Making the most of Lynda.com

I’ve been using the institutional partnership Coventry University has with Linkedin/Lynda.com and have been taking a few short, video-heavy courses to further my understanding in a few area. In light of this I took the opportunity to attend a ‘making the most of Lynda.com‘ course too, presided over by a LinkedIn representative and someone from the DMLL (Disruptive Media Learning Lab) here at Coventry.

I had three goals I wanted for this one hour session: firstly to see if I ‘understood’ of Lynda.com or could get better at using it, for my own personal learning. Secondly I wanted to see what I could do with it in relation to my management responsibilities, and lastly I wanted to explore what LinkedIn (and Microsoft by relationship to company/organisational ownership).

Notes from the 1-hour course:

  • Access Lynda.com for free using your Coventry [institutional] access (select ‘use organisational sign in’ on the login page and enter username/password. This will be remembered the next time you visit.
  • Lynda.com will be rebranded as LinkedIn Learning (already accessible, but content behind a paywall on LinkedIn Learning) within 12 months. All data (login, courses, playlists, etc.) will move across.
  • Access to Lynda.com (and subsequent to LinkedIn Learning) is free when a staff or student of Coventry university.
  • Very keen to highlight benefits of using Lynda.com with students (and staff) as flexible learning, just-in-time learning, micro/macro learning, self-directed and mobile learning.
  • Develop new skills within the workplace according to immediate or anticipated skills, use courses or individual videos accordingly.
  • Certificates available on course completion, not credit or qualification bearing.
  • Courses categorised into
    • Education
    • Technology
    • Business, and
    • Creative
  • Currently staff use outweighs student use.
  • “What’s in it for me?”
    • CPD
    • Blended learning or supplementing existing learning opportunities
    • Tutorials
    • Best practice (depending on the course creator/SME)
  • ‘What’s in it for the student?’
    • Supporting campus-based CU learning
    • Study skills / professional skills
    • Time- and self-management
    • Career management
    • Interview skills
  • ‘What’s in it for managers?’
    • Recommended course based on algorithms and other institutional users
    • Watch & reflect
    • Engage & retain
    • (Productivity related CPD?)
    • Skills and competencies learning (measurable?)

Reflection:

The purpose of the course was mainly to highlight the possibility of using Lynda.com materials as part of an academic’s teaching and learning strategy. Each academic would need to evaluate each video and/or course before being certain it is of the right ‘message’ and tone to fit into their learning, but the presentation quality is extremely high. Individual course authors and presenters are invited to write and deliver the course, these are the ‘leaders’ in their field, but anyone can can apply and suggest course idea for LinkedIn consideration. Videos are created at one of two LinkedIn studios.

The LinkedIn representative was keen to try and get Lynda.com used as part of the student learning, but I think this has more potential as an on-going and informal opportunity to team members to keep skills up to date and learn new skills, just by nature of offering a free course (Lynda.com) as part of a purchased course. By installing an on-going objective in ClearReview (Coventry appraisal system) each team member could keep track of their own personal development, and act as a reflection on their own development. This can be shared, should the individual want to, with other team members who are doing the same or similar courses, the opportunity for team collaboration is here should individuals want it.

The search function on the website is extremely good, with the platform ‘learning’ about your preferences based on activity in courses and matching new courses with your history, and that of the wider Coventry University audience. Courses are split into functional areas of ‘speciality’ (as above), you can ‘save’ courses to playlists and share certificates on your LinkedIn account (or download as PDF).

Lynda.com courses are typically 50-70 minutes in length, 100% video based, and may have a pre- and post-quiz. I don’t know what happens if you fail either one, but the courses I’ve done you get a certificate for your effort. The quizzes are not typically very difficult or time consuming.

Demonstration courses that may be of use:

Image source: Zeev Barkan (CC BY-2.0)

The Future Of Learning? Well, It’s Personal

Okay, der Artikel ist „amerikanisch“, es geht um Schulen und vor allem um Mathe. Aber der Punkt, den er macht, „personalized learning“, wird auch hierzulande als Richtung diskutiert, in die sich digitale Bildung bewegt (siehe zum Beispiel Ralph Müller-Eiselt in „Digitale Bildung: im internationalen Vergleich hängen wir 5 – 10 Jahre zurück“, YouTube). Die Autorin, Anya Kamenetz, spielt zwei Perspektiven durch, „pace-driven personalization“ und „interest-driven personalization“. „Pace-driven“ geht nur mit EdTech, „interest-driven“ ist mehr, grundsätzlicher und schwieriger.

