Digital technology and ongoing learning

“Learning is understood as the process of using a prior interpretation to construe a new, or revised interpretation of the meaning of one’s experience in order to guide future action (Mezirow 1996, p. 162). Applying Mezirow’s definition into practice, this portfolio discusses using a range of digital technologies which I have applied to achieve one of the learning outcomes for a subject that I am the learning facilitator at Torrens University: Business Events in a Global Context. From picking one of these objectives, this portfolio will describe how I would have previously addressed this learning outcome, prior to drawing on specific digital technologies. The portfolio will conclude with what specific technologies have worked, based on class feedback, or relevant literature to support achieving learning outcomes for the class.


Part of the subject descriptor for Business Events in a Global Context (BEG 609) is to develop students’ “knowledge, skills and abilities to astutely examine the global economic, social, political and environmental influences impacting stakeholders and affiliated Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibition associations” (BMIHS, 2020). One of the learning outcomes to achieve part of the subject descriptor for understanding the impacts associated with Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) is documented below in Diagram A.


Diagram A: BEG 609 Learning Outcomes

From the learning outcome, an excerpt from the students first assessment for BEG 609 is in Diagram B below:


Diagram B: BEG 609 assessment excerpt.

To facilitate this subject learning objective and excerpt from the assessment in a face-to-face environment, our class adopted a Heutagogy learning model, one where I gave less instructions as a learning facilitator and the student was responsible for driving self-learning. In essence, this was a “mini society, a community of learners engaged in activity, discourse, interpretation, justification and reflection.” (Fosnot, 2005, para. 15). Based on this learning model, I delivered a lecture which went for approximately an hour, sharing a range of theory and practice how events have a positive and negative effects in our society.


In our tutorial shortly after, I embarked on a series of brainstorming activities as a class. One of the activities involved creating a future mega event - a world exhibition. The reason I created a future event was the first assessment asked for an event that had been held in the last five years. Using the slide prepared in Diagram C below, I would breakout the class into groups of four and delegate a category each.


Diagram C: The whiteboard used to populate discussions on Blackboard.

I requested each group have a ten-to-fifteen-minute discussion and report back to the rest of the class their findings on potential event impacts for each category and populate the slide. The findings from each group would be collectively shared and linked back to the lecture, class learnings, or academic references. I also encouraged students to read the weekly references to assist their assessment, plus reaching learning outcomes for the week and subject.


When the pandemic struck and my class moved online, I continued to facilitate the same learning exercises online, using Torren’s University’s online platform Blackboard. The only difference was a combination of blended learning with a pre-recorded lecture and a live tutorial. Based on observation, plus class feedback, one of the challenges I found achieving learning outcomes in online tutorials getting other class members to actively participate. I observed about of students were quiet, or reluctant to talk. I even questioned if some were actually at their screen and simply present for the purpose of attendance. Seeking class feedback, some students confided the experience online was not the same as the class. A problem with the heutagogy is that it is partly based on connectivism, a theory which is “based upon….learning and knowledge resting in a diversity of opinions….and a process of connecting specialised nodes or information sources (Bower, 2017, pp. 47 – 48). Without those diversity of opinions being shared, my concern was the community of practice the students were building in class were weakening on online learning platforms, compared to face to face.


Evans (2002), identifies reflective practice as the quest through a relentless struggle to eradicate identified deficiencies and inadequacies. With the benefit of hindsight, there are a few solutions I would implement to address this learning outcome.


First, I would not use Blackboard for pre-recorded lectures, or tutorials. Unfortunately, it is the University’s online learning platform, however Blackboard compromises the definition of connectivism. For example – slides could only be uploaded in .PDF format, with no capability for artificial intelligence, websites, share videos, content, sync to mobile devices, or plug ins linked to social media platforms. Blackboard is a web participation software born in 2001 as part of Web 2.0 (Reilly, 2009). The problem lied that the University was using a program built over a decade ago but could not accommodate advances in technology that Flat World Business (2021) identified as part of Web 4.0 devices that connect in the real and virtual world, and in real-time.


The reason for this is because of needing to view participants, or student’s perspective. To facilitate successful online learning outcomes, Salmon (2021) suggests that learners need to be supported through a structured and/or paced programme of e-tivities, as part of the five-stage on-line learning process described further in Diagram D. The first element of this is having systems which are user friendly and accessible for the learner.


Diagram D: Salmon's five stage e-learning model

Turning the attention back to the learning outcome and the technology, I would use Web 4.0 technologies such as Microsoft Teams, or Zoom – platforms which are autonomous, proactive, content-exploring, collaborative technologies (IGI Global, 2021). For example, with either of these platforms, I have the ability to share screens, internet sites, play videos and audio. Of the two platforms, the preference would be using Microsoft Teams, because Zoom only allows a forty-minute session with a free account.


The other critical learning outcome achieved with platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams is they are autonomous, proactive technologies. For example, on Blackboard, the problem I faced was participants may use the whiteboard to write down some of their answers, but if I scrolled between slides, the content would disappear. Ideally, I would like to use a platform like Padlet which allows all students to write at the same time, but a free account limits the user to publishing only up to three padlets at one time. Access to the technology is limited, which compromises the theory behind Salmon’s five stage model. The University should hold a license with unlimited usage for all parties.


Aside from using progressive interactive technologies to facilitate online learning outcomes, the next element of achieving the desired learning objectives would be changing how I facilitate the tutorial, based on the Community of Inquiry (CoI) model. As Steele (2021) suggests, states a CoI offers good pointers for collaborative learning and engaging learning activities, with three simultaneous elements of presence for teaching, social, and cognitive for meaningful online learning, as described in Diagram E below.


