#ocTEL retrospective and looking forward

Anyone who looked at this blog before April (ok, so that’s probably my mum and me) might be wondering why a copy-editor and proofreader has been posting about something called ocTEL for the last few months.

As well as working as a freelance editor, my day job is publishing manager for a large business school. Over the last year or two the focus of my job has moved from traditional publishing to looking at how people learn through technology, and what resources (published or otherwise) we could produce to help them.  So I signed up for the open course in technology-enhanced learning (ocTEL) a free, open course run by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT).

Looking back at my first post, apparently I signed up ‘to try and engage with a community of practice, to see what’s happening in the world of digital education and hopefully to get a few new ideas’. I’m not sure I’ve engaged fully with a community of practice, but the other two have definitely happened.

The things that worked well for me in ocTEL were:

  • The learning resources and the way I was guided through them (the ‘if you only do one thing this week’ option kept me engaged when otherwise I might have dropped out due to time pressures).
  • Creating a personal learning blog, and bookmarking interesting resources via hyperlinks, gives me a record that I can refer back to.
  • Connections with others – mostly by following interesting people on Twitter.
  • The provision of a broad range of communication options (forums, email, blog posts, social networking).
  • The webinars, which really put the learning resources in context and were useful ‘thought composting time’, to borrow Imogen Bertin‘s nifty phrase. I watched most of them via the recordings, but managed to join in live in week 10.

These things could have gone better:

  • The initial email deluge as hundreds of delegates introduced themselves (and hundreds more compained about how many emails they were receiving).
  • The broad range of forum topics, with some students creating their own subtopics or groups, ended up giving the forums a slightly fragmented feel.
  • I agreed with the week 10 webinar attendees who suggested that a reading week in the middle of the course would have helped struggling students catch up.
  • The onus was on the students to create their own peer-group connections, but perhaps more could have been done to facilitate this – maybe a group assessment or project would have helped?

MOOCs (massive open online courses) have many downsides – mainly their messiness and the lack of a transferable qualification at the end of it. But ocTEL has opened up a route into technology-enhanced learning for me.

In September I’ll start a part-time MSc in digital education at the University of Edinburgh. I’m seeing this not so much as a career change as a natural development: the world of publishing is moving away from printed texts into e-books and mobile technology, and for many publishers the role of editor has now changed utterly (or been eliminated altogether). I’m hoping the MSc will enable me to create educational resources – whether they’re enhanced e-books, videos, online games or anything else – that are engaging, student-centred and based on sound principles of research.

Going back into education (albeit part-time) at the age of 36 is a bit of a daunting prospect, but exciting nonetheless.

I wonder if the student union still does 69p vodkas on a Friday night?


2 Responses to #ocTEL retrospective and looking forward

  1. David Jennings says:

    Hi Stuart, Thanks for this useful round-up. It’s really interesting to get the perspective of someone who is a little outside the notional target audience for the course. All your comments are well made. Glad to hear there are some things you felt worked well.

    Some of the areas for improvement you mention are easier to address than others. For instance, we’ve noted the popularity of and demand for group projects, but need to have a good think about how best to design and implement this.

    In terms of engaging (longer term) with a community of practice around technology-enhanced learning, you could do worse than join ALT – lots of opportunities there! (disclaimer: I’m not on the staff there but am a paid consultant)

  2. Stuart says:

    Thanks David, and congratulations on your involvement in an excellent course. Membership of the ALT may well be my next port of call!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *