Archive for December, 2006|Monthly archive page

Encyclopedia chapter complete

Following a couple of email exchanges between Sharon and myself, we’ve completed the chapter on stages of online learning before the 31st December deadline.

The reference for the article should be –

Cox, S & Hollyhead, A, “Towards a Dimensional Model of the Stages of Online Learning” In Tomei, L.A., Morris, R. (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Information Technology Curriculum Integration Volume II, Idea Group Publishing, USA, 2006 (submitted).

I’ll look forward to hearing that it’s been accepted.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking hard about the abstract for two of the conferences which I’m hoping to go to next year; one in Denmark and the other in New York.  Until I’ve got some more thoughts together I’d better keep the actual conferences to myself until I’m better sorted in my mind… nothing like keeping the suspense is there!

Off topic, I’ve just installed Office 2004 and Virtual PC onto my beloved trusty iBook.  Office feels very similar to Office X which I was using before, bu Virtual PC was a strange experience, seeing my Apple (slowly) running Windows XP was disturbing.  In reality it ran too slow to be practical, so I’ve removed it after taking over eight hours to fully install.  I’m still unsure what to do Apple hardware wise at the moment, new laptop, new desktop, or both!

It’s Christmas!

One of the pleasures of working in academia is that you can have a long Christmas break if you want.  I’m back in front of my work PC on the 8th January.

I’ve got a couple of things to do whilst away, preparing abstracts for conferences I want to go to in 2007, and of course work on my dissertation which is due in at the end of February.  But my Out Of Office message is set, and I don’t intend to read work emails  during the break.

As this is a mostly work related post, I do not intend to post over the Christmas period, unless something really interested happens over the holiday.

Research Day

I’m working from home today, working on the encyclopedia entry which I’m working on with Sharon.  The entry is ‘Stages of Online Learning’.

We started working on this a couple of months ago, but as usual the deadline is looming (it needs to be in by the end of the year, and both Sharon and I finish for Christmas very soon).  We’ve got it into a rough draft stage, but we’re both still adding words and sections to it.  I’m working out definitions for some standard terms, and it’s incredibly difficult, how do you define a term such as ‘virtual learning environment’, when you spend so much time using these terms.  It’s like defining ‘computer’!

Sharon is totally professional, and a very strong ‘completer finisher’, so is able to take my rough work and turn into a very polished piece, we worked together on a paper for SIGSAND last year, which I presented in Galway.

I’d better carry on, at the moment I’m writing a case study about using Blogs in teaching, and tying it back to the Salmon five-stage model of online learning.

Marking monotony

I’m marking assignments at the moment.  They’re final year undergraduate assignments, and the quality is veering from the excellent to the very very mediocre.

At least they’re mostly presented well, though it’s worrying even at this stage in their studies they do not know how to reference.

And if students are going to cut and paste, at least change the font so that it’s not obvious! 

Still, there’s an incentive for me to get these completed, I’ll then be free on Thursday to add some more to the encyclopedia article I’ve been collaborating on with Sharon.  It’s due in by the end of the year, but as we both finish work very soon it’s important that we get it completed this week, or at the latest the early part of next week.

I’m about half way through the marking, I’m guessing posting to this blog is a displacement activity at the moment, I could have marked another one in the time it’s taken to complete this posting!

Final week

We’re in the final week before Christmas, and for me three weeks off without thinking about work (well, that’s a bit of a lie, as you’ll probably see in a ‘research’ post later).

I’ve kept student meetings to a minimum this week, as I’m marking one batch of thirty-five assignments, and providing feedback to students on another twenty-odd assignments and mock exams. 

Providing face-to-face feedback to students is always tricky.  If they’ve done better than they expected, then it’s nice to provide good news to them.  If they’ve done worse than they expected then their reponses can vary, from criticism to anger and (occasionally) tears.

In the assignments I’m marking now, students get their feedback through moodle, and this has it’s own problems.  It’s more time consuming cutting and pasting comments into the VLE, and you’re never certain how much students read the comments you post. 

But I do my best, and generally students appreciate the depth of feedback I provide to them, as I’m still a student (who’s suffered from poor feeback in the past, and present!) I know how frustrating it is to receive poor feedback.

Better get back to the assignments, they’re not going to mark themselves!

eTMA training

I’m just back from the Open University, where I have been training fellow tutors on the eTMA system.

This is a method of assignment submission and marking through the Internet which I have been using since 2000.  However, there’s a big push within the OU to make this the standard method for all courses across all the faculties.  This is a large project, and the training within the West Midlands region is being arranged by Faculty.  So today I was training technologists who had not used the system before, and someone from the Faculty of Health!  The best laid plans.

The session went well, with few glitches in the software used, and I think I managed to get some concepts across fairly well (the idea of zip files for example, and self-executing files for example).

I’ve always shied away from doing ‘practical’ PC training sessions, as I know there’s an urge to grab the mouse and take control.  I resisted this (mostly) though in this session.

It’s only when you are explaining things to other people that you start to question some deeply held beliefs.  Why, for example, is the universal icon for saving a file a picture of a floppy disk (which in turn hasn’t been floppy since around 1990).  Nobody saves to these now, and even when they were in general use good practice always dictated saving to a hard disk too.  Especially confusing when the ‘Open File’ icon is the picture of a folder.  And back to my own favourite, why is a compressed ‘file’ the picture of a folder with a G clamp around it?

But the training, and the excellent lunch was well worth the hassle of getting to Harborne on a mad Christmas shopping day.

Technology Christmas Staff Development

Last night was the OU Region Christmas Staff Development. In reality this is the only time of the year when all of the Technology AL’s in the region get together to find out what’s happening in the Faculty, and enjoy the usual great food which is provided to us. We should have guessed something was up when we managed to liberate another bottle of wine from the store cupboard, they were clearly making sure that we were in a mellow mood.

There’s a lot of change happening in the OU, and the Faculty itself. I’d probably better not publish too much, but there are concerns about recruitment, there’s talk of a move to semesters similar to ‘bricks and mortar’ universities, and a whole review of the Student Support process, including probably the role of AL’s.

Carol was able to reassure us somewhat about the position for next year, I’ve applied to tutor a new course, but it’s unclear as yet whether there will be sufficient numbers to run it within the region. I’m guessing it’ll be a waiting game until January, and I’m not very good at that.

But, it was good to catch up with the ‘old school’, and it was a surprise how many people I do know now, though I have been tutoring since 2000.

Another bit of good news, the course I tutor, T209 appears to have been given an extension, it was due to finish next year.  I’m going to email the course chair and find out what’s happening now.

Hello world!

(I think it’s mandatory that any blog starts with the above title).
This blog is entitled ‘two cultures, one mind’. The reason for this is simple.
By day I’m a lecturer at UCE Birmingham, teaching in the Department of Computing and doing my best to do effective research and also bring revenue in through running short courses.
By night, I’m an associate lecturer with the Open University, currently teaching on T209, though that may change in the near future.
The two institutions are very different beasts, with wildly different cultures. This blog will act as a meme for both of these lives.
Confused? Well, let’s see how things go.