad induction’ to courses that expressed a fear / skepticism of the new model, but with resistance. The session essentially referenced the OO course as a walk through the pages.. it wasn’t very L& inspiring though… kinda just reading off a screen)

But as you can imagine that only made me partially happy. A good first step if you like. But there was definitely room for improvement.

  1. Learning Technology Support at LCF is by its nature an ‘in between’ sort of department. In between staff / students and IT, technology and LT approaches to L&T. The online course delivered on the online content / experience aspect but it didn’t give our department the human face that, in my opinion, is vital to the service that we provide. We need students and staff to drive our provision through engagement.
  2. Academics were worried their students needed guidance through the course (particularly FE / WP / international participants).
  3. It was still very ‘delivery’ / one way transfer orientated.

So come the Spring of 2015 we got down to the reworking of the course.

During that 2014/2015 year at some juncture I had attended the ‘Student lead inductions’ workshop the Nicholas Bowskill developed. I was fascinated by this approach. Nicholas used a flipped classroom model with polling and inter student discussion to delver a more ‘ice breaker’ style induction to students relying on the assumption that content can be referenced online and so the onus of the ‘inductor’ is to encourage students to feel included and at home, engage with one another and the tutor. To feel part of the learning community!

(It was an interesting observation for me that although we sometimes as teachers with a new cohort assume they all know each other because they all come in together talking and in groups, that actually many of our students may well have only met on that day or days before during induction time and many may be away fro home for the first time, in a new city, a new country, a new continent…. over coming their insecurities and engaging them in the community should really be the focus of those first days and weeks…)

So NB’s approach seemed worth looking at in more detail in reference to our OO experience.

Another thing I had in mind was a more transactional issue. Looking for a way to give gravitas to the experience. People like to have a tangible achievement in their sights when undertaking a course. A certificate or a level of access to tools or systems they didn’t before. Many inductions are like this. Take the laser cutter induction, then you can use the laser cutter etc… our course lacked accreditation… the incentive to do it was hazy…

So 2015 amendments :

  1. Update and improve the course. Current information. More multimedia (and better – we updated videos like the print video and created a very ‘human’ computer open access services and support video). Respond to specific student feedback where appropriate.
  2. Better ordered sections.
  3. Improved mobile experience.
  4. Provide a screencast walk through of the whole course.
  5. Incorporate accreditation : our new moodle upgrade allowed for Open badging 🙂
  6. Improve the feedback survey.
  7. Provision for follow up sessions for all students. (booked thru eventbrite)

And it’s in this last point that the whole project came together for me!

Blend!

Suddenly we had a situation where the students could engage with the ‘dry’ content online and then we could bring learning technology to life for them in the follow up session.

We offered 2 types of session.

  1. A one-to-one ‘problem’ clinic where students could come with accounts or networks problems.
  2. Group ‘tech ice breaker’ sessions.
    We struggled with how these sessions would work but I had a very clear idea in my mind from NB what would work best…
    Essentially the format works like this…

    1. Introduction where in we give a super brief overview of the department and services… a summary basically, and point people to the fact that the info is there if they didn’t find it, and reiterate that they can reference it at their convenience.
    2. Flip that sh*t!
      The rest of the session is a series of question driven class polling and discussion exercises + a bit of group work designed to get students thinking and talking about what technology they are using, their assumptions about IT and tech, and how tech may effect their courses and their future careers…
      The ‘orientator’ becomes the facilitator of the discussion and also an active participant… its important to impress on the students that as learning technologists we don’t have all the answers to all the questions around technology in the fast changing tech world, but through engagement with our students and staff we are learning about the areas our provision should deliver in.

This format goes much further toward an inclusive, student lead, blended mode of delivery.

The ‘human face of learning technology’ – which is what we were looking to sell right?

The discussion can be lead by the students answers so the session can be tailored toward the discipline’s concerns.

I’d start with questions about what mobile devices students used and why (more of a tricky question to answer apparently). We’d talk about the benefits of different OS, hardware and software options.

I also had questions around social media. We’d break down into groups and each group would create a list of all the social sites they used. Then we’d come back together and make a class ‘master’ list. Interesting to broaden horizons of different groups, particularly to see the international student intakes different SM usage compared to a home/EU student – and again interesting to discuss all this with the groups as the results came out. Also room for some humour here referencing sites like tinder which always bring a smile to a few faces.

I particularly liked the ‘pitch an app’ activity. In their groups the students each have 1 minute to pitch an app they like to the group. Then again we create a class master list. A particularly engaging exercise it seems and brilliant as group discussion as it gives the opportunity to introduce the variety of tasks that apps can support including apps like maps or taxis or event apps like time out that help new students settle into a new city.

I’ll attach the tool kit I made for the session so you can see the variety of activities / questions used.

Follow up session tool kit…

And, again to reiterate, that human face of LT 🙂

And metrics… the sessions yielded really great information from students about what devices they use, what media, tools, social networks, app and tech they use, and their expectations and what they think it is important to learn or have in terms of tech provision. Gold! Information you can build your service provision on the back of.

And its a fun ice breaky session that gets them talking.

And best of all its an ‘IT induction’ without turning on a single desktop computer!

I moved on to Falmouth after a few weeks of the OO 2015 s  haven’t seen the feedback from this time around. I hope its as good as it should be. If we got a 97% positive feedback response for the OO 2014 (which we did) then I hope this is better – it certainly is on paper and in application from my perspective… maybe someone from LCF LTS can lettuce know how it went and what they’ll be looking at next year…

Keep it Ed Tech y’all!

 

 

 

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