Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wayne's reflections on Session 1 of SP4Ed

Mirror to the Sky by Alosh Bennett, CC-BY
I've created this blog for the pilot offering of SP4Ed to document and share my reflections on facilitating this course. I will use these notes to assist with our evaluation of the pilot and refining future iterations of SP4Ed.

Session 1 of the course deals with establishing a personal learning environment.

Trialling a new registration process 

An open online course should not require registration in order to access the learning materials. All OERu courses are based solely on OERs and we host these on WikiEducator to ensure unrestricted access to the learning materials without the need to register for a course. 

Course registration is optional and primarily used for those learners who want to receive email notifications of the course announcements.  In previous open online courses offered by the OER Foundation we used an open source learning management system for registration to receive course announcements. This was cumbersome because learners were required to create multiple accounts, for instance: WikiEducator (e.g. to post micronotes via WikiEducator); Our Moodle learning management system (for email notification of the course announcements); and Ask.oeruniversity for our community based question and answer forum.  Moreover, registering for a course on Moodle was a two step process of creating an account and then enrolling for the course by clicking on another link. In the past, many participants missed the second step of the registration process. 

Jim Tittsler, our Lead Software Engineer at the OER Foundation has implemented an innovative solution which we are trialling for SP4Ed 13-05. In short we are now using the WikiEducator engine for registration and generating course announcements. Jim has created a widget which displays a web form for registration purposes tracking country data we need for reporting to our donors. Users first create an account on WikiEducator and then compete the widget registration form. 

This registration process creates a new course subpage from the relevant user page and inserts a dashboard template, currently used for displaying a copy of the course schedule. (See for example my personal SP4Ed 13-05 dashboard). I'm sure we will be able to think of more innovative uses for the course dashboard in the future. Any ideas?

We now have the ability to generate course announcements from wiki pages. 

How is the new registration process working

From a facilitator's perspective, the new process is an order of magnitude better than what we were using before. Thanks Jim! Far fewer emails in my inbox trying to get course registrations sorted :-). As of writing this blog post, 42 participants have registered successfully. 

 A few minor tweaks to think about for the future:
  • One participant was unable to register on their first try.  This was a local browser issue. I suggest that we create a registration help page in the wiki which documents commons registration problems.  Perhaps we can include a help link on the registration widget to this page. 
  • Another participant mentioned that after repeated trials he realised that he needed to first create a WikiEducator account before registering. Notwithstanding our instructions to first create a wiki account and corresponding footnote to the same effect in the widget, this participant missed this information. Perhaps we should move the note about creating an account above the name field in the widget  so this is the first thing a new participant will read. 
  • One participant mentioned that he didn't realise the course would be using blogs and that we shouldn't be requesting the blog url until providing instructions on creating the blog later in the course.  42 percent of the participants registered their blogs on the first registration. This figure may be unusually high given that the many of the volunteers who are assisting with providing feedback on this pilot are seasoned bloggers and open course participants. We set up a Google form for those participants who did not provide a blog url when first registering for the course.  In the future, it would be great to have a widget on the course dashboard page where participants can register and/or edit their blog urls for the course feed. We need to achieve a self-help and automated system for dealing with the administration of blog urls, especially for open courses with large enrolments. 
  • We've also observed that a few participants have not registered the public url for their blogs inadvertently using the url for managing and authoring blog posts. Again, we should consider developing a help resource which deals with blog posts which are not appearing in the aggregated feed.      
All up I'm very happy with the start of our SP4Ed pilot -- the technology is working and am looking forward to starting with the real scenario planning content. 


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