„Personalized learning“ has become a Janus-faced word, with at least two meanings in tension:

1. The use of software to allow each student to proceed through a pre-determined body of knowledge, most often math, at his or her own pace.

2. A whole new way of doing school, not necessarily focused on technology, where students set their own goals. They work both independently and together on projects that match their interests, while adults facilitate and invest in getting to know each student one-on-one, both their strengths and their challenges.

Which vision of personalization will prevail? Pace alone, or „Personalize it all“? And what proportion of the hype will be realized?“
Anya Kamenetz, NPR, 16. November 2018

Personal Learning vs Personalized Learning: What Needs to Happen

Stephen Downes beschreibt, was „Personal Learning“ aus seiner Sicht bedeutet: Choice, Ownership und Community. In seinen Worten: „This special briefing explores personal learning as the future of learning, explores why it’s important, the tools which enable personal learning and the significant potential of personal learning as a key to life-long learning and the skills agenda.“ Entsprechende Selbstlern- und Selbstorganisationskompetenzen vorausgesetzt.
Stephen Downes, SlideShare, 17. Oktober 2018

Bildquelle: Victoria Kure-Wu (Unsplash)

It’s not a race

Two tweets have stood out for me this week that I want to connect. One from Seth Godin (my tweet, his blog post – please read it). Seth is “a teacher, and I do projects”. The other tweets was from Alejandro Armellini, Dean of Learning & Teaching at the University of Northampton.

Here are the tweets. 

Why, I hear you ask, these two? Well, for me, they both link back to the same thing … the appropriate and considered approach to using and implementing new technologies or new systems for learning. That learning can be a classroom, a library, online, coffee shop, etc. It doesn’t matter.

Seth wrote about giving up when you get behind, about never reading as many books as someone else, about website traffic so just give up:

“Should you give up?
There are people who have read far more books than you have, and you will certainly never catch up.
Your website began with lousy traffic stats, in fact, they all do. Should you even bother?
The course you’re in–you’re a few lessons behind the leaders. Time to call it quits?”

Linking this to Ale’s tweet, about technology enhancing learning. About the default setting of always looking to the new, the shiny, the different, the ‘cutting-edge’ or ‘leading research’ in designing and delivering meaningful or quality learning. For me these two are linked … we should not always look ahead at new ideas, ideals, or technologies, just as we should not always look back at try and stay 2-steps behind everyone else. We, the learning technologists, the instructional designers, the learning and development managers, the content delivery teams, should look both forward and back – learn from our journey to date (successes and failures), learn about where we are, learn about where we could be going.

More importantly, we should also be learning about how to get there. How do we take an existing course, module or unit and make it better. Who defines what ‘better’ is? Who decides whether it’s to strip out an activity because it didn’t’ work (was it the activity or the students? Let it run again and see if a different cohort has a different experience) or to update an activity because it relies on ‘old(er)’ technology. How do we decide what to take out or leave in? Do we rely on our knowledge of what is pedagogically ‘sound’ and ignore what the students didn’t ‘like’? Is liking an activity or it being popular enough of a motive to keep it in the course if it’s not getting the results? 

Ultimately, we (faculty, learning technologists, instructional designers, etc.) have to make many of these decisions based on our experience of what works (or not), and of what is good pedagogical practice (or not). New technology solutions, be they hardware or software, should still be rigorously tested and trailed to make sure it fits the learning, the policies for 3rd party tools, data compliance (who mentioned GDPR?), etc. 

It’s not a race. We’re not trying to do something before someone else does, or we shouldn’t be, and we’re not trying to beat someone to the finish line … in fact we’e all got different ideas of what the finish line is anyway. The key is and always has been to find a good use of technology that fits the intended purpose or intended learning, that is appropriate for the audience and their technical competence, that is appropriate for the time for study and subject to be studied. 

Let’s not rush to force technology, of any strand, into the learning. It’s better to understand both purpose and implementation, work on the foundation to build a solid stable solution upon, get them both right and the technology will take a backseat for the actual learning.

Image source: Chrissy Hunt (CC BY-NC-ND-2.0)

Change the title, change the work?

Have I had it wrong all these years … is not been about me being a Learning Technologist (LT), I’ve actually been an Instructional Designer (ID) instead? Bear with me here …

I’ve been looking at opportunities on job boards (more on this another time) and have been looking at the requirements and roles for Instructional Designers. There are more of these around that LT or senior LT roles. Based on the role profile and job description, it got me thinking; “Well, that’s what I’ve been doing isn’t it?” Here are some of the descriptors and requirements that are asked for on an ID position, and how this mirrors the work I’ve been doing as an LT

“This role will be creating high quality new learning programmes for [name here], being the designer of the blended, engaging and interactive learning programmes to address specific business needs.”

“Creative, direct and concise. Good with technology. Great communicator, especially with clients.”

“Analyse base content and current study materials to identify the best way to present the content online.”

“Consider the range of instructional media available: video (face to face, voice-over PowerPoint), interactions and questions to recommend the most suitable for each instructional need.”

All the above have come from current ID roles being advertised. All this is precisely what most LTs I know are doing, and what I’ve done many times before too, yet you can be compartmentalised into a role by title, not by merit?

Let’s contrast this with similar descriptors from LT roles currently being advertised …

“Design and Development of e-learning content.”

“Undertake a range of activities to advocate for digital learning and its associated technologies.”

“The LT is expected to work proactively to identify potential resources for the [name here] and to plan and manage the development of varied e-learning material, including video, webinars, self-paced interactive resources, and [VLE here] activities.”

“Provide leadership and support for the development of innovative and effective teaching and learning practices using information technology.”


Learning Technologist or Instructional Designer ... or both? #edtech
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Do you see the similarities here? The only difference is that the ID role requirements are for commercial/corporate employers, and the LT ones for universities. Same role, often similar responsibilities and management duties (team and self), but different ‘sectors’. Of course, there are many differences in the roles that mean there are clear distinctions that warrant the different titles, and that’s fine – LTs may be more limited in scope in what and how they deal with, LTs may look after a tool (VLE, lecture capture, etc.) rather than a department or programme or academic group, etc..

But, for myself and those LTs I know and have worked with, we are much much more than this. We engage, advise, collaborate, curate, anticipate, lead, mentor, showcase, develop, design, implement, consult, etc. All these things are appropriate terms for both LT and ID roles. Yes? Perhaps it’s more to do with context … in my more recent roles and work I am so much more than an LT … I am now manager of an entire organisation’s learning platform, how it works, why it works and who it works for (internal and external). I ‘manage’ all aspects of the relationships between organisational parties with interest in the training as well as all external stakeholders, whether they are course participants or suppliers or accrediting bodies or potential clients.

According to the definitions in the ID role profiles above I have a more ID background and approach than LT, and have been since my 1st day in an LT-titled role, since I learned about my craft and stopped blindly following convention of the (enforced) VLE module structure and thought about making the learning more engaging and inclusive. It’s not about using the tools provided, it’s not even about finding new tools, it’s about using appropriate tools at an appropriate time for an appropriate motive to further the learning opportunities.


ID or LT? It's about using appropriate tools at an appropriate time for an appropriate motive to further the learning opportunities #edtech
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So, are you an Instructional Designer or a Learning Technologist. Does the title/name given to your role even matter? Perhaps the difference here is time … what was once two distinct roles have now merged in outlook and intention and can be seen as the same, depending on which title the organisation prefers?

Image source: Olle & Agen (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Sharing

Recent themes to my work has been the nature of how, and what, we share. I wanted to reflect a little on my own ‘sharing’ here, and try and split the sharing from social media, if possible. 

There are obvious easy ways to write about my sharing (per platform) but also I want to think about the why? So, why? I can’t deny one major factor is to reach a wider audience than just those I immediately work with on a day-to-day basis. By sharing my ideas or thoughts or projects or interests I’m obviously creating and managing my brand (me) but I also hope to be of some influence to others working in the same sphere as me.

