Embedding prezi – some tests

A student of mine is reporting problems embedding a Prezi into a blog post. Here’s a quick test.

Straight from Prezi

Let’s go with the straight prezi embed code

It looks something like this

<a href="https://prezi.com/embed/8enn0a8y7qx3/?bgcolor=ffffff&#038;lock_to_path=0&#038;autoplay=0&#038;autohide_ctrls=0#">https://prezi.com/embed/8enn0a8y7qx3/?bgcolor=ffffff&#038;lock_to_path=0&#038;autoplay=0&#038;autohide_ctrls=0#</a>

And the embeded prezi should appear below


After a preview it’s obvious this doesn’t work.

The assumption being the that Prezi “embed code” isn’t liked/supported by WordPress.

The question being whether you can transform the Prezi “embed code” into something that is liked by WordPress.

Transform the Prezi “embed code”

A quick Google search embed prezi wordpress.com blog reveals this service that appears to transform the embed code.

Oh, but it looks like Prezi’s done something that might break this transformation on WordPress.com

Yep, that doesn’t appear to work.

And the same Google search above reveals this discussion which describes why.

Ways to raise visiblity of unit planning

The second assignment for the course I’m currently teaching has a second assignment where learners are required to design a unit plan that uses ICT to amplify and transform student learning. Given the nature of the learners, their backgrounds,and the curriclum most use there is some significant scope and benefit in collaboration. Not as in group work, but as in seeing what each other are doing, making comments, and drawing inspiration. The following is an attempt to figure out how to encourage this a bit more. (There are 300+ of them spread throughout Australia and a few sprinkled further afield).

Comment and suggestions are welcome. Though with short time frames, I’ll probably go ahead with whatever I decide below. Some background, the institution/course uses Moodle as the LMS. The course uses the LMS heavily. Students are also required for the course to create their own individual blog (Google “edc3100 blog” for a taste) and use Diigo initially as a group resource, but also individually.

The immediate thoughts

  1. Moodle Q&A forums
  2. Moodle database activity
  3. Blogs and Diigo

    At the moment, this appears the approach I’ll go with.

  4. A “distributive” unit plan template.

The idea is to start some initial sharing now and encourage on-going engagement over the coming weeks.

Moodle Q&A forums

Such a forum allows people to see what others have posted, but only after first posting their own thoughts. This is already used early in the unit planning process to get students demonstrating their ability to identify different types of learning objectives. This is primarily used as a type of formative assessment.

Simple to set up and works ok for the task it’s currently used for, but it’s not conducive to people keeping an eye on people’s unit planning progress. For example, if I were an early childhood educator I might want to focus only on those. It’s also not a great place for discussion. A discussion forum also isn’t their own space and isn’t integrated into the unit planning process.

Moodle database activity

Have used this in the past. Allows students to contribute certain information and also to query and search for specific information. Hence a way to focus on units that are relevant.

But not a great space for discussion. It’s not a tool the students use regularly, hence a learning curve before good use can be made. This is a problem for the course as the students have already had to climb a few learning curves. It’s also not integrated into the unit planning process.

Blogs and Diigo

Haven’t used these in combination yet. The idea would be that students:

  1. write an blog post describing their initial plans for their unit;

    e.g. talk about the year level, the learning objectives.

    Given that students (in theory) already have an OPML file imported into Feedly for their specialisations, this would generate a collection of posts that would appear in those feeds. Raising awareness.

    In theory, BIM (the Moodle module used to manage student blogs) can be set up to track whether or not students have completed written this post. Adding a bit of class management capability.

  2. bookmark that post with Diigo and tag it with the year level and codes for the content descriptors; and,

    The Australian Curriculum (which most use) has a unique code for each content descriptor in the curriculum. Using that code as a tag should make it easier to see who else is doing what you’re doing.

  3. actively search and follow those folk doing planning similar units.

