RUconnected and multi-media: Keeping students on-line
If you think keeping up with forums is hard now, imagine if every user has their own (Martin Dougiamas, Moodle/RUconnected chief developer).
This blog looks at attempts to keep students engaged with RUconnected (Moodle) through the use of multi-media-rich Power Point presentations. I also explore the possibilities for the development of RUconnected as a blogger sphere.
I teach TV journalism to fourth years. Basically, I’m their principal teacher for the TV specialisation. I don’t use RUconnected for the fourth years. I prefer to use email and data banks. This is because this is how it works in industry, and I’m preparing them for industry. Email has a certain currency as at least quasi legal tender. In terms of especially, accountability. This policy was proved terrifyingly correct when I first started teaching an enrichment course for broadcast journalists, which I do during non-terms. I found that many of them couldn’t function outside the confines of their content management system. Literally- couldn’t operate Word, or save a file. Internet Explorer was a system from another planet. It was a real eye-opener.
My fourth year course is full-time, all my hours are accounted for, so you can imagine the challenge when I was confronted with teaching a theory course to the 2nd years - 3 lectures a week, an assignment, a mid year exam and 127 students. This happens over 2nd term, so I’m really stretched over that term. I turned to RUconnected to see if I could use that to supplement the structure of the course. Another factor in the mix is that the course is conceived as a Semester-long course which I feed into, involving 3 other lecturers, and they were running theirs on RUconnected.
I proceeded with the technique of using multi-media rich power point presentations in the lectures, mainly because I’m a TV person.
In this course for the second years, I teach South African Broadcast Media History, so it’s smart to enrich the lectures with broadcast media examples from history. Keeping all your media inside power point presentations makes them easier to manage and of course to present.
Colleagues had also put PPTs on RUconnected, but just the slides, not the notes, because of a concern that students wouldn’t attend lectures. But I think about this differently- if students don’t attend my lectures, I think there’s something wrong with my lectures. From the outset I planned to place my PPTs with its notes, on RUconnected. I don’t take a register; I judge my performance on student attendance. I find it a useful instant feedback system.
I found a number of interesting things: Firstly, the file restriction of 8mb on RUconnected means that I can’t put my PPTs up in the form in which I created them for the lectures, way too big. Initially I thought that I would not be able to post them, but I noticed that RUconnected would take the PPTs anyway, and strip its media. What was particularly useful was that it usually left thumbnails instead.
If we engage with a media rich PPT on-line, the movies don’t play. But if we post the movies up separately, obviously in a form that are each less than 8mb, students can see the movies. This might seem disjointed, but if we look at it another way, the way web developers think of ways to keep you focused on their website, you’ll notice that I post the movies a lecture or so later. What then happens, is that students return to the subject matter of the previous lecture, a kind of operationalised revision, as it were. In addition, while the movie downloads, and I need to check this, they’re forced to look at all the other resource titles, because RUconnected doesn’t allow multi-interface windows, i.e we lose the download if we move to other pages. It started me thinking how I could get students to linger longer on RUconnected. So I started experimenting with other mechanisms; the one technique is something I call an info mine, and this one I laid fairly far down the course. In class I started referring to Riaan Cruywagen jokes, you probably know he’s the new Chuck Norris replacement, like this joke GRAPHIC
on how many of the 11 official languages he speaks? 27, and here as a forum, GRAPHIC
we have a space where we can share the jokes. Now this didn’t really work because I still need to get students far more involved with RUconnected, but I thought I would see what I could do with this sort of thing this year.
The second interesting thing I found was that by putting the notes up, I found that my writing adopted a more direct style, as if I were writing on-line, in other words as if I were blogging, and for a particular audience, my J2s. If we look at the language usage in this section of the notes, as an example, it’s very casual:
“The thing about the history of broadcast media in this country, is that it’s all about the State’s propagation of government. Whether TV or radio’s messages are sinister or cool, it will become apparent in this series of lectures that the State’s grip of power over Broadcasting is based on a sense of legitimate ownership over what Althusser called the ideological state apparatuses.
For those of you haven’t read Althusser, he’s very cool, very easy to understand, like he saw human individuals being constituted as subjects through ideology. Consciousness and agency are experienced by us, sure, but they’re the products of ideology 'speaking through' us. We just blah blah what we’ve already heard, let’s get real. He reckoned ideology was an imaginary construction that represents the real world. However, it’s so real to us that we never question it. When we do, we get a bit wobbly.
Also, Althusser identified the 'Ideological State Apparatus’, “ISAs”, as the method by which organizations propagate ideology. This is in contrast to the Repressive State Apparatus (RSA), like the cops, the army, the secret police, death squads, “civil” defense units, informer networks, friendly relations with international security establishment organizations like the CIA, Interpol, MI6 and the Zimbabwean Central Intelligence Organization, etc. etc.
But here’s a thing I especially find really ultra cool about Althusser:
As opposed to Repressive State Apparatuses, Ideological State Apparatuses include the church, law, politics, trade unions, the Media and the family. Althusser puts education at the top of the tree: "What the bourgeoisie has installed as its number-one, i.e. as its dominant ideological State apparatus, is the educational apparatus, which has in fact replaced in its functions the previously dominant ideological State apparatus, the Church.”
So here’s Althusser in a nutshell: The Ideological State Apparatuses get our compliant, malleable, yes sir, no sir, three bags full, sir- kind of attitude to our life, while, if that doesn’t work, the RSAs will hunt you down and kill you like a dog."
I’ve started thinking that what I would also do this year is take these two things further; increasing student engagement time on RUconnected, and using blogging as one of the strategies. Maybe find some ways for students to blog my notes, I’m not sure how yet.