Jump to content


Spartacus

Developing an E-HELP Distance Course


  • Please log in to reply
4 replies to this topic

#1 David Richardson

David Richardson

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 711 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Kalmar, Sweden

Posted 19 September 2005 - 08:42 PM

John wrote this in response to my posting about the presentation in Gothenburg:

Your presentation got me thinking about the way we deliver the E-HELP course that we are developing for the third year of the project. It will of course be a real meeting. However, it will limit the numbers we can communicate with. I will be interested in your ideas on how we can deliver this kind of course in the form of distance learning.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


… so I thought I'd start a new topic to try to set out some ideas.

When I'm designing a distance course, the first step is to work out what it's for. I often express it in this question: what problem is this distance course intended to solve? (In other words, you apply the same reasoning to distance courses as you do to any other kind of course!).

In the case of E-HELP, it would seem that the problem is that you want to disseminate the lessons learned on the project to the greatest possible number of teachers in Europe … but you only have funds to collect a relatively small number of them in one geographical location. It's the common problem of trying to bring expertise to bear - you end up paying a lot of money and spending a lot of time transporting people's bodies … when it's actually their ideas you need to transport. The reason you have to transport their bodies is that we human beings haven't really yet worked out how to work with each other effectively if we don't meet each other face-to-face (f2f).

So … if we start out by accepting that a distance course for the E-HELP project isn't going to be a full-blown substitute for an f2f meeting, we can perhaps start to speculate what it *could* be useful for. I'm not a History teacher, and I'm not particularly well-versed in E-HELP, so please bear with my speculations about this, and adapt the bits which you find useful.

You could use a distance course to prepare participants for a f2f meeting. It might involve briefing them about the process you'll all have been through in Years 1 and 2, perhaps giving them some case studies to look at in detail (e.g. what we did wrong … and what we did right). The f2f meeting could then begin at the step 2 of evaluating and developing what you've learned on the project, rather than the step 1 of 'merely' disseminating information about it.

Another use of a distance course could be as a kind of 'Lancaster method' after an f2f meeting, when participants in the f2f meeting fan out across Europe spreading the word, as it were, to groups of teachers who couldn't participate. It would be fairly natural for these distance courses to be specific to a particular country and/or language. In Sweden, for example, Dalibor and Anders would run a distance course in Swedish, aiming to recruit, say, 20 History teachers from around the country.

There are almost certainly yet more variants which you History teachers can think of for yourselves …

Now we've dealt with the 'why' of an E-HELP distance course, the next set of questions is all about 'how' … but that's the subject of my next post.

#2 David Richardson

David Richardson

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 711 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Kalmar, Sweden

Posted 19 September 2005 - 09:10 PM

OK, on to the 'how'.

There are, of course, lots of different ways of making a distance course happen. What I'm going to set out here is a way that's worked well for us.

It's always a good idea to start out on paper (the back of an envelope, for example!). In the middle you write 'Course Features', which is what you're aiming to decide on. However, in the process of deciding, you're going to have to consider a number of factors, each of which interacts with - and changes - the others.

We usually start with 'Time', 'Budget', 'Administration' and 'Logistics'. In other words, if you've got plenty of time, you don't need so much money (because you can do your thinking in a leisurely manner). You'll all be working for organisations, and their administrative routines for participating - as either teacher or learner - will need to be taken into account. I.e. you've decided on a timetable for the course to happen in … and then discover that Country X or EU body Y requires you to submit names 6 months in advance, which b*ggers your timetable. Finally, the machines and other facilities both you and the other participants have available are the ones you'll have to use - so if you're planning for a lot of 3D animations, you'd better make sure that you've brought a nice Sun workstation for everyone.

Then we add 'Teachers', 'Students' and 'Course Aims' into the mix (see how low down the list 'Course Aims' comes!). It's no use using super-duper Internet tutoring if your teachers don't feel comfortable with computers - there's nothing wrong with using the tried-and-tested distance technology called stamps and envelopes. Why not let them write in long-hand, if that's what they feel happiest with. On the other hand, if you're going to augment their skills, you need 'Time' and 'Budget' to do it in.