A “distributive” unit plan template

This is the holy grail solution I’d love to implement, but just will not have the time.

The “distributive” view is based on this paper and the idea that learning/cognition is: situated, social, distributed, and protean.

To complete their unit plan, the students have to use a provided Word template. Using prior knowledge and the contents of the course learning paths the students are meant to fill in the template with the appropriate information. It’s a fairly standard approach and suffers from the standard problems. Mostly, the unit plan template appears to be based on a view of learning/cognition that is not all that

  1. situated;

    If the learner has a question or a problem, they have to leave the unit template and head over to the LMS or some other location to find an answer.

  2. social;

    The unit template provides no affordances for learners to share insights and experiences and for those to be visible within the unit plan the individual is working upon.

  3. distributed;

    The unit template is dumb. It doesn’t provide any guidance or do any work to help the learner complete the learning path. e.g. if the learner selects a certain collection of learning objectives, the unit plan doesn’t automatically provide a list of the commonly associated assessment criteria for those objectives. It doesn’t provide points to other units that have been written around those learning objectives or the feedback given to those units.

  4. protean.

    Learners can’t change the unit template in anyway.

Contradictions in adjectives: You can’t be consistent and optimal

One current challenge is attempting to engage productively with institutional strategic/operational planning. The big challenge in doing so is balancing the perceived importance of institutional level concerns (governance etc) with those of an individual teacher.

As part of this challenge I was reading a document summarising the aims of a rather large institutional project in ICT around learning and teaching. Yesterday I tweeted part of the strategies from that project (it starts with “Ensure the development of”

As my tweet suggests I see some contradictions in the adjectives.

Here’s a story from the dim dark past to illustrate how it’s essentially impossible to have an online student experience that is both consistent and optimal.

You shall not use single quotes!

Back in the mid-1990s CQU was a fairly traditional second generation distance education provider. As such it had a style guide for print-based materials (almost the only sort) that were distributed to students. In large part the aim of the style guide was to provide a consistent learning experience for students. One such element of the style guide was ‘You shall not use single quotes’. “Double quotes” were the only acceptable option.

So, that’s consistent.

Less than optimal

As it happens, in the mid-1990s I was the tutor in the course 85343, Machine Intelligence. The practical application of the concepts in this course were done in the Prolog programming language. Here’s a brief section of Prolog code taken from here. Can you see the problem this is going to cause in terms of consistency?

move(1,X,Y,_) :-
write(‘Move top disk from ‘),
write(‘ to ‘),

That’s write, Prolog code makes use of single quotes. The distance education study material for 85343 included sections of Prolog code. Do you know what the central distance education organisation did?

Obviously, because ‘You shall not use single quotes’ they automatically converted all of the single quotes into double quotes, printed the materials, and sent them out to students.

I don’t know whether the coordinator of the course got to proof the study material before it went out. But he was the Head of School and I’m willing to be if he did, he didn’t even think to check the style of quotes used in the Prolog code.

Consistent can’t be optimal

The lesson (for me at least) is that you can’t be consistent across all the courses in a university, while at the same stage claiming to provide an optimal learning experience for students.

This quote from Dede (2008) picks up on why this is a problem (or you can listen to the man himself)

Educational research strongly suggests that individual learning is as diverse and as complex as bonding, or certainly as eating. Yet theories of learning and philosophies about how to use ICT for instruction tend to treat learning like sleeping, as a simple activity relatively invariant across people, subject areas, and educational objectives. Current, widely used instructional technology applications have less variety in approach than a low-end fast-food restaurant. (p. 58)

And it’s not new

Here’s a quote from Jones (1996) – yep I had a bug in my bonnet about this almost 20 years ago and here I am again

With traditional on-campus teaching academics generally have complete control over what they teach and how it is presented. In CQU’s distance education model the subject matter’s presentation is controlled by DDCE. This results in significant tension between the desire to operate standardised systems for production and distribution of courseware and the desire for course designers to be creative and imaginative (Mark, 1990).

‘It’s like deja vu all over again’

There’s a paper or two here.


Dede, C. (2008). Theoretical perspectives influencing the use of information technology in teaching and learning. In J. Voogt & G. Knezek (Eds.), International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education (pp. 43–62). New York: Springer.

20 Mark, M. The Differentiation of Institutional Structures. Contemporary Issues in American Distance Education, Michael Moore (ed), 1990, pp 30-43

Metaphors and organisational change

Metaphors are useful. They reveal some of the underlying assumptions held by people. For example, this paper (Behrens, 2007) reveals that Information Systems research has a strong bias towards thinking of organisations as if they were machines. A bias that tends to invade most organisational practice. The following picks up on a couple of recent events to examine one of the metaphors commonly used in academia. It argues that this metaphor reveals some problematic assumptions.

Herding cats

The standard trope around academics and change is herding cats. Captured memorably by an EDS commercial

Of course, anyone who knows cats, knows that’s not the way to get cats to do anything.

Update: (26/06/2015) Apparently the Mythbusters have some empirical proof of how difficult this might be. As pointed to by this tweet

Obviously this difficulty was foresee by others, as (end update) is illustrated by a tweet yesterday from @SAlexander_UTS summarising a point made by a senior academic

Even this modification of the herding cats metaphor doesn’t understand that the entire metaphor is based on potentially problematic assumptions. Problematic assumptions that I have observed failing to have any impact on universities for something approaching 20 years.

I’ll focus on three.

That you know where to move the food to

The first assumption is that someone (typically senior management) know where to move the food. i.e. someone knows what is the best strategy, the best practice. This is the assumption that underpinned Mao’s four pests campaign to eliminate rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows. The sparrows ate grain meant for the people, so had to go. They were eliminated by (amongst other measures) millions of villagers heading out to bang pots and pans to continually scare sparrows so they would never land and hence die from exhaustion. The campaign was so successful that there was a locust plague.

Apparently, the sparrows also ate insects, including locusts. With most of the sparrows dead, the locusts bred leading to somewhat troubling and unintended consequences.

Change of a complex adaptive system – like a university/organisation – is very very difficult because it’s difficult for a group of people (even if they are super intelligent senior management) to understand all of the consequences of changing where the food is located.

That you can successfully move the food

Be Water Wise

The other assumption underpinning the herding cats metaphor is that you can successfully move the cat food (or herd the cats). i.e. once you’ve identified where to move the cat food to, that you are capable of picking up the cat food and moving it to the new location. At an organisational level this is very hard for any meaningful change.

For example, over the last two days I was attending a planning session for the two schools of education at my current institution (I work in one of those schools). The sessions were held in the dining room of one of the colleges on-campus. The restroom for men at this college provides a wonderful metaphor for just how difficult it is to move the cat food and illustrates what “moving the cat food” typically looks like in most universities.

As the image shows, the door into the restroom had prominently displayed a sticker promoting the idea of being water wise. Someone in the college or broader institution had identified being water wise as a good idea and was trying to herd the cats in that direction.

The only trouble is that when you entered the restroom you soon became aware of running water. As the next image shows it appears that the washer in the basin tap was shot so that tap was continually leaking. No matter how water wise I wanted to be….

Running water

When it comes to “moving the cat food” in universities. It often more closely resembles the distribution of lots of stickers, rather than effectively modifying the environment to achieve the stated goal. So an institution that is keen on Open Educational Resources runs lots of special events and creates websites espousing the benefits of open educational resources. But at the same time retains a default position that the copyright for all teaching materials created by staff remains with the university. If I want to convert my teaching resources into open educational resources, I have to ask the legal office for permission.

That the cats will follow the food

So, assuming that you can

  1. Identify the best destination for the cat food; and,
  2. Successfully move the cat food to that destination.

The assumption is that the cats will follow the food. That they will happily accept your arbitrary decision that they should eat in a new location.

Anyone who knows cats, knows that this isn’t going to work. For example.

If there is a defining characteristic of cats it is that they have a fairly high level of agency. They will decide whether or not the new destination suits. If it doesn’t, they will do something else.

For example, if you design a new standard look and feel for the institutional LMS and it is a step backwards in terms of functionality, then some academics will work around that look and feel.

It’s called task corruption.

Other alternatives

I’m a cat person (I’m also a dog person) and based on my experience there are other alternatives.

Scruff of the neck

You could take a leaf out of the species textbook and grab them by the scruff of the neck and take them where you want. This is an approach that is being taken by some management. However, it still suffers from exactly the same problems as outlined above.

Beyond those problems, it adds the additional problem of changing the relationship between you and any adult cat you try this with. Especially if you try it repeatedly.

Squirting water

If wanted the cat to stop doing the wrong thing, you could always use the squirt bottle approach. Whenever the cat does the wrong thing, you squirt water at or yell loudly or some other form of punishment.

Of course, this actually can only ever prevent the cat from doing the wrong thing, rather than take them to a new place. It also assumes you can identify the “wrong thing” to do.

But worse than that, there is an argument that it doesn’t even work and I quote

The squirt bottle technique only accomplishes three things:
  1. It creates frustration in the cat
  2. It causes the cat to become afraid of you
  3. The cat learns to wait until you aren’t around before engaging in the behavior


Winter in Toowoomba

This is Tommy (aka Son). He’s my cat/I’m his human. We’ve been together for must be almost 9 years now. Tommy can be the other side of the yard, but if I make a particular noise (and all things being equal) he will generally head my way (at his own speed). He knows that there will be a positive outcome and generally desires that outcome. He trusts me. If something in the environment changes (e.g. visitors) he may not, but in the right circumstances I might be able to get him to surface, but there are limits.

This is another approach you can take with cats. However, it still suffers from the same problems as above. It assumes that I (senior management) know where to go and can successfully get everyone there.

Surprise – let the cat(s) take you where it will

An approach that doesn’t seem to be all that much discussed is to let the cats be cats. Enjoy what they do and what they will give you. Perhaps establish a few routines and the appropriate environment, but the reason anyone owns a cat is because cats surprise and give enjoyment. Letting cats be cats.

Just a bit like organising a children’s birthday party.

What might the 3 levels of organisational culture reveal about university e-learning

I have fulfilled my organisational duty and attended and participated in a 3 hour workshop intended to achieve some level of shared vision within the organisation. As always I remain cynical about likely impact such sessions will have on the organisation and my experience of it. There was, however, some benefit in making me aware of Schein’s three levels of organisational culture (apparently from this book) and summarised in the following table (and more on wikipedia).

Schein's Model.JPG
Schein’s Model” by ShiraraeOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Three levels of culture
(Adapted from Schein, 1992, p. 24)
Level Description
1. Artifacts Visible and feelable structures and processes
Observed behaviour – difficulty to decipher
2. Espoused beliefs and values Ideals, goals, values, aspirations
Rationalisations – may or may not be congruent with behaviour and other artifacts
3. Basic underlying assumptions Unconscious, taken-for-granted beliefs and values – determine behaviour, perception, thought and feeling

An idea is that the artifacts are one avenue for exploring the espoused beliefs and the underlying assumptions that inform the organisational culture.

Hence my question, what do the artifacts associated with organisational e-learning say about the organisational culture of those institutions? What are the espoused beliefs and underlying assumptions that inform that culture? Are there any contradictions?

What follows is a quick application of this to my next task – starting the preparation of my course site for the next semester. This is a simple exercise not an in-depth analysis and certainly informed by the barest of familiarities with a very specific view of culture. But on the face of it, this exercise strikes me as as useful lens. (It would appear that @leahpmac already done some work around “culture and e-learning”. It’s a small world.)

