Student Views on CMSs

Interesting articles (lost the referrer, sorry) today, A Student View of CMS by Ryan Tansey.

As it happens yesterday I was on the ground participating in a research study regarding our CMS. I interviewed 30 students (90% undergrad and all on campus) and the overwhelming response I got was not dissimilar to the views expressed in this article.

In the article Tansey says:

“a few of my friends are in classes where the professors are using more and more of the features. In some ways these students have a big advantage in those classes because they can tap all the resources the professor has posted.”

Which pretty much reflects many of the conversations I had yesterday, which went like this:

Me: So what does [CMS} mean to you and how is it used in your course for teaching?

Student: Oh, it’s all about lecture notes and resources and it’s really good. Yeh I can get all those resources and then sometimes around assignment time I can talk to people about that. Yeh, it’s great, keep it up.

Which raises some pretty serious issues with me, none of which I can deal with properly at the moment but which are there anyway:

– Pretty much every student knows about our CMS
– Every student is very or moreorless happy with our CMS (bar technical performance issues)
– Virtually nobody (undergraduate) uses it to communicate for anything more than occasional, assignment or administration focussed stuff

So, what’s the problem, why does every discussion board I encounter fill me with depression and why do I want to grab a hammer after a few minutes working with this system, after all the ‘clients’ (ick) are happy, no?

And it’s probably worth adding that from the many conversations I have around campus many teachers are also happy(ish) with this state of affairs and most certainly not keen to kick off communication online in a particularly big way.

And it’s also interesting that the results from a recent survey which included off campus students (we’re 40% + distance) pretty much came up with the same findings that I experienced yesterday.


mBlog Nightmare

From Anol at Soulsoup (which is now a 404!):

mBlog, the free MT based blog hosting service where my SoulSoup was hosted discontinued their service without any notice! I don’t have any backup of my last 8 months of blogposts (more than 450 posts).

There is no way I can contact them – I mailed mBlog support – and that bounced.

SoulSoup along with many other blogs right now in deep soup.”

Ick, horrible, no notice and now the cheeky buggers say:

“A number of requests from our members have prompted us to offer a restoration service at a nominal fee.”

Which basically means that they’re holding your blog to ransom… bloody hell! If they’d given their users a few days notice they could at least have shifted their content.

Terrible stuff, the content should be made freely available to all bloggers who want to export it.

(I wonder to what degree MT are at fault here too, the notice on the mBlog homepage seems to indicate that they might be)

Innovate Articles

Thought I’d just do a quick run through of some of the innovate (title graphic small ‘i’, text big ‘I’ – I know about those problems ;o) articles I found of interest, now much as I was singing it’s praises yesterday having a good look at it (past the registration which Stephen rightly gets annoyed about… especially with the opt-out sponsorship!) am not that impressed with the discuss articles function (dull, different page, board-esque effort) and the lack of trackback… and I mean, you’ve logged in, where’s the use of your email in the ‘update me of future articles / future comments on this article / responses to my comment’ etc. Hmmmmm.

Anyway, Chris Dede is a very interesting interviewee but I’m not sure I agree with his first two future ‘interfaces’ whatsoever. To speculate that education will be revolutionised through the availability of content is kinda missing the point if you ask me, we have enough content already and, um, it didn’t happen through TV did it? Equally troublesome is the belief that we will vicariously conduct ourselves with digital avatars but his third, where we are essentially ourselves, the net is about communication and we’re just more hooked up into it sounds about right. Again though, ’tis not about content… it’s about communication, promise :o)

Joel Forman is from a similar school of thought (perhaps) and sees video games as part of or giving rise to an ‘instructional revolution’ of sorts. This paper, Video Game Studies and the Emerging Instructional Revolution is interesting in that I think that games, especially online, will play a larger and larger role in society and to learn about some of the fields in which this is happening is great. However, again I think this misses the point… games only succeed in a learning context if they are between people, it is the social and cognitive aspects of them that impact on people and you can make your simulations as interactive and get them “to adjust themselves to the learning styles, processing speeds, and skill levels of individual users” but you just will not be able to do anything that even borders on the value of a conversation or an interplay of people. The most valuable stuff to come out of this will be the serendipitous encounters learners make while scooting round their virtual worlds. Sorry.

Finally Jonathan Maybaum contributes a straightforward and valuable perspective on enterprise vs. individual web publishing in Web Publishing for the Individual, Not the Enterprise. In what amounts essentially to an examination of the potentials and practices of institutions operating with enterprise based CMSs (i.e. WebCT) and those using (mostly) decentralised applications such as (in this case) UMSitemaker he finds that with the latter the “success of this system is affirmed by the rate and scope of its adoption (i.e., across virtually all major units at UM), as well as by the rich variety of creative purposes for which it has been used.” Now how he got around the ifs and buts at the start of the article is a mystery to me ;o)

Technology administrators at academic institutions strive to produce Web sites that have a consistent look and feel. but… Individual faculty members and students need the freedom to express themselves creatively.
Public Web sites are necessary to support missions such as community relations, dissemination of scholarly output, and recruitment of faculty members, students, and staff. but… Private Web sites are needed to support research collaborations, the selective sharing of copyrighted materials, and the delivery of personalized data and services.
Novice users need a system that is simple enough for them make Web sites with hardly any training. but… More advanced users need a system that is flexible enough for them to make Web sites with few limits.
Central administrators need to be able to limit resource utilization and enforce policies. but… Local support staff need enough authority to be able to help their users expeditiously

A New Australian National Anthem

After the depressing events of Saturday (via email) we have a new anonymously penned version of the national anthem (here’s the tune if you’d like to hum along):

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we have tasted greed;
Our interest rates mean more to us,
Than mere humanity;
Our land abounds with credit cards
And John Howard took us there;
Don’t stop to count as your debts mount,
Advance Australia fair!

Don’t stop to count as your debts mount,
“Advance Australia fair!”

While refugees from terror sail’d,
To trace wide oceans o’er,
To Iraq with Little John we went,
To start a bloody war.
The sick, the old have all been sold,
Our children’s future care;
They’re all worth nowt, so rise and shout,
Advance Australia fair!
They’re all worth nowt, so rise and shout,
“Advance Australia fair!”

PowerPoint broadcasts… actually seem to work

Am playing around with non-synchronous audio visual presentation tools at the moment. To my great surprise the PowerPoint (2002) broadcast tool isn’t that bad (IE only, ahem) & I like the way you can easily do a webcam with it. In an ideal world I’d be able to use Breeze for PowerPoints but ho hum…

I’m after this as I’m creating a presentation to be given by a colleague in her absence, naturally these have got huge potential for online lectures too though!

I’ve kind of figured out that live broadcasting isn’t really going to happen for me at the moment without considerable technical sophistication / paying someone a fair bit and podcasting is all well and good but what I really need is an easy way for lecturers to, well, lecture (visual clues and all) online so people can retrieve them later, and loathe that I am to say it PP seems to have a strong case… or is there anything else?

Oh OK, if you’ve got IE then here’s a pretty terrible demo [link removed for anonymity purposes] of me trying it out this morning, don’t laugh, please :o)

Goodbye Radio

So, goodbye beloved Radio so simple and effective a launching pad into this blogging world and yet so disturbing and aggravating a long term partner.

I will most certainly miss your cosy text editor, your simplest of category postings and your solid desktop feeling. However, I don’t mean to be harsh, but your horrible habit of not posting and giving me TCP (??) errors, the immense amount of time your comment system took to load, the sheer lack of functionality which accompanied the sheer brilliance of your aggregator and the fact that if my laptop went, then so did you… it all did for you in the end.

Granted I probably couldn’t or wouldn’t have even got started without you but there comes a time when a child must declare himself independent of his cumbersome guardians ;o) So onto WordPress I go, I wonder how we will fare my sweet?

The WHAT of Blogging

Good post at Blogsperiment entitled ‘The WHAT of Blogging’. Looks whether blogs need a clear purpose, especially in course blogging… which is a pretty important question if you ask me. Includes a very good overview of several teachers thoughts and findings when it comes to the practicalities of getting your learners blogging.

is a good lookin’ new edublog too! I recommend you give it a looksee.

Have a nice weekend :o)