A Critical Review on the use of ICT and e-learning in my curriculum – Part 1: Current evaluation

For the purposes of simplicity, the following review will involve the Contact Lens Certificate course only.

Moodle, like all other courses I have been involved in since starting work with my current learning institution, is the primary source of ICT. The institution does not actively encourage other forms of social networking (KIllock et al, 2012). Moodle currently stands as the primary conduit for the students to access other learning technologies or information from the course itself. Other learning technologies which have been stored and maintained within the Moodle framework include YouTube (video), PowerPoint and Prezi presentations and the inclusion of eBooks and journal articles, as well as some of the multiple choice quizzes.. While I have always been quite happy with the provision to the students through this virtual learning environment for this particular course, further study has led me to realise that there is a lot more that can be done.

Firstly, the appearance of the site can have a large bearing as to its impact with the students. I have recently started to try and change some of the appearance settings to have a better impact, but feel limited. It is clear that Moodle is, in itself, capable of much more. Looking at a neighbouring colleges Moodle provision (Leeds City College, 2014, Online), shows what can be done to make Moodle itself more attractive. The current provision controlled by myself reflects my lack of knowledge both in Moodle and in aesthetics.

Also, I am using Moodle almost like a Dropbox site, by making it a storage space for the resources alone – rarely making use of the other features that Moodle has to offer (features which I currently still do not know about). Reading a blog by Carr (2012) has shown how students individual timetables and attendance records can be placed into Moodle, as well as nice ideas such as the awarding of badges for students (and staff) to earn by completing tasks, much in the same way ‘if you were in scouts or guides’ (Carr, 2014, Online). A further look into the extra applications and tools available for use show over 800 currently available plug-ins for Moodle (2014, Online). While many of these tools are likely not to be applicable to my use of the Moodle site, it is clear that the surface is only just being scratched.

Summative assessment on this course is conducted externally by the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO), so any assessment taking place within the college or using the college technologies is formative. I believe that this area is underused in the current curriculum in terms of using technology. The summative (external) assessments are quite far removed from some of the more innovative methods of assessment used in eLearning. The assessments are still in the form of unseen written examinations held under examination conditions. While this is not necessarily the most popular method of assessment with students, it is well established. I try to make as much of my formative assessment in a similar format to try to prepare the students fully for what lies ahead in their summative examinations, but clearly I could do more. I was once given feedback for an assignment via a screencast, and this had a big impact in how I used the feedback. Jordan (2004, Online) agrees that audio feedback has impact.

‘motivation stems from the personal nature of the voice comments and the novelty of the method, which encourages them to give serious consideration to the feedback’

I see a requirement to vary the types of formative assessment (as I have no control over the summative assessment). Using technology can help to elevate the course and differentiate it from other providers of the same courses.

Of course, it is all too easy to be overly critical of your own work when viewing largely different examples of Moodle at use. I feel that one thing that is very successful about the use of Moodle in our educational establishment is in the community of practice – we, as teachers and students, are keen on the sharing of new information and resources. Other teachers often add content on to the site – this is clearly one of the primary goals of a learning environment such as Moodle. Julian Ridden in a Moodle Mayhem podcast (2010, Online), stated that community of practice was at the heart of Moodle using ‘Social construction as pedagogy’. While improvements can be made to current use, I feel that the current use of Moodle does succeed in bringing a community of practice together to share information.

I still endorse the use of a single platform to present the information to the students. If the students have one (or two) different accounts for fewer sites, then they are likely to be more willing to access those areas on a regular basis. However, if I am able to embed external content onto the current Moodle platform, then I may be able to maintain and improve the community of practice and content sharing capabilities of the current course.

In summary – areas which need further investigation and improvement lie in being able to utilise the additional features of Moodle, as well as use the ability of Moodle to embed many external tools and programs. This can lift the quality and impact of my curriculum to ways in which compete with our local, national and international competitors. Some of the learning technologies in my following posts will be looking at tools that can be embedded into the Moodle platform.

 

References

Carr, L. (2014). Moodle: Shortcut to OpenBadges [Online.] Available: http://lewiscarr.co.uk/2014/02/ [Accessed 17/05/2014]

Carr, L. (2012). My Timetable (MIS Integration) from MyMoodle. [Online.] Available: http://lewiscarr.co.uk/2012/06/ [Accessed 18/05/2014]

Carr, L. (2012). My Attendance Record (MIS) Integration [Online.] Available: http://lewiscarr.co.uk/2012/06/ [Accessed 18/05/2014]

Jordan, J. (2004) The Use of Orally Recorded Exam Feedback as a Supplement to Written Comments [Online.] Available: http://www.amstat.org/publications/jse/v12n1/jordan.html [Accessed 17/05/2014]

Killock, S. Hurford, R. Snowden, B. (2012), Staff Digital Communications Policy [Online]. Available:http://moodle.bradfordcollege.ac.uk/mod/book/view.php?id=101526&chapterid=2453%5BAccessed 14/5/14]

Leeds City College (2014). Moodle. [Online.] Available: http://moodle.leedscitycollege.ac.uk/ [Accessed 18/05/2014]

MoodleMayhem (2010) All things Moodle [Online.] Available: http://www.edsupport.cc/mguhlin/audio/podcast3_jridden.mp3 [Accessed 18/05/2014]

Moodle (2014), Moodle Plugins [Online.] Available: https://moodle.org/plugins/ [Accessed: 17/05/2014]

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