1. Artifact – Standard course design

The artifact I need to deal with is the new look and feel for the institutional LMS. This means that every course will not only look the same, there are some expectations about what is expected to be on the course site. For my course, this means it will look something like the following

Home page

Everything at the top of the page and in the left hand column is part of the new, standardised look and feel. Everything under the “Welcome to EDC3100: ICT and Pedagogy” heading is what was copied over from the last offering of the course. Hence the “Right now:” message suggestion the course has ended. The following is what the 2014 course site looked like.

edc3100 2014

Broadly speaking the changes involved in this project were

  • Changes in the branding/look and feel.
  • More moved into the reduced banner.
    Explicit mention of the time at USQ, notifications, my courses, useful links, course administration etc moved into the banner which takes up just a bit less vertical space. These look like good moves, but the breadcrumbs continue to include the unnecessary listing of the faculty to which the course belongs. Don’t think the students care about the faculty and it takes up a fair bit of space.
  • The removal of any ability to have a right hand column.
    Only two columns, not three now.
  • AN “expand all/collapse all” option for the main content area.
    I assume this is an attempt to address the scroll of death problem with Moodle. Wonder how much of this is implemented with standard Moodle and how much local customisation?

  • The addition of highly visible menu as the first element in the left hand column.
    These appear to be divided up into two broad categories of items

    1. Links to existing Moodle features (Forums, Resources, Calendar, Participants); or,
      As the labels suggest, these all point to equivalent Moodle functionality. e.g. Forums links to the Moodle service that lists all forums etc.
    2. institutionally specific pages that are semi-integrated with institutional data sources (Study Schedule, Teaching Team, Assessment).
      The basic model for these pages is to know about institutionally specific information such as the dates associated with weeks of semester, due dates for assignments, and the staff teaching into the course. Such information is drawn from institutional databases and combined with some capability to use the Moodle HTML editor to add additional text. For example, the study schedule will fill the date for a Week 1 and teaching staff can manually edit information such as the name of the module for that week.

2. Espoused beliefs and values

As expressed in the support resources, the rationale for this new look and feel include

  • similar experience;
    The desire that students have a similar experience regardless of the course.
  • findability.
    That students are able to find the information they need easily.

The support video for the assessment tab also proposes that the assessment tab “will be very useful for your students”.

3. Assumptions

Obviously I do not know what assumptions these beliefs are based upon, but the following perhaps are not a million miles away

  • Consistency is generally a good thing for learning.
    Given the institutional strategic plan putting some significant weight to personalisation, creativity and innovation, having everything the same doesn’t seem appropriate. Insights from research around learning, teaching, and educational technology would seem to support that. e.g. some of the points from Chris Dede (Harvard Professor of Education) mentioned in this post.
  • A consistent look and feel will make information more findable.
    Wikipedia suggests that findability involves a bit more than just user interface design. Especially when the user interface design is only really helping users locate very specific bits of information. i.e. The new look and feel does make it easy for students to find the forums, assessment, study schedule, and teaching team for a course. Good. But what about the content included in the resources? More on this below in “What about the resources”.

    In short, if findability is a concern, install a search engine!

  • That it’s possible to have a consistent look and feel across the diversity of courses in an institution.
    The new look and feel does have some features that allow for flexibility. Even though this does raise questions about the consistency espoused belief. If no information is entered for assessment or study schedule the students won’t see those options in the menu. In addition, the study schedule page provides some flexibility in terms of how many columns form the study schedule and the column titles. Allowing individual courses to substitute in the language they use.
    However, there’s a limit to how far this goes. More on this below in “Grouping the weeks”.

An assumption that appears to underpin this new look and feel is that the focus is student centered. The aim is to enhance the student experience. Now that’s a good aim, perhaps the best aim. But the follow on assumption in this case is that teaching staff aren’t capable of using the online environment to enhance the student experience and that the institution needs to do something.

