Changing another unit!

Having posted some of my ideas about updating Edcom and wanting it to be more “Web2.0” oriented, I’m also thinking about another unit – Research Methods for the Level 2 students. (warning; may take some time to appear).

This was originally developed by Terry King, for a small group of students – all of whom were intending to do a study project. In October, I inherited the unit, plus a much bigger group of students – many of whom are intending to take the Engineering project option.
There have also been a couple of other minor changes – in the last run, the community was based in Eduspaces. Due to the frequent outages on that site, and the fact that it wasn’t running the latest version of Elgg in September (still isn’t), I decided to use Edublogs.

I spent quite a lot of time discussing the value of having an online presence – beyond that of Facebook etc. Getting students to register and to set up a blog was time consuming; at least, it was for those 10% of students who didn’t, or who did, but forgot to tell me the URL, etc.

The marking has been quite time consuming – trying to find their blogs, their comments on each others’ blogs etc – and then to link that into the essay they have to write. (They were told to refer back to their blogs in their essays, but so far, only 1 has).

So, reluctantly, I’m thinking of removing the external blogging element for next year. I know that the able students liked the flexibility that WordPress gives them over WebCT “blogs”, but I’ve also got to think of the practicalities.

I’ll call them “learning journals”, rather than “blogs”; but more importantly, mark the posts they put in it. Each week there is an activity, which is designed to feed into a blog post. I’ll scrap the final essay, which should, had they actually done all the activities, be quite easy. They were encouraged to refer back to their blog posts / comments from others, to show how their ideas developed. (But, as I already said, of the 20 or so I’ve marked so far, only 1 has). I’ll keep in, though, the marks for commenting on each others journals.

The tool in WebCT Vista will allow me to very easily see who’s posted – and, more importantly, who hasn’t. (RSS is great – and I’d added a Grazr on the home page, drawing on Google reader – but I had to add them manually – and I only knew who’d updated their blog, not who hadn’t…)

I still think that the external presence is important – so I’ll include a “bonus” up to 10 marks for those who create a good PLE – using whatever tools (so long as they’re RSS enabled) and send me the details. I think I’ll make it so that they have to have things in it that are related to this unit (research methods) – but, if they also want to include material that supports other units, so much the better. I won’t nag them to do it though … just give them pointers at the start – and point out that there are bonus marks riding on it.

3 thoughts on “Changing another unit!

  1. I got the marking finished – … in the end a few more had explicitly referred to their blog posts in their work – though most hadn’t.

    I’ve now got the paper work done for the unit modification – just have to get it in!

    Not all the students did blog posts this year – but those that did often had more useful points made in them than in their final essay – they seemed better at the critique when they had specific questions to be answered – but then dropped into a more descriptive mode when writing the report.

    Hopefully, this will allow the less strong students to get a better mark, but still enable the stronger students to be stretched. It should also make the marking a bit easier, as the blog posts will, hopefully be tackling a single aspect (unlike some essays which rather hopped round subjects).

    I’ll be interested to see next year how many do the extra component of the creating a PLE.

    The group work was, in general, really well done – many of the groups seemed to be very fair with their comments to each other – and realistic marks given.

  2. Hello Emma, i’ve just recieved your e-mail and skim read what your intended changes are, i’ll have a proper read later.

    All i can say is i’m one of those people that doesn’t like blogs one bit, the unit was really enjoyable once you get into it however so i can’t see why it needs to be changed. After all it’s like the old proverb of if it’s not broken don’t fix it right?

  3. Hi Tony,
    Thanks for the comment. Yes, I know that some students won’t be so keen, but it should reduce the amount of writing you all have to do & hopefully make the marking easier for me (the unit was designed for a group of under 20, not over 70 … so it was somewhat ‘broken’ & in need of fixing anyway!)

    The blogs are also going to be ‘learning Journals’ in Victory, so students won’t have to set them up (though I agree that some students will find the lack of customisation that you can get with WordPress a pain); and also I’ll stick to you being in groups with people doing different projects, so students don’t get to worry that someone else might ‘steal’ their ideas.

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