• Love to Learn. Online.

    Love to Learn. Online.

We envision learning on iversity as learning in a social network. Therefore, we created a social experience for our users that enables them to interact with each other in ways that they are already familiar with from social networks.

The messaging feature, for example, allows learners to privately communicate with others on the iversity platform through a convenient messenger system – one on one as well as in groups. Learners can message each other regardless of whether or not they attend the same courses. All they need to do to start a conversation, is to search the user directory.

When searching for another user on our platform, learners can identify other learners who are members of the same organisation. This is a useful feature to help facilitate communication among people belonging to the same company. However, an organisation is not visible to non-members. That way only members of the same company can recognise each other as such. This is how we avoid harassment of our users, for example by headhunters or competition. Another way to ensure the learner privacy in a social network is the possibility to block other users in order to prevent spamming and other annoyances.

 

Learning in a Social Network – Messaging Feature

 

The messaging feature also allows for group conversations. Here, learners have the possibility to add new members at any time or leave the conversation if they wish to do so. This allows users to turn to their peers when facing a problem and solve it together as a group. The feature makes it easy to exchange ideas and discuss assignments with more than one person; while keeping the discussion among a select group of peers, instead of the entire course community.  Learners also have the option to name group conversations. This makes it easier for them to distinguish between multiple group chats – because convenience is key.

While the discussions feature is course public and intended solely for exchanging thoughts about the course content, the messaging feature can of course be used for personal chit chat among peers inside our social network.

Community Managers – Facilitators of Learning in a Social Network

A course member can be appointed community manager by the course admin and thus gains access to special messaging functions. He or she can send announcements – email messages that are sent to either all course participants or specific subsets of the group – e.g. in order to draw attention to specific posts that are particularly relevant, helpful or controversial. They can also contribute content of their own in order to provide inspiration or feedback. Through announcements, learners of a course are further encouraged to engage with the course content and to think outside the box. Thus, they help with community management and tutoring. They can provide learners with assistance regarding the substance of the course and help to ensure their successful progress throughout the course, fostering effective online learning in a social network.

Recent Activities in a Course

On the dashboard page, learners can see a short preview of recent activities. Like in the picture below, they can see who joined the course, as well as who posted a comment or an entry to the Learning Journal. Much like the newsfeed feature in other social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, the recent activity overview allows users to see at one glance what is happening in a course. This enables them to find recent contributions, active discussions and to connect with other learners – even when they have been absent from the platform for a couple of days. Seeing other users’ activity is a key motivating factor. Instead of learning in isolation you can see what assignment your colleague has been working on yesterday. This can create a healthy form of competition. It also helps to create a sense of belonging where learners feel that they are part of an active community of peers.

Learning in a Social Network – Recent Activity Feed

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peer review

In order to provide qualitative feedback at scale, it is key to use peer review in online education. Our peer evaluation feature allows course participants to evaluate, provide feedback and score each other’s work.

This is how we can provide all learners with qualitative peer feedback on creative assignments – even when there are thousands of learners in a course. At the same time, peer review exercises provide a valuable change of perspectives. By letting them evaluate each other’s work, learners can put themselves in the instructor’s shoes and look at the concepts taught, as well as the learning outcomes with fresh eyes.Peer Review in Online Education – the Assignment

Peer review in online education can either be done anonymously in a double blind peer review, so that no bias comes in their way. Or in a public peer review, where learners provide feedback on each other’s journal posts.

In a blind peer review procedure the learners’ works are distributed in an arbitrary manner among them. Meaning that the work of a young participant of the course could for example be reviewed by a more experienced learner or vice versa. This ensures that the individual assignments are evaluated by people with different views and experiences to help learners take on new perspectives. As pedagogical research shows, averaging anonymous peer evaluation can be as fair and reliable in terms of quality as anonymous professional grading, and in fact more so than individual evaluation because there is less bias. Thus, peer evaluation provides a way for high quality summative assessment to scale.

Public peer review, on the other hand, enables everyone in the course to quickly find the most interesting pieces of work. This is achieved by filtering the Learning Journal. Learners can comment on the individual journal entries, or click on the “heart-button” to acknowledge entries that are outstanding. When learners write posts on controversial topics that invite disagreement and argumentation, public peer review makes the process of negotiating truth visible.

