Someone asked me the other day whether it was possible to measure the impact of online subscription resources on levels of achievement, and I must admit that I stumbled a bit in trying to reply. I have methods of measuring the success (or otherwise) of marketing strategies based on increased usage, but how can we prove whether online collections such as Infotrac, the EBSCO resources, Issues Online etc… are helping our pupils achieve and maybe even increasing their grades?
My first thought is why do we assess online resources in a different manner to print resources? They are all effectively the same thing and aimed at the same task, the only discernable difference is that the online resources can seem to be “hidden” away, invisible, non-existant almost and have a different access method.
In libraries it is possible to identify “top readers”; i.e. those that have a high borrowing rate and are a regular in the library. In a lot of cases, this will be the same studious pupil who will get excellent grades and be up there with the highest achievers. Knowing how much they have read whilst in school leads to the conclusion that it must have contributed to their achievement, but the degree of which cannot be accurately measured. Now, how can we find our “top readers” of our online resources? Assessing impact in this manner is tricky and time-consuming unless an authentication service such as Athens or Shibboleth is utilised. Both of which can provide usage statistics per individual. There is no way of identifying the individual using IP authentication or Referring URL and therefore other techniques must be adopted.
But what else is there? If using Referring URL authentication, the link to the resource must be embedded elsewhere; behind another form of identification provided by the school. You could also do this for those resources which are IP Authenticated. So, although I haven’t yet tried it, it should be possible to at least identify which pupils regularly visit the page containing the links to your online resources and, from this, identify your top online readers. A bit convoluted I know, but it should still be possible.
I’m sure there are many other techniques out there for measuring the impact of subscription resources on levels of achievement. Pupil questionnaires, focus groups, observations, teacher feedback all spring to mind. Any other suggestions?
Back in October I blogged about how we are using QR codes to encourage the use of our online subscription resources and promised that I would blog about other strategies that we are using to promote these resources. Well, as you’ve probably noticed; I haven’t! That’s mainly because, up until now, promoting these resources has been low on my list of priorities. Silly really considering how much they cost, but it’s easy just to hope that they’ll take off once they have been added to the school intranet and promoted via a single email to teaching staff. That does work to some degree as the statistics I get from the publishers show, but they are not really embedded across the school and there’s a lot more to do.
So, as you may already be aware from a previous post, we have iPads available in our libraries and they are proving extremely popular. We’ve bought a considerable number of apps for them for all subject areas of the school. These apps are all arranged in folders within subject areas and this therefore made me think. The majority of our online resources can also be categorised in this manner, so why not add them alongside the apps on the iPads?
Therefore this half-term our ICT Support has done just that – added separate links to each one of our online subscription resources onto the iPads. All I’ll need to do now is test them to see whether they work (remember, anything Flash-based won’t work), and monitor the usage statistics to see whether they increase.
So how will I measure the success of this strategy? At the end of the academic year I’ll plot a graph of the usage statistics per resource and mark today’s date (along with other key dates e.g. INSET) to see whether there is a noticable difference in the usage. Obviously this isn’t a scientific method and other factors will be involved, but because we have no other way of monitoring it, this seems the best method. Let’s see what happens.
A question. In simple terms, just what is “e-Learning”? I find myself many times musing over this question. I know what my definition of it is, but suspect that others think differently. My personal definition of e-learning encompases a wide area. “The use of technology to enhance teaching and learning”. This could be using hardware such as mobile phones, tablets, visualisers, voting kits etc… or it could be using software such as Virtual Learning Environments, blogs, e-portfolios or even a mix of the two i.e. using tablets as a gateway to access learning resources and media.
So how does one know when they’ve fulfilled everyone’s differing expectations of what e-learning is? In a strange way I could answer this question using requirements elicitation techniques, but that really does seem overkill for such a simple question.
I suspect a lot of colleagues view “e-learning” as the act of learning online; based on their knowledge and experience from initiatives such as Learndirect or organisations such as The Open University. These exemplify “e-learning” as resources stored in a central repository that can be accessed through a front-door such as a Virtual Learning Environment. But experience has shown to me that “e-learning” in such a form does not signficantly enhance the learning experience without considerable effort and promotion (and/or motivation on behalf of the pupil); and even then in my view it can look a bit half-hearted through trying to reap the promised benefits of e-learning whilst not necessarily trying to respond to the individual needs of the pupils.
As I’ve blogged previously, I can now see a future where schools are not about the bricks and mortar but are about the individuals and the education that arises from their interactions. I personally think the same can be said of “e-learning”. We shouldn’t be trying to replicate the traditional school environment online and calling it “e-learning”. If face-to-face education in school is changing, then so should this traditional definition of “e-learning”. We should all be listening to ours and other colleagues’ pupils; trying to understand how they learn and responding through providing environments, resources and opportunities for interaction that encourages and motivates them to succeed whilst enriching their learning experience. Dare I say it, but learning should be exciting and rewarding for everyone, regardless of age.
