4. Communication

CMALT Guidance

Core area 4: Communication and working with others

Candidates should demonstrate their knowledge and skills in communication through working with others.

Statements could describe the way in which your work involves collaboration, for example through participation in a team or acting as an interface to other groups.

Relevant evidence would include reflection on collaborations with others, reports outlining your activity within a team process, how you have brokered support for a particular initiative (for example from a technical or legal support service) or how you have worked with others to solve problems.

Where your evidence involved collaboration, please acknowledge the contribution of others. You may also chose to discuss how you select appropriate forms of communication.

Original submission

NB. Original portfolio had a user-interface option. This has now been removed and section 4 should be about communication and working with others.

b) Interface between human and technical systems

The flexibility of the Moodle platform which the Online Masters programmes runs on allows the team to create an environment that is both highly functional, efficient and aesthetically pleasing for our students to use. The usability and look of the VLE is crucial to the distance learning experience as it is a single, regularly visited place to obtain learning materials and more importantly, interact with other students and tutors. To encourage participation and motivate students to engage with the activities on the site, the environment must be intuitive and well structured.

Last year, I led on restructuring the Online Masters implementation of Moodle, partly to accommodate two new programmes where the site had previously been for one degree, and also to refresh the design to fit in better with user expectations of a modern web system [before/after screenshots included in appendix].

I focused on user-centred web interface and design, using research by Nielsen (1995-2009) and Krug (2005). The design principles stem from non-educational use of the web, however, in using established web conventions, the technology of the VLE then becomes unnoticed by students so that the focus is more on learning rather than the learning environment. I implemented a standardised look, which allowed flexibility in layouts relevant to specific uses of different parts of the site [details of the page structures for different areas are included in the appendix].
I referred to usage statistics across the whole site to identify areas of improvement and discussed these with my line manager. For example, collections of study-skills resources, technical help guides, assignment procedures and module syllabuses were buried within one large page resulting in low usage. To allow easier location of these resources, we decided to break the single page down into specific areas called: eLibrary and Help, Assignments and Study Skills, and Module Information. There were subsequent benefits to navigation (direct access to specific resources from homepage links), accessibility (clearer sections and reduced number of links per page) and improved awareness (presence on homepage).
I designed a soft blue colour scheme to help make the environment look more professional and cleaner in feel compared to the vanilla Moodle default. I also incorporated the University‟s updated website branding into the VLE header to further tie the standalone onlineyork.org site with the University (york.ac.uk). This helps distance students to feel they are part of the University and aids in corporate marketing by using consistent branding.

My experience with the Moodle restructure, will be followed up by a restructure of the whole Department‟s VLE presence on Blackboard as outlined in the SPSW Strategy Document [(1c)].

References

Krug, S. (2005) Don’t Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, Berkley, CA: New Riders.

Nielsen, J. (1995-2009) Alertbox – Jacob Nielsen’s Newsletter on Usability [Online], http://www.useit.com/alertbox/ .

Portfolio update

Since my original submission, this section has changed to focus solely upon communication through working with others. In re-writing this section I would draw upon my collaboration with academic staff, in particular through evaluation of learning activities and technology-enhanced learning approaches. This provides evidence of dissemination and collegiate practice.

This section would also draw upon the different forms of advice written for academic staff, from detailed technical guidance to one-page summary documents, reflecting the different needs of different audiences. For example, recent work on advising staff on the use of ‘flipped classroom’ approaches has required combining a pedagogical discussion (drawing upon examples of practice from the literature) with technical advice on pre-recording lectures. A key part of this process is to understand the needs of the people I am working with, in this case lecturers who were re-designing post-graduate modules. They required advice on how to structure the learning activity, as well as how to develop online learning resources, that would engage students.

For the webinar version of this staff development, I split the pedagogical and technical aspects into two online sessions. Though they followed on from each other, this allowed colleagues with experience in the design of such activities to just attend the technical session. It is also much more difficult to engage with a training session remotely for extended periods of time. Whilst the face-to-face session allowed for informal discussion and the time to ‘play’ with the software, the online sessions were shorter and more succinct, acting as starting points for further investigation and detailed support afterwards.

A final example of how I have worked with others and communicated in different ways comes from my work on learning designs with Blackboard Collaborate. I facilitated a workshop at the Durham Blackboard Users Conference in 2016, drawing upon the expertise of other learning technologists to understand different use cases of webinar software. The session demonstrates my ability to work with others by stimulating discussion and producing outputs that are useful to other learning technologists and lecturing staff.

Further discussion, reflection and evidence in Portfolio Review: Overview of CPD activities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *