15 Nov 2010

Symposium – Jane O’Neill

Posted by Carole Kirk

Jane O’Neill from the Staff and Departmental Development Unit (SDDU) shared some examples from colleagues of a variety of approaches to digital reflection.

Steven Green in classics runs module ‘Living the Religious Experience in Rome’.  As part of their coursework, groups of 2-3 students create a wiki taking on the persona of a participant in a religious festival.  From this viewpoint students are required to describe their part in the festival and their feelings about it.  Writing in character students tend to really engage in research and appreciate the contradictions in the available sources about the event.  This accounts for 40% of marks in the assessment.  The full case study is on the Casebook .

Stephen King from LUBS used discussion room tasks with the aim of getting students to talk to each other in a first year IT skills module.   There were 4 discussion room tasks based around an online debate, with 49 groups supported by 10 e-facilitators. The 4 tasks were structured to take them a step at a time further in to the debate.  The first task was introductions.  In the second week the debate was started.  Students were asked to make statements in support or opposed to the topic.  Further weeks took them further into the debate requiring them to refer to the arguments of their peers and reference relevant research.  Marking included the number of posts, reference to literature and participants arguments, and accounted for 15% of marks.

Ingo Cornils from the School of Modern Languages used blogs to support the dissertation process.  Students could opt to write a reflective blog (in German) with four entries at pre-defined points, and then submit a shorter dissertation of 5000 words.  Students who signed up successfully created very high standard, reflective web logs.  The full case study is on the Casebook.

Nick Efford in Engineering wanted to encourage students to use a more reflective approach to their learning in a programming module.  He encouraged students to use blogs as diaries to record progress, for ongoing reflection, and to receive feedback and encouragement.  Key postings were required at points in their study.  The blog accounted for 10% of marks.  91% of students participated, of which 78% made significant attempts at engagement posting regular and lengthy entries.  For the most part, there were mature and thoughtful reflections on the project.  Some students also reported gaining from reading other students blogs.  Nick gained a deeper understanding of how his students engaged with the programming task and was able to intervene and offer encouragement more often.  See the Casebook for the full case study.

Polly Wilding from Politics and International Studies (POLIS) set weekly e-tasks to encourage engagement and reflection in between classes on an MA module on Gender and Globalisation.  There were 15-20 students including mature and international students.  Typical tasks included summaries of the week’s reading, reflection on seminar activities, preparing case studies for next seminar, and reflection on assessment tasks.  Most weeks Polly did not engage directly but commented on tasks in class and sometimes asked them to read each other’s contributions.  The activity was not assessed, but she observed 80-90% engagement.  The full case study is on the Casebook.

From the case studies she has observed, Jane made the following suggestions for increasing student engagement in digital reflection:

  • Manage expectations – be clear about how much/little the tutor will participate, how frequently etc. and what the role of the tutor will be
  • Integrate – make regular reference to online activity.  Let them know it is important.
  • Provide clear instructions – students know how to use technology but they don’t know how to learn online.  They are used to being informal online.  Are you requiring adherence to academic conventions?  Do they understand what you mean by reflection?
  • Preparatory exercises – from initial levels of ensuring they have access and socializing online, to engaging in information exchange, to higher levels of learning
  • Leave room for multiple answers – where is the incentive to contribute if they all have to write the same answer to the same question, and the first 5 postings are already up?  Role play and debate are good examples of allowing multiple independent contributions.

Download the PowerPoint presentation slides.