Planes, trains, and barges

Week 9

It all sounded like a good idea back in February. I booked a short break, secure in the knowledge that the deadline for my development proposal was 20 March. I couldn’t have foreseen that we would receive an extension. Thus, this time last week, I was desperately trying to stick to my original submission deadline and ‘reward’ myself with a trip to Amsterdam.

Thankfully, it all worked out in the end. The proposal has been submitted and I can move on to my other assignments.

ePortfolio

Now that I have submitted my Summer development proposal, I can concentrate more on my ePortfolio assignment for EL6052. Having researched several tools for creating an ePortfolio, I have decided to work with Weebly. Having looked at several YouTube clips, Weebly looks quite manageable. While the look of my ePortfolio is important, I am more concerned about writing the personal reflections that will accompany each digital artefact. I am only sorry that I didn’t take the opportunity to write a reflective blog last year, or at least document the process of creating each artefact, from inception to completion. Once some time passes, remembering the minutiae of each assignment becomes more difficult. I have found myself still dithering over what artefacts to include. Even though I am still focused on creating an Instructional Design ePortfolio, I am reluctant to omit an example of a Technical Communications assignment. I will make a decision this week and live with the consequences!

MadCap Flare or Podcast?

Our final assignment for EL6082 was posted last week. We may choose to create a 10 minute podcast on a topic of interest or create a digital artefact, using MadCap Flare or an alternative software tool. Because my Summer development project will necessitate creating many audio files, I’ve decided to create a podcast. This assignment will give me the opportunity to practice recording and editing with Audacity. I haven’t used Audacity since this time last year, and need to re-familiarise myself with this software. However, the greater challenge will be in listening to myself speaking. My singing students regularly record our lessons, so I am familiar with how my speaking voice sounds.

What I am not comfortable with is how dissimilar the recorded sound is to how I perceive my voice sounds in reality. Of course, everyone says this, so I hope that repeated listening to my voice recordings will reduce my sensitivities on that score.

What is a podcast?

A podcast, (a conflation of ‘iPod’ and ‘broadcast’) is an audio or video file which can be downloaded onto a desktop computer or mobile device and played back at a time of the listener’s choosing. Listeners can access podcasts via a podcatcher such as iTunes.  The beauty of the podcast is that the user can subscribe to a feed so that their favourite podcasts are automatically downloaded to a mobile device, or other specified location, as they appear. Podcasting may be perceived as a low threshold application, i.e. they are deemed a more accessible technology than other digital media and are a relatively simple tool for users.

Users have a degree of comfort in using podcasts, as they are akin to listening to the radio. However, podcasts come with an added bonus: they may be listened to multiple times, and at a time of the user’s convenience. Over the course of this MA, I have found this feature of podcasts invaluable. It has enabled me to listen to lectures while driving or walking. It has allowed me to get a ‘sense’ of the topic on an initial hearing, and then to listen a second time while viewing the PowerPoint slides to gain a more detailed picture of the topic being discussed. I have accessed great content via this medium, mainly for entertainment, but also for informal learning. Podcasts are a great way to engage in micro-learning. They have also made me aware that I need to create short audio clips for my Summer development project. My target audience will be accessing this e-learning resource while on the move and therefore key information needs to be conveyed quickly.

Images: www.pixabay.com

Auf wiedersehen, adieu

Week 8

This week has been busy. I decided that I had received the requisite number of respondents and began to correlate the data. As my topic (musical theatre exam preparation) is quite niche, I didn’t expect to receive a great number of responses. However, notwithstanding the small number of people I sent it to, I have had a response rate of 60%, which is well above the average rate of response of 10 -15%.

When deciding whether to opt for the development or the dissertation option for my Summer project I must admit that I was a little intimidated by the sheer volume of tasks that needed to be completed for the development route. It does feel as though there are several more steps that need to be completed for development than for dissertation. However, I can appreciate that putting in this work now, will (hopefully) pay off once I begin to develop my e-learning resource. This process has made me realise the range of skills an instructional designer must bring to a job. The key is to be organised and be able to multitask. In addition to drawing up a proposed work schedule, I drew up a proposal schedule.

Here’s a flavour of what I included on my list, in no particular order:

  • Learner analysis
  • Survey questions
  • Collate survey data
  • Interviews with SMEs
  • Task analysis
  • Objective analysis
  • Design screens
  • Interface design
  • References

The key is to be organised. When interviewing one SME, she informed me that their surveys found that teachers were big devotees of checklists. This comes as no surprise to me, as I got great satisfaction from placing a ‘completed’ tick beside each task. I’ve always had a penchant for lists, but this has gone into overdrive with this project. My takeaway from the process of compiling the data for this proposal is that you need to be focused and have a keen eye for detail. I hope I have managed to achieve that in my proposal report.