In any case, challenging one’s own perspective by reviewing somebody else’s work is an important tool that encourages an in-depth understanding of the course material.

Peer Review in Online Education – Grading

 

Fostering Changes of Perspective

Another way of using peer review in order to enhance the advantages of the feature is purposeful heterogenous matching. This principle is based on the matching of participants across different variables such as demographics. After learners take a demographic survey, we match them based on, for example age, gender, race, work experience, level of hierarchy or role. This approach can help learners to see issues from what might be an entirely different perspective. Through heterogenous matching, we try to encourage critical thinking in order for learners to achieve the best possible results for their assignments.

Peer Review in Online Education – Heterogenous Matching

 

Using Peer Review in Online Education for Essay Competitions

In an essay competition, learners create their own paper which is then evaluated by others through anonymous peer review. The essays are ranked according to the results of this evaluation and the learners can share their work with the course. Formulating an essay is a great way of practicing one’s skills. Not just when it comes to writing, but also in critical thinking. At the same time, it encourages learners to think for themselves and to carefully prepare and outline the topic they want to write about. By reviewing and commenting on other people’s essays, these skills are honed even further. This is because learners need to open themselves up to their peers’ perspectives, ways of arguing and styles of writing. Through peer review, it is possible to scale essay competitions because the work is distributed among the learners themselves. In addition, essay competitions provide a healthy way of competing and thus an effective method of motivating learners to achieve outstanding results and to get inspired by extraordinary work.

Peer Review in Online Education – Essay Contest

 

All in all, we believe that peer review in online education can be a very powerful tool. Not only because it allows us to deliver feedback at scale, but also because the process of giving feedback as such is a valuable educational exercise. Letting many different people with just as many different perspectives and ideas evaluate each others work encourages learners to think outside of the box. This confrontation with new perspectives can lead to inspiring results.

 

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Active Learning

As I have explained in my post on online student engagement, active online learning is key when it comes to motivating learners. What do I mean by active? An online course championing “active online learning” should prompt the learner to participate and contribute. One way of doing this is to inject small tasks into learning videos, another common approach is ordinary multiple choice.

For effective online learning to take place, however, online learning has to move beyond making learners dance to the instructor’s tune. Exercises (which are optional) and assignments (which are mandatory) should challenge learners to think for themselves and to come up with their own creative solutions to open-
ended questions. Not just for a few moments, but often a few hours. Learners write essays, prepare presentations, work on designs, spreadsheet models and programming assignments. The idea is to enable, if not encourage, them to think outside the box. And to come up with their own (often unexpected) solutions.

For example, one student in the course Design 101 came up with a unique and very creative
solution to the following assignment: “Carefully choose a recipe to cook for yourself. 
Today, you cook your chosen recipe and share with us a picture of your starting ingredients. Nothing less, nothing more.” You would expect them to use ingredients and kitchen utensils as suggested, right? But this student decided to give the assignment her very own interpretation. She said I”m going to make pancakes. But my pancakes are going to be a bit different. They will be from felt.” Here you see the “ingredients” she decided to use as starting ingredients.

What this example illustrates is that the course – instead of simply telling people what a good and creative solution looks like – challenged the learner to think outside the box and come up with her own, brilliant solution. Active online learning should allow for precisely this kind of open-ended experimentation. Instead of simply making people regurgitate information and knowledge, learners should apply it in assignments. This leaves them with both the opportunity to fail as well as to succeed beyond expectation.

Making Active Online Learning Social: The Learning Journal

The next step is to embed these kind of assignments in a social context. In order to do this we have created the so-called Learning Journal. The Learning Journal is an individual course blog that learners can use to share their solutions for the various assignments, take notes and discuss their work with the course community. Learners can »follow« the journals of other users to keep track of new content created by those peers they think stand out from the crowd.

Different layers of privacy settings allow learners to share their posts with no one, other participants in the same course or publicly on the internet. Through public sharing, journals can function as  learning portfolios. These serve as public, linkable proof of the things learners have created and accomplished in a course.

Active Online Learning – Learner Contributions in the Learning Journal

The course journal aggregates the journal posts from all users in the course. Learners can “like” each other’s work simply by clicking on the heart. Of course they can also leave more substantial feedback in prose. The hearts as well as the comments can be used to identify quality in quantity. Learners can also sort their posts either by date (starting with the most recent uploads) or by “most liked”. To easily navigate through specific assignments users can also filter by unit or search for the work of a specific learner.

