Thursday, 13 March 2014

Google Apps for Learning and Teaching (GALT): Morning Session 2

Exchange of Ideas (CC0 Public Domain image)


1 Google Hangouts for Under- and Post-graduate Distance Learning Students

Sue Beckingham (SHU)

This work spanned two ends of the spectrum, a first year undergraduates course and postgraduates MBA course.

With Google Hangouts up to nine other people can join you in the discussion. If you make it a Public Hangouts then even more people can watch, but they still can’t participate. For an Invited Hangout you need the name and email address of participants and they have to have a Google+ account.

On the MBA course engagement wasn’t happening in the VLE discussions, so Google Hangouts were tried. There was a desire to provide some form of scaffolding to the learners and Hangouts would emulate a face-to-face experience.

Support was key to the experience. There was therefore a needed to familiarize the students with Google Hangouts beforehand.

Each of the sessions was recorded using Screen-o-matic online screencasting service.

The student feedback from the course:

  • the scaffolding was important to them,
  • they appreciated learning these new tools/technologies,
  • they enjoyed interacting with other students,
  • the students feeding back on each others’ work was very useful.

On the undergraduate course, students weren’t getting the jobs that they wanted because they didn’t have the necessary skills. A programme was developed to hold online meetings for the students to facilitate using Google Hangouts. These sessions were recorded so that the students could review them. This gave the students new digital skills. It also allowed them to reflect upon their experience. Additionally, they were developing professional skills around managing meetings, developing a more professional persona and increasing their communication skills. This needs to be an ongoing process where students continue to learn professional and digital skills from their first year and onwards throughout their undergraduate educational journey.

Someone in the audience asked why Google Hangouts should be used in preference to using Skype. Basically, the answer was that Skype costs money to have multiple users. Also Hangouts integrates well with Docs.

2 Talking and Not Talking: Google Hangouts in Blended Learning

Tim Herrick (UoS)

Again this was a case of two stories, one undergraduate and the other postgraduate. Tim said that one of these was successful in using Google Hangouts whilst the other proved less so.

The undergraduate course was at level one in semester one for about 35 students. The teaching involved two hours per week of seminar time, plus one additional hour of office time. The office hour was scheduled for a different day from the rest of contact time, and there was no other reason for the students to come into the university on that day. Also, Tim notice that the students were all tending to be asking the same kind of questions.

So Google Hangouts was introduced as a way to get the student interaction and to reduce redundancy. It wasn’t compulsory. No one “hung out” with Tim. Probable reasons for this were as follows.

  • It wasn’t a good fit for the course; the course was about study skills, not learning technology.
  • Just because students had the technology, it didn’t mean that they would have the skills to use it.
  • It was optional, so what was the compelling reason for them to get involved?
  • It wasn’t embedded in the course from the outset, instead it came as an add-on later in the course.

The other course in which Tim used Google Hangouts was a postgraduate taught course on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, which had eight students enrolled. As the subject area was all about learning technologies it worked much better. The sessions were two and a half hours long. There was a one hour Hangout followed by a face-to-face discussion session in the School of Education. This gave the students exposure to a technology that they might be going to use themselves.

The advantages to the use of Hangouts in this course were:
  • that the students already had a rich set of skills on which to draw,
  • they were interested and confident in experimentation,
  • they knew that they could ask for help and felt confident in doing so,
  • the Hangout element was in the timetable from the start of the course and was therefore seen as an integral part.

Tim gave us his wisdom from this experience. He felt that any use of technology needs to fit with what you are wanting the learning outcomes to be from the course. It is important to spend time on getting people interested in the idea first before approaching the technology.

Tim felt that Google’s thinking behind Hangouts is that it is more of an informal process. It is more about being online and ‘hooking up’ to have a discussion, not so formal. Students liked this idea of greater informality.

3 Using Google Forms to Capture Student Module Feedback

Simon Warwick (SHU)

In the Sheffield Business School at SHU there is a process once a year where students sit down with module leaders and course reps and discuss the course to see how it can be improved. This was very time intensive as a process usually taking over 3 or 4 weeks in total. This was reviewed to look at how the process could be more efficient for both staff and students. Initial trials use Evernote, but this meant ending with a big unwieldy documents that then had to be broken up. This was unsatisfactory. Consequently, they went on to Google Forms with a spreadsheet backend. This speeded up the system. Students could see when they had made an entry and the administration was much less involved.