But reaching this mecca isn’t an easy task. There’s a considerable amount of planning that has to be done and foundations which have to be built. There are hearts and minds to win and rules to be changed. But by being the tortoise and not the hare and doing all this groundwork, I am confident that anyone can build a strong, exciting and successful learning environment, regardless of whether it is online or face-to-face.
Maybe I thinking too much about the term “e-learning”? I started off by asking for a simple definition of e-learning. Does this even exist?
Posted January 29, 2012on:
Well, I learnt something really useful on Friday (I make it sound like this doesn’t happen regularly!). Forgive me if you already know this, but I’m going to explain the Google + email trick anyhow.
You know those situations where you’ve got a system in place with a few test accounts on it and each account requires a unique email address? You then spend ages creating lots of Google email addresses or using every variation of your work email address until you run out. Well, no longer. There is a way you can use one Google email address in many variations and still receive all the emails into the one mailbox.
The trick is to use a plus sign next to the @ sign in your gmail or googlemail address. Say, for example, your email address was firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ve set up your account on… let’s say Moodle… to use this email address. The next account you set up on Moodle insists that you provide a unique email address. No problem. Add a + sign within your email just after the name of the email account and put anything you wish after it. So you could use email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or myemail+asmanyvariationsasIwish@gmail.com. All these addresses will work and you’ll receive the email into your mailbox for email@example.com
When you receive the email into your email account, it does show the original email address (the one with the +), so this should, although I haven’t tried it yet, make it possible to filter emails using an email rule. So if you know that your Twitter account uses the email address firstname.lastname@example.org, then you could automatically filter anything that comes into your email box using this address into a Twitter folder. This trick also means that you can set up multiple Twitter accounts with one email address!
So, a useful way to create as many email addresses as possible and to manage your inbox, all with one little trick. Brilliant.
First thing’s first; Happy New Year Everyone! Now, where do I start a new year of Blogging… Well, I suppose talking about the year to come would be a start.
For me I think 2012 will be a year focussed on communicating effectively and in imaginative ways. The first project I’m involved in is going to be our new school blog site which will hopefully be launched this term. I’ve been extremely impressed with all the established school blog sites which I’ve learnt about via Twitter (a lot of which are hosted by Creative Blogs) and how they are increasing pupil’s language and communication skills as well as boosting their confidence and motivation.
Our project could be massive with the potential of getting most pupils involved from all areas of the school. I can’t wait to get it going and I’m sure I will continue to learn so much more about our school in the process. I will probably be involved in at least partially writing at least two blogs on the site: the library blog and the e-Learning blog.
Alongside the blog project, I intend to further develop our SharePoint site as the school intranet. I’ve re-styled the library site over Christmas so it now looks so much better and created a new staff only e-Learning site. I intend for SharePoint to provide information and resources intended solely for members of the school, which will help to distinguish between private and public information. The blog and the SharePoint intranet sites should give us a good framework with which to communicate with all stakeholders.
Lastly (but not at all least) will come the need to review and develop our school Virtual Learning Environment. At present we have two: neither of which are seemingly embedded across all areas of the school. Recent conferences and discussions have made me start to consider what a 2012 version of a school virtual learning environment actually is. I’m no longer convinced it is a single source of information, resources and activities as it was back in the days of Becta’s recommended VLEs, but am now starting to wonder whether the 2012 VLE is a cumulation of everything that’s out there on the internet delivered to pupils through either a front-end website or apps on a tablet.
So, yet more blogging, tweeting, web development and project planning coming up for me in 2012. I can’t wait!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,100 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 52 trips to carry that many people.
I must admit that the idea of watching a 20 minute video on YouTube is not something that I relish undertaking, but this particular video caught my eye as something that could be very interesting. I was right. It was well worth the 20 minutes spent watching it and I found it extremely thought-provoking. Just where is technology and the internet taking us? How will our use of technology impact on our lives over the next 10 to 15 years? What impact does this have on education?
I’m currently in the process of writing (yet again) the ICT and e-Learning strategy for our school. It’s such a difficult task because of the ever-changing nature of ICT and technology. I have written it at least three times now and find that now I’ve watched this video, I’m going to change it yet again.
Technology is ubiquitous and, undeniably will become even more so over the next few years. I personally believe the challenge for education now is not to provide the latest technology, but to provide the infrastructure and associated safe systems to make the technology work for every pupil regardless of how they prefer to learn. Whilst I was growing up I was taught that the definition of “church” was not the building, but the collective congregation of people turning up to worship. Could a school be defined in a similar manner? If the pupils bring the technology and resources then it isn’t the building and its physical resources that define “school” it’s the people, the interactions and their dissemination of knowledge. When we truly are using mobile technologies, then learning can take place anywhere and at any time either singularly or within groups. (Let’s not forget the benefits face-to-face social learning will always provide).
Education may have a long way yet to go to meet this vision. The frustration arises in the realisation that the technology is not far off already being there.
So my challenge now is; if this truly is the future of education, how do I write a strategy to meet and deliver it?