From 1997 through 2004 I helped design, implement and support one approach to an institution doing something about this.
Since then I’ve made the argument for this. However, there are two important points missing from the “new look and feel” at my current institution, they are

  1. the ability to opt out; and
    There will always be academics who can and wish to create their own course sites. The approach provided the opportunity for academics to do this.
  2. an adopter-focused and emergent development approach to the new look and feel.
    i.e. it’s not sufficient for a project team to design the new look and feel and roll it out. There will be inevitably problems with the look and feel and there will be some really good ideas about how to enhance it that emerge from on-going use. How students and staff are using the new look and feel needs to be closely watched and those insights used to continually develop the new look and feel to solve problems and enhance it.

The absence of these points from the new look and feel suggest that there is an underlying assumption that there is nothing to be learned from the teaching staff and their experience. It’s a prime example of the “do it to” and perhaps “do it for” paths and an apparent avoidance of the “do it with” path (Beer et al, 2014).

Interestingly, I’ve just found the following slide on Flickr that purports to represent Schein’s cognitive transformation model for analysing organisational cultures. I’m guessing this was the basis for the consultant/facilitator. What I find particularly relevant to the specific decision is the circle around the outside labelled “organisation iteratively adapts” which I see as resonating with the adopter-focused and emergent development approach mentioned above.

3 Levels of Organization Culture (Schein by MizzD, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  MizzD 

What are the limitations of the new look and feel?

The following explores the dissonances that exist between the new look and feel and the approach I use in my course.

What about the resources?

The following image is a partial screen shot of the “Resources” page for my course.


This partially illustrates that my course is designed so that each week contains a learning path. A collection of activities and resources that all students are expected to work through. The “resources” page only shows the resources, but at least it does show you that there are quite a few Moodle books amongst those resources.

A Moodle book is essentially a collection of web pages. The Moodle books are used to structure student learning around a task or some related concept. For example, the first book in Week 1 is titled “Setting up” and is designed to help the students set up Diigo, their blog and Twitter. The next book explains the first required learning task for the course – introducing themselves.

Each book is typically at least 3 or 4 web pages long. A quick visual count reveals almost 50 separate Moodle books in the learning paths. Some can cover some important concepts. Concepts that the students will wish to revisit later in the semester. In particular, some books give advice about assessment. It’s not unusual for students to ask “Where did we talk about *insert topic*“.

Nothing in the new look and feel will help students find this information.

A search engine would.

It would be nice not to have to implement this kludge again to enable the search.

Duplication and confusion

It would be interesting to find out the thinking behind promoting the “Resources” link into the menu for the new look and feel. I assume the aim (in line with the espoused beliefs above) is to make it easier for students to find the resources and that this is important for learning.

However, I wonder if it’s going to create some duplication/confusion, especially given the design of my course.

The image above shows part of the resources view for my course site, including most of the initial resources for Week 1. The following image shows the learning path for week 1.


The resources page offers essentially the same view as the learning path, but it misses two components. First, it doesn’t include the activities (e.g. the discussion forums “Share you introduction” and “Where you fill in the blanks” are missing). Second, the headings are missing. These are used to group the resources and activities into meaningful groups.

The presence of the resources link doesn’t appear to add any value to students and appears likely to create some confusion.

Grouping the weeks

Adding a study schedule page is potentially a useful addition. Something that isn’t present on may sites. Some students may find this useful. That’s the reason why I’ve had a study schedule in my course site since I started.

Take a look at the “Course content” box in the middle of the page below. Do you see the link “study schedule”?

Home page

The following image shows part of the study schedule I’ve created. A problem I have is that there are some features of this study schedule that the new look and feel won’t support

  1. grouping weeks by modules;
    In the following, Module 2 includes weeks 4, 5 and 6. The new look and feel doesn’t support this grouping. This is problematic because the course is designed to have four modules and it’s a good thing that the study schedule clearly shows these modules.
  2. assignments as separate rows; and
    The submission date for assignment 2 is quite clearly shown in the study schedule by an entire row of a different colour. The new look and feel’s schedule embeds this as part of the a cell in the week’s row.