Diagram E: Community of Inquiry - an online teaching framework


Setting the climate from a teaching presence, I would use technology such as mentimeter to raise any questions after the lecture to assist in planning the online tutorial. From a social presence, using this model encourages learners to collaborate offline. Mentimeter allows everyone to see each other’s questions, plus rank ideas of importance. It also assists the learning facilitator from a teaching presence to have meaningful discussions that exchanges information, gives students new ideas and assists in achieving the learning outcome for the class, assessment and subject, as per Diagram E below.


Diagram E: Example of using Mentimeter after a tutorial

Applying the CoI Model is also consistent with two of Salmon’s elements of the five-stage model for online learning - information exchanging and online socialisation. Reason being, mentimeter facilitate discussions, questions and learnings from the lecture, but it does not address everything. I would also apply another digital technology – Kahoot to get the students to drive the type of event they wish to discuss prior to the tutorial commencing, rather than my original problem of creating an event (a world expo) and not having all learners engaged. Applying the CoI and Salmon theories, let the learners be connected and motivated to attend the tutorial by influencing what content is discussed, as per Diagram F below.


Diagram F: Kahoot


Applied to BEG609, Kahoot gives the ability for online learners to select the mega event they wish to examine the social, economic, cultural and environmental effects of in further detail. For example, a world expo is a technological fair, but other learners may be interested in sport, politics or religion. Using a colour code choice, the majority of class can influence the content they wish to participate in class.


A benefit of using these technologies is learning activities are constructively aligned and designed “to engage students to optimise their chances of achieving those outcomes, plus the assessment tasks are designed to enable clear judgments as to how well those outcomes have been attained (Biggs, 2014, pp. 5-6).”


Aside from constructing activities aligned towards learning outcomes, when information was sourced or exchanged during a tutorial, a frustration for me was some students did not cite, or reference where their information sources were derived. This extended to some of the assessments. To rectify this anomaly, as part of every session I would include a link to a reference generator, such as Scribber (Diagram G), which would remind everyone of their obligations, particularly for academic referencing in their assessments to justify where their information sources, ideas, or theories derived from.


Diagram G: Scribber


Reverting to the true definition of connectivism, another suggestion I make at the end of class is if anyone had any queries, to contact me via e-mail. Applying the technology used such as Mentimeter and Kahoot to facilitate learning and discussion, I would also set up a class chat thread on a mobile device, such as What’s App. As the Prism Institute discusses (2021), smartphones have made it possible to have artificial intelligence, chat threads, respond to emails without having to rely upon our desktops or laptops. In addition, as per the true definition of connectivism, it gives everyone another platform to share information, exchange ideas and have the social, cognitive and teaching presence to strengthen and grow the CoI for BEG 609.


Digital platforms are constantly growing and evolving. As a learning facilitator, applying digital technologies is about embracing change, being responsive to learner needs and facilitating flexible, interactive class content, exercises, discussions, plus theory that meets shared learning objectives each class and for the subject overall. The journey to date has been a rewarding one, whereby I have been able to apply the learnings and theories learned in this subject for the benefit of not only enhancing a learning outcome for BEG 609, but also the learning experience for everyone involved in the subject.



REFERENCES


Blue Mountains International Hotel School (BMIHS)(2020), BEG 609 Subject Guide, retrieved from Blackboard https://learn-ap-southeast-2-prod-fleet01-xythos.content.blackboardcdn.com/5c07149a959f5/20011384?X-Blackboard-Expiration=1619254800000&X-Blackboard-Signature=n8hPb1OT9Neu%2FUQd20W8mlMh9ucmOU5ch7ciizF1bEQ%3D&X-Blackboard-Client-Id=506568&response-cache-control=private%2C%20max-age%3D21600&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%2A%3DUTF-8%27%27BEG609%2520Business%2520Events%2520in%2520a%2520Global%2520Context_Subject%2520Outline.pdf&response-content-type=application%2Fpdf&X-Amz-Algorithm=AWS4-HMAC-SHA256&X-Amz-Date=20210424T030000Z&X-Amz-SignedHeaders=host&X-Amz-Expires=21600&X-Amz-Credential=AKIAYDKQORRYZBCCQFY5%2F20210424%2Fap-southeast-2%2Fs3%2Faws4_request&X-Amz-Signature=7f6cf5b2a6533132239a19ce91096c03377c98a97589fda90407d3e2ade2318d


Bower, M. (2017). Design of Technology-Enhanced Learning: Integrating Research and Practice: Vol. First edition. Emerald Publishing Limited, United Kingdom


Evans, L (2002). Reflective Practise in Educational Research: Developing Advanced Skills, Continum, London.


Fosnot, C.W (2005). Constructivism: Theory, Perspectives and Practice, (3rd ed.) Teachers College Press, New York. https://www.google.com.au/books/edition/Constructivism/-pIbAgAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=constructivism+definition+learning&printsec=frontcover


IGI Global (2021), What is Web 4.0? Retrieved from: https://www.igi-global.com/dictionary/overview-differentiation-evolutionary-steps-web/35103


Mezirow, J. (1996). Contemporary Paradigms of Learning. Adult Education Quarterly, 46, pp. 158–172


O’Rielly, T (2009), What is Web 2.0?, O’Rielly Media.


Prizm Institute (2021), 6 Reasons Smartphones Have Replaced Computers and Laptops, retrieved from: https://www.prizminstitute.com/blog/reasons-smartphones-have-replaced-computers-and-laptops/


Salmon, G., (2021), The Five Stage Model. Retrieved from https://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html


Steele, A (2021), Community of Inquiry: An Online Teaching Framework, retrieved from: http://edtech.hct.ac.ae/2019/04/12/community-inquiry-online-teaching-framework/

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