Learning4Content/Workshops/Face-to-Face schedule/L4C14/Workshop Report
- 1 Face-to-Face WikiEducator Workshop Report
- 2 Acknowledgments
- 3 Introduction and Background
- 4 Venue
- 5 Participants
- 6 Preparations
- 7 Workshop Proceedings
- 8 Lessons Learned
- 9 Issues for MMUST and SOLACE
- 10 Recommendations
Face-to-Face WikiEducator Workshop Report
The facilitator wishes to thank the following:
- Vice Chancellor, Prof. B.C.C. Wangila, for his opening remarks, and his participation in the first day of the workshop,
- Professor Ipara Odeo for his vision, hard work, tremendous support, energy and willingness to go the extra mile,
- DVC (AA) Prof. Sigot, for her presence in the last day of the workshop, in spite of jet lag after a long trip from Vancouver,
- The support and technical staff at the School of Open Learning and Continuing Education (SOLACE) for their administrative support and technical expertise,
- All lecturers/participants who actively participated in the workshop and who even came to "work" on "Obama Day"!
Introduction and Background
This workshop was organised as a result of discussions between Ian Pringle from the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and Prof. Odeo, the Director of SOLACE at MMUST. Their vision to enhance and support the provision of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) at MMUST to address both formal and non-formal learning, was anchored in the need to develop technical skills in web 2.0 tools aimed at facilitating the implementation of a variety of programmes to be delivered at a distance. WikiEducator was identified as one of the technologies that could be used in the teaching and learning context at MMUST. Furthermore, it was identified that lecturers would benefit from some introductory training on instructional design principles for distance learning, in order to ensure quality and to adhere to best practices in ODL.
In light of this needs analysis, and taking advantage of the fact that the facilitator was going to be working in Kisumu, Kenya, at the time, it was decided to organise a brief introductory training session of three days at MMUST, structured as follows:
- One half day for the introduction of key instructional design principles
- One half day for an introduction to the COL instructional design template for the development of print materials, including a demonstration and hands-on practice
- Two days to deliver a condensed, customized version of the WikiEducator workshop, which is usually delivered over the course of three days.
Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) campus in Kakamega.
Of the 47 individuals that had demonstrated interest in the workshop, only 23 participants attended, albeit not consistently. People were coming and going every day and some attended only a few sessions (morning or afternoon)on a given day. The smaller group worked out much better: interaction was more meaningful, contributing to more effective hands-on learning. Additionally, the venue would not have accommodated such a large group, and there were only 11 computers with access to the Internet, so a much larger number would have posed serious problems and would have further compromised the success of the workshop. As it was, due to the inconsistent attendance, the computer with internet / student ratio was perfect, as most participants were able to practice their newly acquired skills (only two had to share a computer).
Of the 23 participants, 7 were female, and very committed to continuing to use WikiEducator to make the HIV-AIDS materials available online. These materials are currently being delivered in a conventional fashion across all faculties. All participants were lecturers from a cross-section of departments/faculties.
In preparation for the workshop, Prof. Odeo met with Rosario in Kisumu to go over the key requirements to guarantee the successful implementation of the workshop:
- Technical requiremets: Number of computers available, Internet connectivity and access to WikiEducator site
- Software requirements: installation of the COL template in each computer and the download of Open Office
- Administrative requirements: reproduction of support materials (handouts), reproduction of learning contracts and registration forms, review of plan of work, agenda, and brief overview of the presentation slides.
Since there were some technical issues with the installation of the COL template, and some confusion about downloading and installing Open Office, the facilitator went to Kakamega one weekend before the workshop date to make sure that all technical issues were satisfactorily resolved. Both Prof. Odeo and the technical team were exceptional in their readiness to work on the weekend to ensure the success of this capacity development initiative.
- The agenda
- The learning contract
- The registration form
- Print outs of the 11 workshop lesson notes (about 75 pages)
- The electronic copies of the lesson notes and the lesson presentation slides
- Other useful items such as:
- Two books on e-learning (pdf format): Education for a Digital World and Theory of Practice of Online Learning
- COL's Creating Learning Materials for Open and Distance Learning: a Handbook for Authors & Instructional Designers (pdf format)
Day 1: Objectives
- Enable participants to use the basic functionality of the COL template and follow basic key instructional design principles in their approach to designing a lesson for print delivery.
Day 1: Proceedings
Day 1 of the workshop was divided into two sessions:
- Morning session: dedicated to exploring introductory concepts about instructional design for open and distance learning; and
- Afternoon session: dedicated to introducing the COL instructional design template and to giving participants the opportunity to practice using the template with their own content.
The morning session went rapidly in a very interactive manner, with participants engaging in discussion about the concept of ODL, advantages and disadvantages of learning at a distance, the concept of instructional design and its importance in the development of quality self-studying resources and the importance of interactivity for distance learning.
This session was deemed to be important as it was predicted that approximately 60% of participants didn't have pedagogic training, identified as important by SOLACE to support the design and development of quality ODL materials, as part of the institution's teaching and learning philosophy.
The afternoon session was dedicated to demonstrating the COL instructional design template and to providing all participants with the opportunity to use the template within their own materials development context. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to allow participants to have a lot of hands-on experience. However, all the functionality of the template was covered and participants learned about using the style sheets from the template and inserting the various objects for learning activities. Due to the lack of time, no real lesson was produced. However, participants committed to learning more on their own and to supporting each other.
The computer literacy level among the group of participants was very varied. Nobody had ever used a template in Microsoft Word before, nor were they familiar with style sheets. Some participants had more trouble than others understanding the concept of a template and working through some of the basic functionality available to them. Very few were proficient in using MS Word, so some time was invested in explaining the importance of saving files in the right directories and the importance of naming the files in a way that they are easily identifiable and found.
All in all, participants got the gist of the COL template functionality and were able to recognize its added value and identify how it can support their efforts as they engage in designing and developing self-study materials for print delivery.
Day 1: Achievements
By the end of the first day of this workshop, participants were able to:
- Identify the key aspects of instructional design as a systematic process,
- Recognize the importance of applying instructional design principles in the development of quality self-learning materials;
- Use interactive elements in the development of self-learning materials; and
- Use the basic functionality of the COL template to develop self-learning print materials.
Days 2 and 3: Objectives
- Enable participants to create, format, edit and revise content in Wiki format.
Days 2 and 3: Proceedings
The Learning 4 Content workshop, usually delivered over a three day period, was delivered over the remaining two days with MMUST. Although we tried hard to move quickly in order to be able to complete the work and deliver this condensed workshop in the two available days, our efforts were somewhat unsuccessful as we were only able to cover 70% of the prescribed workshop content. This was due mainly to the following factors:
- Extremely slow Internet connectivity and "slow" computers: average of 55 seconds to display each screen;
- Technical difficulties with Internet access: poor weather (thunderstorms) caused power outages and Internet breakdowns. Although this was not the norm, it slowed down the progress of the work when it occurred;
- Uneven participant computer usage skills: The fact that some participants were more literate than others in the use of computers meant that there were two identifiable "factions" in the group:
- The more knowledgeable group was able to move quickly through the initial tutorials and resolved all activities promptly. As the work progressed, this group tended to show signs of impatience towards the less experienced group, causing some uneasiness as the facilitator tried to support the participants facing higher level of difficulty. It also meant that the facilitator had to slow down the overall progression of the work, so that the users with poorer computer skills weren't left behind;
- The group with less computer usage experience and therefore with less computer literacy skills, required more support from the facilitator, hence slowing down the progression of the work;
- Sporadic participation: the fact that not all participants attended all sessions consistently also slowed down the progress of the work, as the facilitator tried to bring them up to speed with the rest of the class.
The concept of Open Educational Resources (OERs) and Free/Libre content generated heated debate and lengthy discussion. Most participants were not familiar with OERs and had to be engaged in critical thinking to realise the benefits of the free content movement. The issue of compensation for their work was latent in all discussions. As we concluded the discussions the group was more tolerant to entertain the concept of openness in educational resources.
Following the introduction of WikiEducator, participants were led to create their own accounts and "sandboxes" in the system; after which they started to learn basic text editing skills, using both the formatting tool bar and the wiki syntax. Since some participants were showing some signs of difficulty in learning these editing skills, they were given a bit more time to practice, using their own content.