Au revoir mes amis

Tomorrow is submission day for our collaboration project. Our French colleagues have sent us their final version and we will be submitting our English version tomorrow. We needed to make an adjustment to our document, as the French students found one set of instructions ambiguous. They contacted us early this week and we managed to amend the document to everyone’s satisfaction. In retrospect, I would have preferred more communication with other members of our virtual team. Certain team members were uncommunicative, in spite of several overtures from the UL students. It seems that ours was not an isolated case, although other groups seemed to have well-functioning teams. As an exercise, I found it useful to experience the challenges that virtual teams come across. I am now forearmed about possible future difficulties and have learned a few strategies for avoiding similar problems in the future.

Images: www.pixabay.com

 

Champing at the bit (metaphorically)

There is a plethora of subjects I could blog about this week, but which one to begin with?

Ethics approval

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I finally got my Ethics approval. It was an anxious wait, as I wasn’t sure I would get approval, and this was coupled with a delay in receiving an answer from the ethics committee. All’s well that ends well though, and it feels good to be proactive again.

I have sent my survey to everyone I know who has an involvement with musical theatre (my proposed subject of study for the Summer development project), and they have promised me they will pass it on to their contacts. The replies are slowly trickling in and I hope to have the required quota by the weekend. An initial reading of the survey results suggests that I may need to refocus my online resource towards musical theatre teachers instead of students.

SMEs

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In a stroke of luck, I managed to interview two SMEs in one day this week. I had confirmed a meeting with a senior examiner for one of the Irish music exam boards, and at the last minute received word that a second teacher was examining in the building that same day, and was happy for me to interview her that day also. So I’m busy typing up my transcripts and making sense of the data. Although I was quite confident that the results would vindicate my theory that a need exists for a resource on musical theatre, it feels good to be vindicated through the feedback from both the SMEs answers and the survey results.

Getting ethics approval and being able to actively achieve something this week has really energised me. Amassing all the different data needed for my proposal, (thankfully given an extended deadline), is quite a scrappy business. Now, in one stroke, I have all the data I need and must get down to the serious business of writing up the proposal. Looking back over my report for module EL6041, I can see that although the report was detailed and accurate, my writing style wasn’t quite good enough. In fact, I don’t think I fully grasped what academic writing was until the end of year one. If I intend to use my report for EL6041 as one of my artefacts for my ePortfolio, I will definitely need to do some serious redrafting.

ePortfolio

What artefacts should I use? At the moment I consider my instructional design assignments to be my strong suit. My preference would be to include:

  • My draft report for module EL6041- Instructional Design
  • My learning object for module EL6072 – Interactive Courseware Workshop
  • My proposal and storyboards for module EL6072 – Interactive Courseware Workshop
  • My research report for TW5221 – Technical Communication 2 – Theory

That I really enjoy the whole creative process involved with instructional design has been a revelation to me, especially as my initial decision to study for this MA revolved around its technical communication modules. However, right now it is difficult to choose between instructional design and research. I absolutely loved last semester’s mini dissertation. Of course, that’s not what I said at the time, when I couldn’t stop researching articles and kept second guessing myself as to what the focus of my report should be. The whole digging up information aspect to research really appealed to me.

Harry Potter and reflection?

Yes, I did write that! A work colleague recommended I search for writings by Dr. Jenny Moon, associate professor at Bournemouth University. Moon describes reflection in learning as cognitive housekeeping, which I think is a marvellous way to think about how we process our learning. But where does Harry Potter feature in all this? In her guidance notes for students, 2001, Moon quotes from J.K. Rowling’s scene where Harry Potter is standing over the pensieve with Dumbledore in ‘The Goblet of Fire’, as an excellent example of reflective thinking.

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“At these times” said Dumbledore, indicating the stone basin, “I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into a basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form” (Rowling 2000).

Moon is absolutely right. Sometimes, when encountering something for the first time, it can be difficult to decipher. However, if you let it ‘marinate’ for a while, you can begin to analyse and then synthesise your ideas.

Revision time

Last weekend I decided to revisit Lee & Owens, Gagne and Dick & Carey to refresh my memory on Performance, Target and Lesson Objectives. The worry of trying to choose the right capability verb for e-tivity 6.2 came flooding back. Lee & Owens book was my saviour in December 2015, as their explanations seemed simple, in contrast to Gagne and Dick & Carey who I found challenging to decipher. However, reading Gagne over the past few days, I’ve had a change of heart. Perhaps it’s the immersion in Instructional Design over the past 18 months, but I’m finding The Principles of Instructional Design much more approachable now.

Having done some task analysis and front analysis work, I’m feeling more confident about what my course should contain. Looking back over my learning object from last year, I am struck by how much work it involved, but also by how much I enjoyed working with HTML5 and CSS. I had a real sense of achievement at having accomplished something.

I’ve been exploring different development tools for my Summer project but I haven’t yet made a decision on what to use. Familiarity with Articulate is mentioned frequently in job advertisements so I am inclined to choose this tool as it may help my employment prospects.