12 students participated full time in the MIL course, one student divided his attention between SL and the second analytical object, the serious learning game, Global Conflicts, and 2 students who also chose Global Conflicts attended some SL activities ad hoc. The official learning goals of the course (regardless of choice) according to the MIL curriculum were;
The intellectual competence goals are that the student attains competence in:
- identifying, reflecting on and appraising the scientific basis of ICT and didactic design formulating
- analyzing and assessing problems within ICT and didactic design.
The professional competence goals are that the student attains competence in:
- understanding and appraising theories and methods relating to didactic design
- analyzing and assessing ICT based learning products and virtual learning environments on the basis of theories and methods relating to didactic design.
The practical competence goals are that the student attains competence in:
- analyzing and assessing ICT based learning products and virtual learning environments on the basis of theories and methods relating to didactic design.
Besides these official goals, I stated that it was my hope that this SL course would force the students to reconsider familiar didactic elements and think out-of-the-box. When trying to articulate his learning outcome, one of the students suggested that this could be done in answering the following 3 questions; 1) What is your most significant learning outcome? 2) Has it been hard? And 3) How does this course differ from other MIL courses?
I think the second question is rather interesting and closely connected to the last question, but also to SL as a medium itself. It is widely recognized that SL has a very steep learning curve and that it takes a lot of time and effort to get accustomed to SL. Based on the general course findings and especially the many interesting discussion I had with the students I will return to this matter in a future post. In this post, I wish to focus on the course design and what this meant for the quantitative learning outcome in general.
Didactic Design Discussion … on embodiment
The course is accredited with 4 ECTS points, which means that there is an expected workload of approx. 100 hours. MIL students are used to working hard, so I was a bit surprised when the student posed this particular question. On the other hand, I knew that this course was quite different from other MIL courses because of all the synchronous activities. Initially I told the students that I only expected them to participate in one synchronous activity in-world during the course, but all of them chose to participate in several. One of the major challenges of conducting distance education for further studies is to maintain a high level of flexibility. The MIL students are all attending the programme in their spare time from work and life in general, and most activities are asynchronous so that the students can chose to participate whenever they can fit it into their busy schedules. Since I knew that many of the students wouldn’t be able to attend on specific days, I tried to plan the activities covering most days of the week, including the weekends so that they had lots to choose from. From November 5th to December 15th there were a total of 25 activities with duration between 1-3 hours. The flip side to this was of course the risk that some students felt that they missed important stuff whenever they weren’t able to attend our in-world meetings. Furthermore the assessment criteria (a minimum of 3 postings in our asynchronous platform) of the course conflicted with the general workload. The students were asked to post their reflections in 5 different conferences covering essential didactic elements;
- Didactics and target groups – 32 postings by 12 students and me (8). Approx. 40 A4 pages.
- Orientation and navigation – 8 postings by 5 students and me (1). Approx. 8 A4 pages.
- Interaction – 0 posts!
- Learning processes – 68 posting by 11 students and me (21). Approx. 83 A4 pages.
- Audio-visuals – 9 postings by 2 students and me (4). Approx. 15 A4 pages.
Given that the official criteria was 3 postings corresponding to 3 A4 pages the degree of student activity has been uniquely high also considering the fact that besides these asynchronous discussions we had many, many long discussion in-world! I must say that I’m quite impressed :-)
Even though all students didn’t comment in all of the conferences it was clear from our in-world discussions that they had been reading and reflecting on all of the postings. We also had a general meta conference, which I mainly used to inform the students of upcoming activities and the students posted thoughts they could not fit into one of the 5 above mentioned conferences – there was a total of 232 postings there! Finally there was a conference where the students presented their avatars.
Visiting The Connectivism Course in Chilbo …
MIL students are generally recognized for their huge engagement, but I have to say that this course has exceeded even my highest expectations and it quite funny since the students initially expressed anxiety and fear of not meeting the official criteria.
The assessment criteria and the workload were topics we discussed eagerly during the course, and these are didactic elements that I need to reconsider, not only because the workload may prevent some students from choosing this course in the future, but also because 3 asynchronous postings may not be the best way to show learning potential and outcome of SL. I will return to this in a future post where I’ll be evaluating the different in-world activities also. For now I’ll plunge into the students own articulations of their qualitative learning outcomes and return asap … but based on the course activities I think its safe to say that all the students reached the course goals admirably!
/Mariis
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