As the basic editing skills were mastered, including all types of formatting, participants were able to move on to manipulating images in WikiEducator and to inserting internal and external links into their content. Slowly, all participants were able to insert and manipulate images in their own user pages. They were also keen to insert links to external sites and to look for internal information to link to their pages. We started to look at the use of pedagogic templates in WikiEducator, but unfortunately did not have time to allow participants to practice this skill.
Days 2 and 3: Achievements
By the end of the Learning 4 Content workshop, participants were able to:
- Create and maintain their accounts in WikiEducator,
- Add and edit text in WikiEducator,
- Format text in WikiEducator,
- Use formatting for numbered and bulleted lists,
- Insert internal and external links in their content pages,
- Identify pedagogical templates in WikiEducator and plan for their utilization with their own content.
Upon completion of the workshop, here are some of the lessons learned:
- Condensing the prescribed content for the Learning 4 Content workshops into a two day format does not allow any time for learners to practice newly acquired skills and it compromises the ability to deliver all the content;
- Internet access speed impacts the ability to deliver the workshop content in its entirety. In these situations, students should be registered or encouraged to register in the online tutorials;
- "Slow" computers also impact the delivery of the workshop;
- When working environments match the described above, consider a 4 days workshop, to allow for time for participants to produce their own lessons
- Assess computer literacy of participants prior to workshop and devise a strategy to group them into more homogeneous work groups. The more advanced users can start with the online tutorials and come together with the whole group for discussions and questions.
- Wiki skills are easy to learn, even for users that do not have a lot of computer literacy skills. However, it is important that extra time is allotted to ensure that all users have a chance to practice and apply the learned skills;
- The learn by doing format is very appreciated by all participants;
- Give participants some resource readings on OERs and the open source movement in advance of the workshop. It will assist them in critically debating the concept of WikiEducator;
- Make sure there is one computer per participant to ensure that all participants have the opportunity to apply learned skills. If not, it is important to plan ahead for a working strategy.
Issues for MMUST and SOLACE
- Institutional commitment: Management at MMUST demonstrates tremendous institutional commitment to expanding access to education through ODL methodologies, in particular the use of technology to support the implementation of ODL programmes. To be successful, MMUST must address issues of connectivity, infrastructure, equipment and capacity development.
- Staff commitment: Staff at SOLACE seems to be very committed to supporting the design and development of both formal and non-formal learning initiatives at a distance through a variety of methodologies. Unfortunately, the content experts don't seem to show that same level of commitment to ODL. MMUST and SOLACE need to focus on issues of communication, policy development and planning, as a way to engage content developers.
- Infrastructure improvement: For MMUST to deliver successful ODL programmes using Internet based tools, or any other technology based solutions, it must consider an investment in upgrading existing technical infrastructure, such as computers and network speed, both internal (intranet) and external (Internet). I referred Prof. Odeo to Computer Aid International, which refurbishes Pentium 3 and 4 computers to supply them to educational institutions in developing countries at highly discounted prices;
- Capacity development: Developing capacity in all aspects of ODL is of paramount importance to support MMUST and SOLACE in the design and delivery of quality, sustainable distance learning programmes. Further capacity should be developed in all ODL sub-systems, with special emphasis in learner support and instructional design. Furthermore, most faculty needs to further develop their computer skills. Hence, creating flexible, short, internal courses on how to use the computer and specific computer applications could be a way to engage them and keep them motivated to use the computer in their teaching and learning processes.
- Developing partnerships: It will be fundamental for MMUST to develop local partnerships to explore the delivery of both formal and non-formal learning initiatives. Local partnerships can be developed with local Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), community organisations as well as with other local educational institutions. Collaboration will engage the community at large as well as the educational community in supporting the delivery of ODL programmes (through the sharing of learning resource centres, or technology such as radio broadcasting).
- Since the institutional commitment is evident from all senior management at MMUST, it will be important to continue to support MMUST at varying levels. Here are some suggestions:
- Training in practitioner research to promote evidence-based decision making
- Training of management cadres in planning and implementation of ODL systems, to include policy development
- Training in planning and designing sustainable learner support systems
- Training in instructional design and programme delivery
- Training in technical skills to develop computer literacy among faculty
- Initiatives to encourage the development of local partnerships and the promotion of collaboration
- Promote and support interchanges between other sub-saharan educational institutions already delivering ODL programmes
- Support fellowships at other Sub-Saharan ODL institutions