Last year I had the privilege of being a student on the Introduction to Digital Environments for Learning (IDEL) course which is the foundation course for the MSC in Digital Education. This was funded by a the Institute for Academic Development (IAD) who as part of their support for the Online Distance Learning (ODL) community offer bursaries to staff who are working on or considering developing an ODL programme.
I work as a Learning Technology Advisor in the Educational Design and Engagement team within Learning Teaching & Web Services (part of Information Services). I applied for the bursary as I am increasingly supporting staff working on fully distance online programmes and as the number of ODL programmes increase this is becoming a bigger part of my job. For example as service lead on QuestionMark Perception assessment system I support several ODL programmes in the creation and delivery of assessments.
What did I get from taking part in IDEL?
It was really interesting to get a student’s perspective on the institution I work for. I expected to get this by being a participant, and to an extent I did, but the most interesting insights came from getting to know the other students on the course. Despite it being fully online I had plenty of opportunities to talk with other students through online tutorials, in Skype, Collaborate and Second Life and also from the discussion forums in Moodle.
Each week we were given a range of readings, some core and also recommendations for further reading, a proportion of these were in alternative formats like videos, but the majority are journal articles. Not only did it make an impressive pile by the end, but also allowed me to explore the technology around reading. I had a go with Mendeley (reference manager and PDF organizer) and tried reading and marking up text electronically, After that experiment I quickly opted for printing out documents on paper – I have to admit that having access to a laser printer did help! Before finally considering screen reading software (TextHelp Read and Write 10 – for which the University has a site licence), as it turned out from a tutorial discussion several other students did their reading this way. Studying for IDEL was a great way to make the space and time to read and I enjoyed some thought provoking articles regardless of how I read them.
IDEL activities offer its students opportunities to use a wide range of tools, thanks to this I was able to re-evaluate applications I thought I already knew such as Twitter and Second Life and also to explore/play with new tools such as Powtoon Cartoon creator and thinglink to make interactive images.
One of the course requirements was regular blogging. I really enjoyed the reflective space of the blog and the encouragement to share my written reflection frequently, which was helped by the frequent feedback I received. We used WordPress and I like the fact that I was building up confidence in an openly available tool which I can continue to use for work or private projects in future.
The blog activity formed 60% of the assessment and the other 40% was a piece of work on a subject you selected, related to one (or more) of the course themes. I chose to create an Open Education Resource (OER) about OERS in HE – using the free website building tool Weebly. Completing it was hard, with the hand in date is just after the Christmas break, but-all-in-all a really useful experience. Choosing to create something ‘publicly viewable’ really did focus my mind and I think made me work harder!
Would I recommend IDEL to other Learning Technologists?
Absolutely. It’s a fantastic introduction to the possibilities of online education and the IAD bursary offers a great opportunity to take part in a highly regarded online master’s programme.
And if you do enjoy your IDEL experience, you can apply for a further bursary for a 20-credit course, which means you can leave with a PG Cert in Digital Education which is a great addition to your CV.
IAD – Online distance learning Community (Bursary details on this page)
Introduction to Digital Environments for Learning (IDEL) http://online.education.ed.ac.uk/content/edua11222-an-introduction-to-digital-environments-for-learning/
IAD Case Studies: IAD Bursaries https://www.wiki.ed.ac.uk/display/casestudies/Staff+Development%3A+IAD+Bursaries