Forums and Feedback for e-Learning

Tom Worthington FACS HLM

Designer of the Open Universities Australia, ACS and ANU Green ICT Courses

Adjunct Lecturer, Australian National University

For the School of Computer Science Retreat, The Australian National University, December 2009.

The first globally accredited Green ICT course for computer professionals was run in the masters program of the Australian National University in 2009. The course designer discusses how the course used online forums in place of traditional tutorials and workshops. The techniques to encourage students to collaborate online and the mentoring of the students with individual feedback is outlined.

Green ICT

Students learn how to:

Green ICT (Green IT or Green Computing) is the study and practice of using computers and telecommunications in a way which maximises positive environmental benefit and minimise the negative impact.

The energy efficiency of operating equipment is a major concern of Green ICT. The embodied energy and life-cycle of the materials used in the design, manufacture and reuse and recycling of equipment and components are also concerns. Green ICT seeks to inform accepted management practises to achieve efficient and effective business interaction.

Students Teach Each Other

Moodle e-learning system provides:

  1. Online discussion forums
  2. Tools for students to author content

The tutors fostering discussion, not presenting content.

See: Computer Professional Education using Mentored and Collaborative Online Learning, David Lindley, IJCIM Special Issues on e-learning, Vol.15 No. SP4, November, 2007.

The ACS and the ANU use the Australian developed Moodle open source Learning Management System. This is used to provide forums for students to discuss what they are learning, not just receive content prepared by teachers. This also teaches students how to use the same online collaboration techniques in the workplace.

The techniques of using mentored collaborative online learning for computer professional education were developed for the ACS by David Lindley.

Using Online Forums Effectively

  1. Ask a few clear questions
  2. Relate the questions to the week's study and to the larger assignments
  3. Keep out of the student's way
  4. Give Timely Feedback
  5. Give Marks for Answers

The Green ICT course uses weekly modules, with a weekly online form for each module. For each week there are one to three questions for the students to answer and discuss. The questions relate to the reading for that week. The answers to the questions are designed to be used in the assignments.

The key to having the students participate in the forum is to provide marks for the students for participation. In the Green ICT course, 20% of the assessment is for participation. Marks are provided weekly along with feedback on that week's participation.

The techniques of using mentored collaborative online learning for computer professional education were developed for the ACS by David Lindley.

Online Learning Works But is Not Cheap

From: "Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning" by Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia & Jones, Center for Technology in Learning, US Department of Education, May 2009

Conventional E-learning Difference
Total Cost $31,983.96 $29,770.80 -7%
Total Hours 484 512 5%
Per student $ $319.84 $297.71
Per student H 4.84 5.12

From: "E-learning courses save no teacher time" by Tom Worthington, October 27, 2009

It is commonly assumed that online learning is inferior to face to face tuition. Conventional wisdom is that online elarning is to be used where classroom courses are impratical or too expensive. However, some research indicates that online learning produces better results that face to face classes. Some back of the envelope calculations indicate that staff cost for e-learning is about the same as for conventional lectures and face-to-face tutorials.

More Information

Slides for these notes are also available.

Copyright © 2009 (Version 1.0, 24 August 2009) Tom Worthington

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