Blogging

Obviously, there’s this blog. Back when I started writing here I used to write about the day-to-day tasks and tools I used. The last few years has seen me change direction, mainly due to possible conflict of interest with where I’ve worked and the need to keep some commercially sensitive things private. I’ve developed it more recently to be about the why I do things and how I develop myself or my work, my attitude to learning and technology and how use them both. I write here to share experiences and ideas, books I’ve read and reviewed, books I’ve written and curated, etc. I write to have a brain-dump, drop ideas or stress, I write to see what you all think … What do you think?

Twitter

I share my blog posts on Twitter so I can reach more people, and engage the wider field of learning technology. It reaches more people this way and I can engage in conversations beyond my own understanding, therefore helping me widen my appreciation and knowledge for my work. My Twitter activity involved my blog but also other aspects of my work, and sometimes home life too, but mainly my work. I save tweets to my ‘like’ (although I still don’t use it as “ooh, I like this tweet” but rather as a save feature to go back and read or reply to something after the fact) and add people to my lists. Twitter is my go-to place all day and pretty much everyday. My network or followers and those I follow grows and changes all the time, therefore my exposure to new ideas or tools does too.

LinkedIn

I’ve been and gone on LinkedIn before and, at the moment, am back and engaging here again. The audience is different to Twitter, less chat and more ‘sharing’. Perhaps it’s because it’s viewed as more of my online CV, or perhaps because there’s different mechanisms for comments, etc. I don’t know, but LinkedIn is an acquired taste. Currently I like it, but I take it each day at a time with all my sharing. 

Pinterest/Flipboard

I use both these platforms more for searching and reading different themes, less so for my own sharing, but I appreciate the work others are putting into their sharing activities here. For some these are important channels for sharing their work or ideas, and that’s fine.

This is, after all, about what works for you or me. There is no rule that will work for everyone, we are each individual and have different perspectives and needs and likes, and this is what we each bring to the wider community. THIS is what makes our personal (learning) networks so vibrant and interesting. This is why I love to share .. I take so much from the community on all these platforms, I want to add something back in the hope (need?) that it makes a difference to someone like something I’ve just taken. Isn’t sharing great!


Sharing: why and how. It may be a tweet, a blog post, an idea, a photo. This is sharing. For me.
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Facebook

I suppose I ought to add this here too although I’m still thinking of dumping my account here. Facebook has only ever been about family and friends. I dabbled in having a work-type account but realised the audience was the same, but smaller, than my twitter audience so decided it wasn’t worth the extra time to manage and curate it. 

Above all I try and keep my sharing professional. I have interests that creep into my sharing every now and then, mainly on Twitter. Yes, I have two kittens, I drink tea not coffee, I love Lego. But it’s still shared with a view to what my audience may be interested in. I don’t follow celebrities, for the most part, as I’m just not that interested in what they’re doing. Unless they are the kind of people I think are celebrities like Steve Wheeler, Stephen Heppell, Sue Beckingham, Amy Burvall, Maren Deepwell, et al (see the people I’ve been lucky to work with on my books, these are the celebrities in my world!). Then, of course, I’m a groupie and will follow them anywhere I can.

What about you? What is your strategy (if you have one) for sharing?

Image source: iSchumi (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Distraction

My last post was all about the ways in which familiarity can bring a sense of consistency to not only delivering online learning content, but also designing and developing it. This time I want to look at the way in which distraction can prevent the well designed and impeccably delivered learning materials. 

Whether you work in an office or, like me at the moment, at home, we all look to manage our working environment. Working in an office, small or large, will often mean managing how people interact with you when you’re trying to concentrate, preventing the creep of office chatter or ‘work’ noise. 

Personally, if I want to focus I use music and, when in an environment with others, headphones. Depending on the quality of your headphones you may find you provide more distraction for  co-workers as your headphones leak sound. A while ago I bought a set of AKG Y50BT headphones … not noise-cancelling, I can’t afford a decent set of those, but these on-ear ‘phones are really good at reducing noise ingress. The only downside of these is that my ears get hot.

