All posts by billchild

Being in a forum…

In response to a recent request for ideas and reflections on participating in a forum as  students would do so, I am going to stick my neck out here and make some suggestions.

These suggestions are designed to allow members like myself, who have far less tech. knowledge than those who have wonderfully contributed to the last two activities, to participate.  I feel that I represent the more reserved forum attendees, who will read everything that is going on but feel reluctant to actively participate for a variety of reasons

What would make it easier…

  • A kick off meeting using OU live. Then we could meet up and talk in real time about;  the activities, the road map and assign tasks before making a start. This would make it a lot easier for people to join in, and also inform others of their personal plans etc.
  • Regular OU live meetings to help establish and build  connections (could be at different times to reflect the various time zones) with each other. This really is important for the long term success of the forum. Otherwise people are likely to drop / burn out
  • As mentioned before, fewer threads. Otherwise people have to post the same message repeatedly in the hope of a response and others will feel unsure where to contribute and end up not doing so.

What would make it nicer…

  • I would like to suggest that we pool our data. This could be done in an organized fashion so that document could be stored under topic headlines; theory and innovation type spring to mind. Using a Google Site seems the obvious choice. If this is appropriate I would be happy to help set this up for the group.
  • A list of abbreviations, I know many, but when posts contain more than one new one; it slows down the reading somewhat. Again I would be happy to help set this up.


Introducing Innovation into Higher Education

As a freelance English language trainer I work and have contact with a number of organisations and in one particular case I have at least three points of contact with a university, all of which are run on different contracts with different departments and with differing attitudes and usage levels to technology.I found the article very interesting and useful with the links and as my organisation uses little technology in an overall coherent fashion I would propose to introduce a number of the tools from the short term implementation range. I view these as most likely to succeed in being accepted by enough members of staff to become imbedded in the structure.

Initially I would like to see cloud computing and in particular Google Sites being used as a way for students to present themselves and also for them to drive forward the input of the required content reflecting a constructivist methodology in offering ways and means for participants to become actively involved in creating their own learning material and not just an administrative tool (Kirkwood, 2010). A number of my clients are now actually the staff in the universities who have a lot of the content in their heads. I am experimenting at the moment to see whether using Google Sites is a way to access this information in a more efficient way by using collaborative processes (Johnson and Adams, 2011) than those used traditionally, However, it´s also important not to lose track of the task at hand by becoming too involved with the setting up and running of the technology (Johnson and Adams, 2011).

The natural progression from using cloud technology would then to be to set up Open Source material, which would make material available for everyone to study free of charge. This approach would have very distinct advantages and disadvantages for those involved.For instance the university could reach more students than it already does at little extra cost Johnson and Adams, 2011), but it would receive no fees in turn. However, by offering courses / material online students who would not normal be able to participate might be able to do so. (Johnson and Adams, 2011) and research has shown that this is `as effective as face-to-face instruction (Cavanaugh, 2001; Cavanaugh, Gillan, Kromrey, Hess, & Blomeyer, 2004; Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, & Jones, 2009, siets in Hawkins, 2012)

In fact as the universities aim is to become more international and appeal to a wider audience, I propose that by setting up an online English language open source site the university could establish itself through tailored pages to desired markets i.e. a site in Chinese, German, which would then offer material in both German and English to potential Chinese students as way to attract and school potential students.An asynchronous learning environment would also allow students who have to work to pay their fees etc the chance to participate in extra support sessions, such as English language support This would be a small step in keeping the door open to higher education for those students who have to work during typical teaching hours.

Finally, moving forward, I would like to propose that the two previous innovations must be interlinked and sets of information from student performance and activity levels should then be forwarded to the relevant trainers. This form of learning analytics (Johnson and Adams, 2011) would then allow trainers to have an overview of student’s needs; in particular it would make possible proactive support before any potential difficulties arise. Additionally, for online courses to be successful there needs to be an adequate level of teacher presence (Hawkins et al, 2012) in the minds of the students to compensate for the lack of face to face contact that students normally experience. I would argue that having a teacher who was able to monitor a student’s progress in real time and react to it in a personal manner would increase student’s motivation (DiPietro et al.’s (2008)

Finally although I am arguing that thsupport in Higher Educationprovr a students progress in real time and react to it in a persoanl l teacthese three innovations have the potential to improve the provision of English language support in Higher Education, I also believe that the innovations will only work if implemented sensitively and with the buy in from all parties involved (Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007)



·         DiPietro, M., Ferdig, R. E., Black, E. W., & Preston, M. (2008). Best practices in teaching K-12 online: Lessons learned from Michigan Virtual School teachers. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 7(1), 10-38.

·         Garrison, D. R., & Arbaugh, J. B. (2007). Researching the community of inquiry framework: Review, issues, and future directions. The Internet and Higher Education,

10(3), 157-172.

·         Hawkins, A., Graham, C.R., Barbour, M.K., Everybody Is Their Own Island”: Teacher Disconnection in a Virtual School, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, v13 n2 p123-144 Apr 2012. 22  pp.

·         Johnson, L.and Adams, S., (2011).  Technology Outlook for UK Tertiary Education 2011-2016: An NMC Horizon Report Regional Analysis. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

·         Kirkwood, K,  2010, The SNAP Platform: social networking for academic purposes

Campus-Wide Information Systems, Vol. 27 No. 3, 2010, pp. 118-126

Links to E portfolios

Some useful links about E portfolios from Emma Blake.

Barrett, H. (n.d.) ‘Dr Barrett’s on-line publications on electronic portfolios’ (online), Available from: (last accessed 03 July 2012). Note: this site is extensive. You are not expected to read everything she lists. Browse the site so that you have an overview of what is there.

Batson, T. (2002) ‘The electronic portfolio boom: what’s it all about?’ (online), Campus Technology. Available from: (last accessed 03 July 2012 ).

Becta (2007) ‘Impact of e-portfolios on learning’, Becta, 5 June. Available from: (accessed 03 July 2012)

Beetham, H. (2003) ‘E-portfolios in post-16 learning in the UK: developments, issues and opportunities’ (online), JISC. Available from: (last accessed 03 July 2012).

European Institute for E-Learning (EifEL), (last accessed 03 July 2012).

Jafari, A. (2004) ‘The “sticky” e-portfolio system: tackling challenges and identifying attributes’ (online), Educause Review, vol. 39, no. 4 (July/August), pp. 38–49. Available from: (last accessed 03 July 2012).

JISC (2008) Effective Practice with e-Portfolios: Supporting 21st Century Learning, JISC. Available from: (last accessed 03 July 2012).

QAA (2001) ‘Guidelines for HE Progress Files’ (online), Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. Available from: (last accessed 8 June 2011).

Reese, M. and Levy, R. (2009) ‘Assessing the future: e-portfolio trends, uses, and options in higher education’ (online), Research Bulletin, issue 4, EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, Boulder, CO. (last accessed 03 July 2012).

Vuorikari, R. (2006) ‘National policies and case studies on the use of portfolios in teacher training’ (online). Europortfolio 2005, Cambridge, UK. Available from: (last accessed 03 July 2012).

Ten things you can do with Google Sites…