Not major problems, but illustrations of how a consistent approach to course design breaks down when it meets the design decisions made by individual teachers. If those design decisions are bad, there may not be a problem. But what if those design decisions are valid? Is it appropriate that those design decisions should be thrown our and the course revert to the norm?


Limited assessment information

Just under “Study Schedule” in the “Course Content” box above you will see a link labelled “Assessment”. i.e. my course site already provide a range of information about course assessment. This is again a case of the new look and feel duplicating what I already do, and doing so in a way that loses functionality.

The new look and feel assessment page does have some advantages. For example, it allows you to create cohort specific assessment information that is only seen by that cohort. The trouble is that I don’t do that in my course. So no value for me.

The new look and feel’s approach to assessment creates a single page for assessment. Everything about assessment for a course on a single page. This is a problem as the following shows.


Can you see the “Table of Contents” heading in the left-hand menu? That’s the start of the list of information I provide on Assessment. It includes the following

  • Assessment (1 and a bit pages long)
    Overview of course assessment, due dates, percentage etc. What you see in the above image.
  • How to request an extension (almost 2 pages long)
    Some FAQs about extensions and details of how to ask.
  • Learning Journal (almost 3 pages long)
    The learning journal is a core part of the learning design (and assessment) of the course. It’s new to students, this section offers an explanation of the learning journal.
  • Problems with the learning journal (about 2 pages long)
    FAQs about the learning journal, particular common problems.
  • Assignment 1 (3 and a bit pages)
    Detailed description of assignment including submission process and the rubrics.
  • Assignment 1 Questions and Answers Video (less than page)
    A video/screen cast answering FAQs about assignment 1.
  • How to submit assignment 1 (less than a page)
    Another video showing how to submit the assignment.
  • Assignment 2 (about 3 pages)
    Detailed description of assignment including submission process and the rubrics.
  • Assignment 3 (about 4 pages)
    Detailed description of assignment including submission process and the rubrics.
  • But I’m not going on Professional Experience? (a page and a bit)
    Assignment 3 is linked to professional experience. In some circumstances students aren’t going on Professional Experience. Describes what those students do.
  • How to query the marking (a page)
    Describes the process students should use to query the marking of their assignments.

That’s a total of about 22 pages (as you might see the new look and feel uses a larger font and white space) of information that under the new look and feel would appear to have to go onto a single page. Horrendous for me to create and worse for students to actually find and use any information.

With the above I use the Moodle book plugin to create and manage this collection of information. The Moodle book plugin also provides a nice way for students to print this information. Either the entire book or selected “chapters”. This “nice way” includes removing all of the additional web interface elements.

The new look and feel does attempt to implement something like this “nice way”, however, it’s a generic web approach that leads to overlapping of real content with basic web navigation (at least on my Mac).

Problems with Moodle books

Exploring the difference with assessment has revealed some additional problems around the use of Moodle books and the new look and feel. The following image is that Assessment overview page in the old course site as it would be seen by students.

Old Assessment

In the above image, look for the following components

  1. Table of contents; and
    This is in the top left hand corner. It’s the ToC for the Assessment book and shows all of the components. It aids findability. Students can see all of the chapters in the book.
  2. Book administration.
    This is in the bottom right hand corner. It has two important links: “Print book” and “Print this chapter”. These are the links that allow students to print versions of the book/chapters with just the content (the middle column).

Now, look below. This is the same assessment book in the new look and feel. What do you notice about the “Table of Contents” and the “Book administration” components?


