First pilot underway!
The First Week
Well we have had the first week of our first pilot of ELFADA. No time to turn round or to think about anything else this week. However I have pulled together some of the thoughts from each day, to give a feeling for how it is going so far.
We have nine students in this; the first of two pilot runs. The plan allows for a maximum of 20 in each run but I had a preference for a lower number particularly for this first pilot and I feel that 9 is a good number. We also have a wider Certificate level range than originally intended as some of those wishing to participate were placed at Cert III CGEA level.
The format for the four weeks (four days a week) of intensive online activity is this – each day:
- 9:00 am to 11:00 am (2 hours) synchronous virtual classroom session (with a 5 min leg stretch break)
- 11:00 am to 2:30 pm (3 hours) asynchronous independent work with drop-in support available as needed via virtual classroom
- 2:30 (up to 30 min) reconvene in virtual class for a review of the day
- Daily activity is guided by a “Today’s Tasks” doc, with references to the CGEA website (LMS) for resources and templates & to the course blog for “how to”, supporting and model blog posts
First fleeting impressions!
Wow! We just had the first day of our first pilot run of Extraordinary Learning For A Digital Age (ELFADA). So exciting! I am still “coming down” after a very demanding day of almost 6 hours in virtual classroom. My colleagues Micky (Lina) and Phil and myself were all online for the start. The students showed great engagement – lots of participation in activities. Very busy in the middle part of the day! Lots of student questions – with great use of the drop-in option.
Phil did a great job with Learning Plans – this part of the CGEA is one that I really don’t enjoy teaching! I have no idea why I dislike it but I do! Lots of issues with the LMS today and also one student with computer issues. Again having Phil in the team with his computer expertise was very useful as he spent some timeworking virtually with the student to solve the issues.
I was apprehensive about today. there were a lot of tasks around customising blogs and writing an initial very short post and I was unsure that these would all be completed. Those concerns were unfounded. Everyone made a good start customising their blogs with theme, avatar and widgets and also writing that first short post. These ranged from a single sentence to several paragraphs. Length is unimportant at this stage – a first blogpost is a huge watershed!
A catch-up and review day. Micky was able to join us for the morning session where we collected some feedback on the course so far. Today had a focus on Learning Plan reviews and on catching up on any parts of tasks uncompleted earlier. Phil did Learning Plan reviews with each student individually and also worked with them to identify missed tasks.
How did it go
On the whole very well! The students are excited about blogs and several who have missed parts of days have worked after class to complete activities.
We feel that the combination of the availability of a lecturer in virtual class for students to drop-in and quick responses to email queries is effective in helping to maintain engaagement and momentum. This was reflected in student feedback with all seven of those in virtual class on Thursday morning responding yes to a virtual class poll about whether this was useful
We did a lot of “tweaking” in a small way throughout with some completely unplanned bits being included. The “Daily Tasks” sheets are also working very well. The inclusion of these was not in the original design – I originally intended to just have web-based Daily Tasks lists but I felt that having to keep accessing the website fo rthis during the day could pose problems for some learners and for some computer configurations. So I am producing a pdf file for each day’s tasks. This is uploaded to the CGEA website, it can also can be sent via the virtual classroom file transfer window and by email. The students then have the choice of using it on screen or printing it (if they have a printer and this is their preference).
We had some small issues mostly with the CGEA website (LMS). Our state training dept is changing from CE8 to Blackboard 9 and our Institute is one of the last to change. Migration of the CGEA course did not go well because of its size and complexity so it was not ready for use in the project and we are still using the old CE8 course, the platform for which is no longer being fully maintained.
We have made a good start. Now we need to maintain the momentum and also start recruiting for our second pilot run. This will necessitate a juggling act because the issues that we had with staff sickness and the slow administrative process to get a replacement on-board have meant that we are running late and so will have reduced time between the end of this pilot and the start of the second one. However we hope to start circulating information for the second pilot next week.