Nexus tablets were used because of the ease of transporting and because of the integration with Google Apps would be better. There was a problem that the wi-fi kept dropping out. Also student reps had problems speaking and typing at the same time so it was difficult for them to be involved in the discussion and capture it via notes. This is an area that needs more thinking about to enable the technology to be used more effectively.

Other uses that Simon suggested for the Forms approach included:

  • Dissertation topic selection
  • Modules option selection
  • Formative quizzes - marking with feedback, very quick to use
  • Questionnaires
  • Attendance monitoring - QR Codes takes student directly to a form that they can fill in
  • Help / support requests - embedded into a site to allow appropriate support materials to be created.
  • Booking forms

4 Improving your workflow with Google Drive

David Read (UoS)

Similar to Simon, David was looking at a particular workflow issue that needed some improvement. It was for a popular business summer school that employed a number of course teachers each year. All the teachers need to be observed to ensure standardization. Because of the different localities of the teachers and observers it was proving difficult to set up and organize observation sessions.

So to deal more efficiently with the administration, David used a spreadsheet and implemented  a Google script called FormMule. While this sounds complicated it is actually really easy to setup and use. It allows personalized template to be emailed out to everyone. So in David’s usage example it included the names of observers and teaching times, etc. This then gives a personalized email with all the relevant information.

AutoCrat is another script. Set up a template for an observation form and AutoCrat sends out a personalized Google document for them to fill in. These went into a shared folder in Google Drive so that all teachers/observers could access. David thought that there might be some confusion with the process, but those kinds of problems didn’t arise.

This workflow made the process of observing and creating the feedback much easier and more rapid. Whilst David’s is a specific use, there is a great range of generic possibilities for using these and other scripts.

Some questions and feedback from the audience included the following. It is very important to use a student’s name. Also this process can be used to email out marks.

How secure are the scripts?
David thought that they have been vetted by Google so should be secure. Additionally, you have to authorise to allow them to be used.

5 Using Youtube to Capture Student Reflections

Natalie Wilmot, Diane Rushton, Andrew Middleton (SHU)

Andrew explained about this piece of Action Research has been carried out for about six years.

It uses YouTube to hear the student voice.

The emphasis of the work seemed to be on the students thinking reflectively. They needed to be asking themselves what the learning meant for them. As a result, students were required to create a weekly reflective thought in pairs.

Andrew was interested in the metaphysical aspect of the work. This raise such significant questions for the students to think about as “What is the reason for being at university?”

Technology was use within the study because it was ubiquitous, and offered familiarity and simplicity to the students.

Andrew outlined what they did with the students.
  • Ran 2 hour workshops (tutor led)
  • Role of reflection in the module
  • Reflection method - spoken peer support which was then captured

There was evidence from students after the course ran about the benefit from the process of talking together using public performance.

It was fair to say that some students got it, but others just didn’t get it at all. Out of class they didn’t feel motivated. The technology was easy to pick up. The workshops were busy, exciting and productive. But on the whole the students hadn’t bought into the experience.

“The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School” (1996), Neil Postman, Vintage Books

6 Running a Professional Development Initiative with Sites, Youtube, Calendar and Drive

Andy Tattersall (UoS)

Andy talked about three areas he has worked on that required the development of Google Sites:
  • 3 eLeaning
  • Minute Mendeley
  • ScHARR Bite Size

Andy showed where he felt Google Sites fitted into a ‘Learning Curve’ of how easy it is to get started with. To some extent using Google Sites is an extension of a skills set developed from other Google Apps services. In comparison to learning HTML coding or a more substantive website creation software alternative, Google Sites is much more intuitive for people to get started with and there isn’t a large revision time if you haven’t used it for a while, unlike some of the other solutions.

The 3 eLearning site was developed for NHS Clinicians to access. It is easy to look at on a tablet or other mobile device and has lots of videos hosted on YouTube.

Bite Size are 20 minutes long presentations/discussion that introduce people to a particular topic. They have been running for four years. A Site was set up with videos, a calendar for dates, etc. and branded to The University of Sheffield. Andy uses Google Events to get people to come, sign up is via Google+. He also uses a blog as a further way to promote Bite Size. He says that it is good to use a presence that crops up in other places. He used Google Forms to get feedback and evaluate Bite Size to enable enhancements to be made.

Andy wrote an academic paper about ScHARR Bite Size with two other colleagues. They did this using a Google Doc. They arrange to work on it together on a weekly basis. This made the process much more efficient and it took a total of about 10 hours to complete.

Minute Mendeley is a Google Sites used to bring together one minute video resources that help people to use the Mendeley reference management software. It was quick and easy to set up and it is very mobile friendly.

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