The Process of Active Online Learning Visualised

An example of the process of active online learning in the course “Visual Thinking for Business”

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Video production can be done in many ways – from Hollywood movies to selfie videos. In the following we have collected some of the basics for you.

Camera

For professional quality video production, you need a Full-HD Camera with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Also make sure to have enough memory sticks and spare batteries. 
Recommended cameras: Canon EOS, Nikon D, Sony HDR.

Video Format

  • High Quality HD videos
    • 16:9 Format
    • H.264 codec or similar
    • we recommend 1920 x 1080 (1080p or 1080i), or at least 1280 x 720 p
    • supported file format: mp4, m4v, flv, avi, mpg, mov, etc.

Sound

In learning video production, capturing quality audio is key. Arguably, this is the single most important technical aspect of creating a good learning video. Here are some guidelines.

  • Using an external microphone is imperative!
  • Before recording, check to make sure the volume is correctly adjusted.
  • Make sample recordings and have someone else give you feedback about the sound quality.
  • If you are recording outside, you should use a microphone that you can attach to your jacket.

Recommended settings for recording: 48kHz and 24 bit

Lighting

We advise using the standard 3 point lighting in video production. If you prefer to use natural light, keep in mind that the sun moves and your picture therefore changes.

Video Production

3 point lighting: back light, key light, fill light

For more details see:

Three Point Lighting Explained

3 Point Lighting Tutorial (Youtube)

 

General Tips for Presenting

You should be aware that your voice and body language do not seem the same online as in your classroom.

  • Prepare your message – Write a script. What is it that you really want to say for this particular video? Narrow it down and be sure you know what is most important. Memorise and practice your script (see scripting). You do not have to write out every single word you want to say. If you are more comfortable working with bullet points, feel free to work like this, but try to remember your first and last sentence of a scene, so that a cut feels natural.
  • Relax and smile – An inhale and exhale followed with a soft smile works wonders (NOT one that’s ear to ear). Be sure you’re breathing regularly in the course of taping. Do not hold your breath. Also, blink on occasion. It’s a natural lubricant for your eyes and will help you stay “bright eyed” – you will look less “robotic”.
  • Body language – A little movement is fine; too much movement makes you appear nervous. Use your hands, because hands can enhance decisive statements and support nuance in your speaking dynamics, but don’t overuse them. If you’re standing during your taping, watch the typical rocking back and forth. Try to stand comfortably with your feet about six inches apart, your weight equally distributed and your shoulders relaxed. Don’t stand on the balls of your feet, as you run the risk of losing your balance. When sitting, lean just slightly forward, shoulders down, and then sit as tall as you can but without stiffness.
  • Look directly into the camera – Imagine a person where the camera is and imagine a conversation. Tilt your head slightly and position the camera a little above your eye level.
  • For tablet capture – Imagine you are sitting next to your student, explaining the material.
  • Take some time – Don’t start talking as soon as you push the recording button: give it 2-3 seconds. This will make the post-production easier.
  • It’s a process – Record yourself in front of the camera multiple times, take a look at the content you have produced, and try to identify what works and what doesn’t.

Based on:

Wendy Scharfmann

edX101 – How to Make an edX Course

Commandments of Quality Video Production

There are a few commandments of good filmmaking. Here is a very basic list:

  • Know what you are going to shoot! – Have a plan (storyboard) of what you are going to say and show.
  • The object moves, not the camera! – Try to hold the camera still, as handheld filming usually looks unprofessional. The best way to steady the camera is by using a tripod.
  • Be thrifty with the zoom! – Only use zoom where necessary, otherwise it looks nervous. Zooming can be useful to point out something really important or show details. Remember to try out the zoom of each scene in order not to over- or under-zoom: if you zoom, be on point!
  • Each scene needs some extra meat! – Remember to give each scene three extra seconds before you start the actual scene and after you finish it. In doing so, you make sure to have better cuts in post-production.
  • Every scene needs light! – Never shoot against the light. If you shoot indoors, take care of good lighting.
  • Know who’s talking! – When shooting, ensure absolute silence during the recording. Noises from people not in the picture can be especially annoying.

 

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