Navigating a new world of e-learning

Navigating a new world of e-learning

Learning points from eLearning Forum Asia 2011

I just finished a 2-day conference (8 – 9 June 2011), the eLearning Forum Asia 2011, held at the National Technological University (Singapore). While there was a variety of topics, my main interests were on e-learning and using social media for teaching. For e-learning, my takeaway was that we need to focus on the design of the e-learning activities. For social media, my takeaway was that we need to engage the students where they were. Ultimately, it was about the learners – what they were like, what they were doing, and how we could cater to their needs.

The following paragraphs, if they can be called that at all, are lists of ideas, jotting them down before this conference becomes a vague memory. I don’t want to end up with post-conference inertia and I hope this post reminds me of what I need to do.

E-learning

My actual experience with e-learning has been largely i) me uploading stuff and students downloading stuff and ii) students posting superficially on forum threads.

What I would like my experience to be:

i) Students and I do stuff together on something;

ii) Students care about this stuff we do together;

iii) I actually have fun getting all this done!

What I could do in the immediate future:

i) Use Google Docs for group writing for collaboration;

ii) Set specific instructions for students so they don’t get lost in the activities;

iii) Model the actions and behaviors I expect from them.

Social Media

I have recently started to connect with my students via Facebook but not for specific teaching or learning purposes. I use it to make announcements for some of my subjects, encourage students, send reminders and wish them Happy Birthday!

I’m not entirely sure how I could use it for teaching although the Facebook Group Page comes to mind. I’ve just finished a Social Media workshop by the folks from UWM and it was awesome! Some things I’ve learnt:

i) Social Media is here – don’t fight it, join it, manage it!

ii) Twitter is powerful! I’m now officially on Twitter (@orangecanton)

iii) Facebook Fanpages are a great resource for putting up information for courses.

iv) Some challenges include privacy and convincing people who don’t care much for social media but control the approvals and money for using it in education!

v) Students will appreciate it that you are reaching out to them through the very means they live 24/7!

The Apprentice – a lesson on resourcefulness, respect and responsibility

The Apprentice - A Lesson on Resourcefulness, Respect & Responsibility

In anticipation of a 9 am Monday morning lecture, I started to look for YouTube clips that could rouse the interest of potentially sleepy and clueless students. The subject is Events Management and I wanted a short but impactful clip that could convey the essentials of event planning. Search results from key phrases like “event planning” and “event management” didn’t quite generate upbeat videos that I was looking for. Then I turned my thoughts to reality TV – home of Murphy’s Law – where “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

At first I tried searching for a wedding type of show, hoping to find scenes of disoriented wedding planners trying to make it all work but ended up with more scenes of brides screaming for attention. Then I realized what I needed. I needed drama, entertainment and education all wonderfully crafted together. I needed … The Apprentice. I can’t say I’m a huge fan, only watching episodes sporadically whenever it aired on TV or cable. But whenever I did, I was always impressed at how the show managed to blend real life human emotions with down to earth lessons about what to do and not to do when organizing and executing a business event. So I searched for “apprentice” + “event” and eventually found this video clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eK48vnJV5iI

It’s Episode 12 from Season 4 The Apprentice and has Rebecca Jarvis and Randall Pinkett as the finalists. (Refer to Wikipedia for details.)

From this clip onwards (as one clip leads to one continuing clip after another), I was hooked. All the editing and dramatic angles made this entertainment, but the human drama that played out on screen felt authentic, and so were the nuggets of wisdom that Trump and his associates dished out in the boardroom. I thought to myself, ‘This has got to be the video clip I was searching for!’ The video clips that covered part of Episode 12 and the finale had many great lessons in event planning that were relevant to my lecture. For example, the team leaders and their teams had to overcome unexpected hiccups, deal with different personalities, and stay calm while under pressure.

The main takeaway I had watching how Rebecca and Randal handled their events was that you have to be resourceful. The part of the show that I watched also raised issues such as respect and responsibility. Those are two great intangibles that to me, sound a little too grand for rookies in event management such as my students. But in true American fashion, The Apprentice makes it simple enough to be understood during a prime time TV slot, and entertaining as well!

So what about respect and responsibility? From the segments, I heard a lot about respecting one’s team leader, as well as your boss. If you watch the clips, look out for how the team leaders responded to Trump’s arrival at their events. Responsibility was also talked about, how the team leader is responsible for the outcome of the event. Before I go on with a review of the video clips (which is not what this post is about, and I really don’t want to go into that), let me go back to my main point which is The Apprentice makes good teaching material, or at least, a starter for group discussion.

My challenge is that because there are so many great scenes, I have to be selective about what to screen in class. I did contemplate a video viewing session on its own but I think that needs a little more thought. What I’ve decided to do in the end is to select a clip that has enough discussion points. I don’t need to show all the clips to show how the problems were resolved because: i) the students can watch the rest of the clips on their own; and ii) the point of the lesson is for them to think about what they would have done in those circumstances. I played the Apprentice video clip (less than 8 minutes) towards the end of the Monday morning lecture. I thought the students were fairly attentive and responded to the questions quite well.

Encouraged by this small success, I will consider using  Apprentice video clips for future lectures.