Enabling Skills…

I took note of the problems learners were having in the lab today, as we near the end of the program.  The learners that can navigate the web are obviously having a much easier time completing the assignments.  Today was a catch up day; students were to go through the LMS, find the tasks they have not completed, do them, and submit using the dropbox.

Thus the first complaint:  It’s too hard to find out where to go to hand in assignments.  There are too many steps involved.   Here are the steps:

  1. Answer the questions, write a memo, email, letter etc. on a word document.
  2. Save the word document
  3. Login to the LMS.
  4. Click on “drop-box”.
  5. Select the right dropbox, and open it.
  6. Select “add file”.
  7. Find the right file, and attach it to the dropbox.
  8. Click submit.

Now, sometimes the learners encounter problems if they have an older browser.  They need to download Chrome or Firefox, and this should solve some of these issues. But really, it is one of the easier things to do in the LMS.

Learners need to be able to navigate the LMS, especially the main areas.  We regularly use the “news”, the “quizzes”, the “surveys”, “the dropbox” and “content”.  The news is the first place that the learners come to when they log in.

So the program is almost done; learners have had active logins for over three weeks now and yet there are still a handful who do not login at home, who do not know how to access hyperlinks and submit documents, and who have real difficulty with basic navigation despite the very close personal attention that they are getting in the lab.  Clicking, scrolling, cutting & pasting, toggling between screens, typing with two hands – these are enablins skills that they need to have in order to progress in the course.

I think I’ve said it before, in this blog, that I need to re-evaluate what “success” means for this group of learners.  The three or four students who had the skills coming into the class can be assessed on the quality of their assignments – they have done practically everything we’ve asked.  They have expressed some frustration over the constant review of basic computer skills that we seem to need to do in the classroom.

The rest of the group have submitted maybe 20-30% of the tasks, and are more likely to come into the lab with the assignment handwritten in their notebooks, which they then need to copy onto a Word Document, and then put into the assignment dropbox.

Part of the flipped classroom experiment is to have the presentation material available on the LMS, so that learners can review the readings, PowerPoints, videos, etc. and then spend classroom time producing the assignments, with the instructors available for guidance and support.  That said, it can be frustrating knowing that the learners have not logged in and done the required prep work, then expect individual tutorials.  More than once, I’ve directed the students to the material in the lab, advised them to review it, then ask me.  That takes up a lot of the lab time, which is at a premium anyway.

Blended learning takes a big commitment to e-Learning from the students; if they don’t feel they have the skills or inclination, this can be a waste of time.  However, it can work out really well for others, namely, the ones who can type faster than 5 WPM.  Also, this format would work exceptionally in a ESL in the Workplace course.  Ideal, in fact, because computer literacy is highly sought after and expected in the workplace. Setting up workplace-specific courses in a LMS would yield high returns.

Setting up, though, is the crux.  It is where the most effort is spent.  Finding the right material, setting up modules, time-released news items, quizzes, surveys, self-assessments, all of this is time consuming.   I think that the benefits of flipping the classroom outweigh the initial heartache.  What I’ve experienced so far is just a taste; blended learning has a lot of real potential.  I can’t wait to set up Moodle this summer for the retail program.


About jenniferartan

ESL instructor in London. Level 2 Google Certified Educator. Blended Learning. Learning Management Systems. TESL Ontario Webinar Manager. Edutech Conference Junkie. Smartboards. Reluctant Techie.
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