Does branding the LMS hurt learning

The LMS used by my institution is Moodle, but the institution has “branded” it as “Study Desk”. Meaning students and teachers talk about finding X on the “Study Desk”. They don’t talk about finding X on Moodle. The following suggests that this branding of the LMS may actually hurt learning.

Update: Via twitter @georgekroner mentioned his post that has some stats on what institutions are branding their LMS.

Google the name (information literacy?)

The biggest course I teach is aimed at helping pre-service teachers develop knowledge and skills around using digital technology to enhance and transform their students’ learning. Early on in the course a primary goal is to help the students develop the skill/literacy to solve their own digital technology problems. The idea is that we can’t train them on all the technologies they might come across (give them fish), we can only help them learn new technologies and solve their own problems (teach them how to fish).

A key part of that process is the “Tech support cheat sheet” from XKCD. A cheat sheet that summarises what “computer experts” tend to do. One of the key steps is

Google the name of the program plus a few words related to what you want to do. Follow any instructions.

How do you “Google the name of the program” if the institution has branded the LMS?

Does branding the LMS mean that students and teachers don’t know “the name of the program”?

Does this prevent them from following the tech cheat sheet?

What impact does this have on their learning?

A brief investigation

Early in the year I was noticing that a few students were having problems with “Google the name”, so I set an option activity that asked them to create a “technology record”. i.e. a record the names of all the technology that they are using. The idea is that having a record of the technology names can help solving problems. I included in that “technology record” that they specify the name of the software that provides the “Study Desk”.

There were 40 (out of ~300) responses including

  • 10 that identified uconnect, the institutional portal;
  • 8 that weren’t sure;
  • 8 that didn’t provide an answer for the Study Desk question;
  • 4 that identified their web browser;
  • 4 that firmly identified Moodle;
  • 3 that identified Moodle but weren’t sure;
  • 2 answered with the URL – http://usqstudydesk.usq.edu.au;

20% of the respondents were able to identify Moodle.

These are 3rd year students. Almost all will have completed at least 16 courses using Moodle. These are students completing an optional activity indicating perhaps a slightly greater motivation to do well/learn. A quick reveal that most of the students have a GPA above 5.

The still don’t know the name of the LMS.

I wonder how many teaching staff know the name of the LMS?

Does this hurt learning?

Perhaps if everything works with the LMS then this doesn’t create any problem. But if the students wish to engage with social and information networks beyond the institution, they don’t know the common name for the object they want to talk about. That has to hurt learning.

I imagine that there are librarians and others who can point to research identifying the inability to know the correct search term hurts search.

What do you think? Does branding the LMS hurt learning?

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

https://prezi.com/embed/8enn0a8y7qx3/?bgcolor=ffffff&lock_to_path=0&autoplay=0&autohide_ctrls=0#

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.