The Launch: A confession of a reluctant IT user (Nov 04.08)
From Case Studies Wiki
The post is just replicated here to catch all the words for archive purposes, to read the post in its original form and see the links, photos, videos etc., go here: http://good.group.shef.ac.uk/blog/?p=384
Today we have the confessions of a self-confessed “grumpy”/reluctant IT user. At the Launch, people were talking about spaces and connections that support their learning and teaching. MOLE (the online Virtual Learning Environment) here at the University of Sheffield, is certainly one of those space. Here are Marcin Szczerbinski’s thoughts….
I spent last couple of hours updating teaching materials, and then putting some of them on the MOLE. The latter activity invariably generates a strong mixture of emotion: anger and frustration at the slow and convoluted system, pride (I did it!), relief (finally I did it), and a vague sense of absurdity (is anybody going to read it?). So, while the specs for the blog exhorted me to write about “valuable spaces and connections for learning and teaching…”, right now I feel I writing about the worthless ones. Here are my problems: MOLE is expensive proprietary software (the rumours have it university paid millions for it - I would like to know how much exactly). Could we get the same service using freeware?
In vast majority of cases I know of, MOLE is used primarily as a repository of materials (course programmes, lecture handouts, exercises) which we want students to access at some point. While there are advantages in having such repositories (not least in helping those absent-minded people who lose their handouts, and in saving trees) can’t we deposit things online in a more straighforward, easier to access and easier to manage way? I would really welcome recommendations as to how this can be done (bear in mind, you are talking to someone who can’t do html so one obvious way - a traditional webpage - is out of question).
What are the real PEDAGOGICAL benefits of using MOLE-like resources with full-time, in-house students? In other words, is there anything you can do with MOLE which you can’t do just as well (or much better) in a lecture or tutorial? I have indeed seen benefits of MOLE for part-time distance-learning students. On one PT course I teach on, we give students a practical problem to think about and discuss. This really gives them a chance to shine (as they can bring their own experience), learn from each other and simply interact as a group - something they have precious little time to do during their three weekend-long face-to-face meetings in a year. So benefits are clearly there. But I’m yet to be shown how MOLE can really enhance the learning experience of students I can see every week in class. I would welcome some suggestions - preferably with good anecdotes!
To my slight surprise, I keep thinking quite a lot about the teachingcommons launch event which we had in the nice surroundings of the Dam House a couple of weeks ago. One thing is certain - it is good to talk. I found it very valuable and refreshing to meet colleagues and students from other departments, people whom you would never otherwise meet, see their perspectives, and learn about their solutions to their problems (and problems tend to be common). Perhaps it would be worthwile to steer our future discussions of this kind more towards practical here-and-now solutions/demostrations of good practice/good anecdotes of how I succeeded, and away from abstract considerations of what constitutes good pedagogy.
So this is my first-ever blog entry. Now what are the chances someone will read it…?
Marcin “the grumpy” Szczerbinski, Human Communication Sciences