MA ODE module overview: Technology-enhanced learning (H800)

I took several modules at The Open University (OU) as part of my master’s degree. Before I began this journey, I always wished I could understand better how the modules were organized and what specific topics they covered, so I’ve decided to share that information for the modules I took. (Here are all the summaries.)

OU’s description of this module

This module is designed for current or future professionals in digital or technology-enhanced learning. It provides you with hands-on experience of a range of learning technologies, and enables you to understand the processes of designing, implementing and critiquing elearning and the ideas that underpin these processes.

You’ll be able to explore and use a range of social media, to learn collaboratively in groups, and to undertake individual study on topics relevant to you. You’ll explore case studies and reports from various countries and contexts, and will develop your skills in using evidence to recommend specific technologies.

By the end of your studies, you’ll have developed your ability to act as a creative and effective professional within digital learning, teaching and training.

I would add…

This was a foundational course for the master’s degree — the one module that everyone had to take. As such, it was broad in its range of topics. There was no assigned book, just an array of journal articles and of course the study material and forum prompts that are part of every OU module. We wrote four papers (one of which wasn’t for a grade) and a final paper.

Module outline

Block 1: Technology, learning, and change


Paper: This was a shorter paper, to become accustomed to writing at the master’s-degree level. It had four sections. The first three sections discuss one of the learning activities from Block 1: what you learned, and how you would change the activity to make it more relevant. The last section applies Sfard’s acquisition and participation metaphors to the activities we chose to discuss in the first part of the paper. I wrote about:

  1. The interplay between media, message, and the learner (based on our reading of Salomon), and I suggested that the activity could be expanded so that each person creates a digital artifact that serves as a symbolic representation of one of the metaphors mentioned in Salomon’s article. In this way, the activity could help us construct knowledge while constructing the artifact, and it would at the same time underscore the interplay between media and message.
  2. How learning is defined, and how this relates to building connections between members of a new, virtual community such as the learners in the class. I suggested making the activity more of a cornerstone to the module by asking each learner to write a 500-word definition of learning to their personal wiki page, returning to it every few weeks to revise their definition as needed based on what they’ve subsequently learned. In this way, each person could see how their own definition changed and grew over the course of the module by looking at their wiki page’s history. This change also encourages self-monitoring and reflection.
  3. Assumptions that are made about technology use based on a person’s age. I recommended updating the articles assigned to us for this activity because they were not current enough, and I also recommended tying into the activity opportunities for learners to share information about how to use some of the technology needed for our modules.

Block 2: Content, design, and learner experience


Paper: Like the previous paper, in this one we looked at three of the learning activities from Block 2, discussing the choices practitioners and learners make. I wrote about:

  1. Blogs and blogging: Choices learners make about blogging; and blogging and my own context as a learner
  2. Cloudworks: Initial experiences with Cloudworks; choices the Cloudworks design and development team made; and design and my own context as a practitioner. I recommended that the Cloudworks activities should start with a discussion about the original goals of the project, issues it hoped to solve, and subsequent design decisions that were made along the way.
  3. The series of articles by Richardson, correlation and causality: Choices learners make about learning; and implications within my own context as a learner and practitioner

Block 3: Contexts and futures of learning

Ungraded paper: In the middle of Block 3, we wrote and submitted a paper that outlined specifically what we would cover in our final paper and the resources we intended to use as part of our research for it. This was to make sure we were prepared to write a masters-level final paper.

(Graded) paper: We had another paper at the end of Block 3. The first part was a close look at two specified journal articles. The second part discussed whether or not learners have ownership of technology-enhanced learning: arguments for an against this statement, our own personal position, and implications. For the second part, I made these arguments:

  1. Supporting the claim: With technology, we now can both create and use media to support our learning; and shifting responsibilities indicate a change of ownership
  2. Against the claim: There is no significant difference; new technology only builds on older technology; and ownership may have shifted, but not to learners
  3. My own position: We are changing how we learn, and increasingly technology is enabling us to own our learning, but it is the affordances — not the tools that provide the affordances — that is key

Final paper

The final paper was about digital technologies and it had four parts: experiences with (and evidence about) two technologies used for learning in the past year; recommendations for each of the two technologies; a learning activities designed for one of the two technologies; and a discussion about the concepts of “individual” and “collaborative” as they apply to learning in the past year. I wrote about:

  1. Blogs: How blogging supports learning, and reasons for low usage among learners; and my recommendations for promoting external motivators, providing writing and stylistic guidance, and creating the needed time
  2. Wikis: How wiki work supports learning, and reasons for low usage among learners; and my recommendation for pushing the “expertise” angle
  3. A design for implementing a supportive framework to encourage blogging as part of non-formal staff development within corporate teams of instructional designers
  4. An analysis of forum discussions as a view into ownership of learning; a discussion about individual learning drawing from Sfard’s metaphors; and a discussion about collaborative learning drawing from Wenger, JSB, Bayne, and others.

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