Working from home means I don’t have to wear the ‘phones unless I have to. I can have music playing in my study or, if I work in the kitchen or conservatory, from the laptop or Amazon Echo (yes, I got one). Obviously working from home is great, but that’s once the kids have gone to school. Come mid-late afternoon, they’re back. I don’t want to impact my home life so back I go to the ‘study’ (smallest bedroom, until I get the garden office built!), close the door and try and let the house carry on as normal.

You can’t really do that in a shared office either, can you? Some people I’ve spoken with while writing this have a dedicated ‘quiet’ room where one or more can go to work in ‘silence’, or rather without interruption. Now that’s a good idea!

Making sure those around us know when we’re available to chat or when we want to focus and not be disturbed. I’ve worked with people who’ve had different techniques for this; one had a sign they’d hang on the back of their chair when they’re not to be disturbed. One manager used to wear a hat when he wanted to focus and be left alone. Another used to put his headphones on.


How do you work or learn in a distracted environment?
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All this is great for me and how I set my working environment up, but what about for those of us who are also learners? What about for learners who are not as experienced or comfortable in sitting down at a computer or computing device to ‘learn’? What does distraction mean to them?

Firstly we, the learning design/development community, have to recognise that no matter how hard we try we will never be the most important thing in the learner’s life – family, friends, work, fitness, health, etc. will always exert a pull on their time and commitment. We have to respect that and enable the learning to fit around their existing lives. Even those learners who are fully committed to the course(s) and spend as long as possible, or even longer than we recommend,  need to be able to learn when it suits them. Learners will often be doing it after a full day of work, family, etc. No everyone is at their mental best at this time either, so we need to make the learning as ‘easy’ to access as possible (see my post ‘familiarity‘ for more on this).

I’ve often seen, in online courses, a timer at the beginning of a section – “Time to complete: 0.5hrs”. There are often timescales ‘imposed’ on the course itself, most MOOCs will say something like “5 hrs per week“. This has often raised questions about whether we ought to be this prescriptive about how long the ‘learning’ should take, after all people read or learn at different rates.

When you create your online course, do you help the learner by explaining how they can set up their time and environment to prevent distraction? Would the (novice) learner benefit from our experience if we told them “find somewhere quiet, turn the TV off, close down social media tabs, don’t look at your phone notifications, switch the phone to silent, etc.”. But what about those people who focus more when there is noise (not distraction, but noise .. music, family, TV, cafe, etc.). I know it works for me. Sometimes.

Distraction doesn’t mean isolation or quiet. Something distracting to me might be essential for you to focus and relax. The thing here, for me, is that we have had the luxury to find out these things for ourselves. For our learners, what can we do to help them find their ideal ‘learning environment’? If your course has an on-boarding process or initiation stage then use it to highlight what is expected of them, how much time (and how often) they ought to spend on the course and it’s readings.

Provide as much information for the learners, without overloading them, to make the decisions for themselves. And try it out.

Image source: cosmo_71 (CC BY ND-2.0)

What’s a NGDLE?

I think we’re all interested in what our VLE or LMS will look like, or indeed what it should already look like. Whilst much has been talked and written about it, perhaps this visualisation from Bryan Mathers is the best view of it yet – the “Next- Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE)”. And it incorporates Lego so well – the Lego base is the overall requirement with each building ‘block’ being added as and when they’re required – personalisation, collaboration, accessibility, etc.

According to the Educause report, the emerging needs of a NGDLE are these:
“Its principal functional domains are interoperability; personalization; analytics, advising, and learning assessment; collaboration; and accessibility and universal design. Since no single application can deliver in all those domains, we recommend a “Lego” approach to realizing the NGDLE, where NGDLE-conforming components are built that allow individuals and institutions the opportunity to construct learning environments tailored to their requirements and goals.”

So what will a NGDLE look like?

So what will a NGDLE look like? by @bryanMMathers is licensed under CC-BY-ND

When PowerPoint goes bad

What are your pet peeves about using PowerPoint? Is it the tool itself or how people use it?