The two problems that I see are

  1. Table of contents is partially below the fold; and
    Due to the new look and feel’s use of a larger font, more whitespace, a single column on the left-hand side, and retaining the standard menu at the top of the left-hand menu the Table of Contents for the book gets pushed down. So that large parts of it aren’t visible.
    I should note that I have a large monitor and keep my browser windows open in a longer format than most. There will be some students for whom the Table of Contents will not be visible.
  2. There is no “book adminsitration” component.
    Actually, there is. It just doesn’t appear in the image above and I’ve only just know found where it is located after a concerted effort to find it. i.e. I knew it had to be there, so I went looking. The following image shows the “Forums” page in the new look and feel. IN the black bar at the top of the page you should be able to see “Forum administration”. When viewing a Moodle book this is where “Book administration” will appear.


What do I need to do?

Based on the above, here’s a list of questions to answer

  1. Can I change the study schedule and assessment links to my existing approaches?
    Happy to stay with the menu and the new look and feel, but would prefer that the menu link to the relevant Moodle books.
  2. Can I remove the resources link?
    I don’t think it adds any value in my course and is potentially going to cause confusion. So can I remove it.
    Question: I wonder whether the organisation has done any analysis of student usage of the course sites over Semester 3 (when they’ve been using the new look and feel)?
  3. Can I implement a macro/API system to insert USQ information?
    The one really useful addition to the new look and feel is the integration with USQ systems to pull information (e.g. dates for each week, assignment due dates etc). The problem is that this functionality is only available within the assessment and study schedule features from the new look and feel. As above, I don’t want to use these.
    However, it would be really useful if there were a combination API and course site wide macro facility that would allow me to enter something like the following in the HTML for my course

    Assignment 1 due: &amp;lt;div class=&amp;quot;assignment_1_due_date&amp;quot; course=&amp;quot;edc3100&amp;quot; offering=&amp;quot;2015_1&amp;quot;&amp;gt;&amp;lt;/div&amp;gt;

    and have it automagically replaced with the appropriate due date.

    The API is a step too far, but some kludges with javascript might make the macro possible.

  4. How best to explain to students how to best use Moodle books in the new look and feel?
  5. What can and might I do around providing a search engine for the course site?
    I feel this may be a step too far for this year.

If I am to be a good organisational citizen, then in answering the above questions I should be raising these questions through the formal support mechanisms and waiting for them to identify whether these are possible and allowed. (I fear that the latter is more likely to be the real problem).

Of course, there are also the possibility that some of the above can be implemented through a bit of bricolage.

Lessons from Schein’s 3 level of organisational culture?

Arguably I’ve established above that organisational culture contains strong assumptions about consistency equating to findability. That it is possible to employ a consistent approach across all courses in an entire university. I think I’ve established from the above that there are problems with these assumptions. I also think that I’ve illustrated that the new look and feel is (or at least appears to be) suffering from the absence of on-going iterative development. i.e. it’s not learning from itself.

In the workshop a slide was handed around that showed artifacts, espoused beliefs, and assumptions as three vertically arranged boxes (typical Powerpoint). Between assumptions and espoused beliefs, and espoused beliefs and artifacts, there were two arrows, each pointing from one box to the other. The suggestion being that assumptions influence espoused beliefs and espoused beliefs influence assumptions. Similarly for artifacts.

As we’ve argued in this paper, I believe that the organisation works on the assumption that its digital artifacts – such as the new look and feel – are established. i.e. they can’t be changed by anyone very easily and certainly not be anyone who hasn’t been approved via the appropriate governance structure. Hence the arrow suggesting that anything should be changing the artifact is somewhat attenuated when it comes to digital artifacts in enterprises.

However, as we’ve argued in another paper digital technologies are protean. They are flexible and changeable. Some more so than others. For example, phone apps are hard to change unless you’re the developer. But the web environment is definitely protean. Suggesting that the ability to change the artifact is possible from cultures that don’t hold the assumptions or espoused beliefs of the dominant organisational culture.

Of course, the problem is making changes to artifacts set up with the assumption that they are established. Can be harder than you think.