Same thing with 'Students' - if they don't know how to download sound files from the web, then podcasting isn't going to work … unless you use 'Time', 'Budget' and 'Teachers' to train them. Similarly, if you're building your distance course around a discussion forum that people are going to be expected to contribute to in English, you're going to have to spend 'Time' and 'Budget' making sure they feel happy doing that.

As you can imagine, with all these factors interacting with each other, it's very likely that the 'Course Aims' you first thought of have had to be radically revised by now.

It's only when you've worked out who you're going to work with … and in what timescale … and what it is that your teachers, students, administrators, technicians, animators, programmers, etc can cope with … and what programmes you're going to use … and who's going to pay for everything … then you can finally get round to creating your 'Course Materials' (and don't be surprised when some bureaucrat intervenes at the last moment and tries to change all the parameters again).

I'll speculate about how this could work in practice for E-HELP in my next post.

#3 David Richardson

David Richardson

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 711 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Kalmar, Sweden

Posted 19 September 2005 - 09:32 PM

Let's imagine that you've decided to do a distance course to prepare participants to a f2f meeting, so that they know all about what E-HELP is and what it's achieved before they attend the f2f meeting.

Your 'Teachers' are likely to be the E-HELP members, who'll be pretty good at desktop video conferencing by the beginning of Year Three. Your 'Students', on the other hand, are likely to be beginners … but, if they're interested in a project with the name 'E-HELP' in the first place, they're likely to have a certain degree of computer literacy.

So … a place to start might be a crash, 2 half-day course in 'On-line Meeting Techniques', so that you can use desktop video conferencing as one of your tools on the distance course.

In language teaching we often talk about students 'owning' the language (meaning that they've learned it and used it actively so much that they don't have to even think about how and why to use it). One way of getting students to own the lessons of the E-HELP project (in these terms) is to get them to work with it actively. Thus, a rolling schedule of work on web-sites, on-line discussions (perhaps in writing on a forum), and desktop video conferences with E-HELP members might be the right mix. Such a schedule would, of course, need to be preceded by team-building activities (so that people dare to be open with each other), which could happen f2f … or could be the subject matter of the crash course I've just mentioned.

I've run courses organised like this as INSET for language teachers, where the teachers meet f2f without me being there, and then report back at video conferences. They work really well (provided, of course, that the 'Administration' is such that teachers are given the 'Time' to do this). However, with E-HELP you'll almost certainly need to turn these 'study group meetings' into virtual study group meetings … which takes a bit more effort on the part of the teachers and course designers.

-----------

OK … that's the basics of what I've learned over the years about on-line distance course design. The devil, however, is in the details … which I now expect you E-HELP members to provide!

#4 Anders MacGregor-Thunell

Anders MacGregor-Thunell

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 554 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Gothenburg, Sweden

Posted 20 September 2005 - 06:33 AM

I like this idea. At the next meeting in Heerlen I think we should put some time and start the planning of two "distance meetings". The first one would be in line with the idea of

Let's imagine that you've decided to do a distance course to prepare participants to a f2f meeting, so that they know all about what E-HELP is and what it's achieved before they attend the f2f meeting.

The next one should then be the follow-up you suggested

Another use of a distance course could be as a kind of 'Lancaster method' after an f2f meeting, when participants in the f2f meeting fan out across Europe spreading the word, as it were, to groups of teachers who couldn't participate. It would be fairly natural for these distance courses to be specific to a particular country and/or language. In Sweden, for example, Dalibor and Anders would run a distance course in Swedish, aiming to recruit, say, 20 History teachers from around the country.

The last "Lancaster method" sounds like a great one for a continuation of E-HELP... I realize that distance learning takes a lot of planning time and I'm sure glad B) that we invited you at this early stage in our project. Now we have the time to learn more about distance learning, try the system out and plan our part well. Thank you very much for both your input at the meeting in Gothenburg and your lesson here.

Edited by Anders MacGregor-Thunell, 20 September 2005 - 06:34 AM.


#5 John Simkin

John Simkin

    Super Member

  • admin
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 16,119 posts

Posted 27 September 2005 - 11:28 AM

David: Thank you very much for this detailed account of how to run an online course. Under the terms of the E-HELP contract our main objective has to be the putting on a residential course in Toulouse in 2007. However, there is nothing stopping us running online courses for teachers before and after this date. I think this should be one of the major issues to discuss at our next meeting.




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users