I use PowerPoint, and think it is a good way to engage students and staff, and can be used as a way to spur enjoyment, engagement and interest in your subject. But that’s more about how the tool is used rather than the tool itself. So, here are some observations I’ve made over the years about PowerPoint, and how people use it ‘badly’:

  • Font – Inconsistent use of fonts across the slide deck, or even on the same slide. Using fonts that really don’t work on screen (like Times New Roman), or using Comic Sans. Please. Don’t.
  • Images – So you found Google images or another such image search. You’ve copied the image to your slide and it looks good. It doesn’t. That small image might look OK on your screen, but test it in a classroom or lecture theatre, you’ve stretched it so much it’s pixelated so much it’s almost unrecognisable.
  • Words – Writing your whole lesson in PowerPoint and spending half the lesson with your back to the class so you can read from the projector screen. Same goes if you stand behind the lectern PC and read of that screen instead.
  • Bullet points – PowerPoint makes it too easy to use them, but that doesn’t mean you should (yes, I can see the irony as I’m using them here too).
  • Colour / Templates – Just because you can lots of colour or standard PowerPoint templates doesn’t mean you should. Keep it simple so your key message shines through – the more colour / mess on the slide will only detract or hide your content.
  • Charts / Tables – Do you really need that chart or table that shows 50 different points of information.
  • Animation – I’ve never found animated stars or arrows to help the presentation. If the slide is structured properly you shouldn’t need them.
  • Clipart – Please. Don’t.
  • Volume – You may feel that your one hour presentation needs 100 slides. I’m pretty sure your audience/class doesn’t. 

If in doubt about any aspect of your use of PowerPoint, the best time to find out how you’re doing is now, while you’ve time to go and check it all out and not half way through the most important presentation of your career. Would you rather a slightly awkward conversation in private now or suddenly realise the conference venue has emptied for lunch 45 minutes early, just after you start your 16th of 135 slides?

Go find your friendly learning technologist (yes, we are friendly!), ask us to look over it and tell you what we think. We will be honest but we’ll be critical and, most importantly, constructive. We will offer support and suggestions, we will give your pointers on how to cut the information on the slides (and how to deliver it too, if you want) and we will be there to help you feel comfortable creating slide decks in future and deliver them. Every learning technologist I’ve ever met will do this, without question and without judgement; we’re just happy we can offer our expertise and make your job easier (and more successful).

There are plenty of online tutorials and help websites if you want to find out yourself about using PowerPoint ‘well’. Try sites like this and this and this.

If in doubt this video – Life after death by PowerPoint – will help you see the error of your ways.

Image source: EU PVSEC (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Reading: Lurkers as invisible learners

I’ve always been annoyed at being called a ‘lurker’, it’s a term that has a different meaning for me when talking about the engagement, or not, of students in an online class – read my post ‘Listener or Lurker?’ from 2013. In this instance the paper ‘Learners on the Periphery: Lurkers as Invisible Learners‘, by Sarah Honeychurch and colleagues, defines as a ‘lurker’ or ‘silent learner’ or ‘legitimate peripheral participant’ as.

“… hard to track in a course because of their near invisibility. We decided to address this issue and to examine the perceptions that lurkers have of their behaviour by looking at one specific online learning course: CLMOOC. In order to do this, we used a mixed methods approach and collected our data via social network analysis, online questionnaires, and observations, including definitions from the lurkers of what they thought lurking was … [our] research findings revealed that lurking is a complex behaviour, or set of behaviours, and there isn’t one sole reason why lurkers act the ways that they do in their respective communities. We concluded that for a more participatory community the more active, experienced or visible community members could develop strategies to encourage lurkers to become more active and to make the journey from the periphery to the core of the community.”

I’m far more comfortable with the terms used here, and reasons why students don’t engage perhaps how we’d like them to, or indeed in the way we design the course. We need to accept and address that not everyone taking online learning, whether it’s a free MOOC, paid-for CPD course or fully online degree, wants to be social, vocal, or indeed visible in the online environment. We can provide the base materials and ask the students to go off and read around the subjects, we can offer opportunities to engage and ‘test’ themselves on different types of course activities. The only way we know the students are engaging in the subject and materials is usually if we assign marks or grades to the activities, especially if those marks carry weight on the course’s final grade.

Reference

Honeychurch, S., Bozkurt, A., Singh, L, and Koutropoulos, A. (2017). Learners on the Periphery: Lurkers as Invisible Learners. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning. [online] Available at: http://www.eurodl.org/?p=current&sp=full&article=752 [Accessed 21 Jun. 2017].