The Final Countdown

It’s hard to believe that we are in our final week of GIEP. We’ve experienced so much from the formation of our group in December, the scoping and initial conceptualization of our project and further building and development of the EduKitchen learning management system (LMS). Since our time our hosting the EduKitchen initiator workshop, held a few weeks ago, we have finalized migrating the LMS to its permanent server host on GoDaddy: http://www.edukitchen.in.

A majority of the work that the team has been doing since the workshop has centered around accommodating last minute suggestions and recommendations for the site, as well as creating formal documentation for the site handover. To help us further develop these materials, we have been holding user testing sessions from the learner’s perspective. The user testing’s primary focus is to gauge learner experiences and expectations with online learning and how they align with the goals and development of EduKitchen. More specifically, we are looking to see how learners 1) navigate a lesson’s content and activities within a course, 2) respond to a variety of learning activities offered through courses and Moodle and 3) navigate through the overall system in search of courses and experiments which relate to personal preferences.

So far the user testing has reinforced the idea that EduKitchen has the potential to offer unique online learning opportunities that aren’t offered by universities and other online services, like Coursera, due to the interdisciplinary nature of the courses and quirkiness of the topics. However, the process also identified some of the more challenging limitations of using a traditional LMS to create educational experiments that don’t follow the structures, assumptions or expectations of traditional classroom, or even online, learning experiences.

This experience will help guide some of the final documentation work that we will be creating to support future instructors/initiators and/or learners. These documents will include simple how-tos for navigating and creating content on EduKitchen, as well as suggestions and standards for course and experiment creation. While the number of users may be limited in this testing stage, we hope that the data gathered from it will be used to help EduKitchen thrive in the future and establish new scenarios for future user testing and development.

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Cooking Up Pedagogy: An Initiators’ Workshop

For the past two days, the U-M flexible learning team has had the pleasure of hosting workshop for four of the main people behind the EduKitchen concept and process. During our time we were able to showcase what has currently been developed on the Moodle site we’ve been developing, discuss design elements and clarity issues, plan for the project handover, and really understand the thoughts and influences behind this project through questions and dialogues.

Edukitchen

IMG_1751The first day was spent discussing the the EduKitchen creator and instructors’ backgrounds and experiences in conceiving EduKitchen and discussing their plans and intentions for the website. A majority of the morning was spent with Brandon providing an over of what Moodle was, and allowing the workshop participants to explore the EduKitchen site from currently established guest and learner roles. The afternoon allowed for the U-M team to work one-on-one with the instructors to try to develop theoretical courses on the platform.

While working at creating courses, the idea of platform and project specific language became very evident. During the GIEP team’s months of preparation, language and terminology were frequently at the forefront of the design and creation talks. In our platform Subjects would be Fundamental Questions and Courses would be Experiments. However as we worked back towards actually building the site we reverted back to courses as a way to make talking about the project more easy. This didn’t prove to be too much of an issue until the instructors, who refer to themselves as initiators, really started to develop their “courses”, which proved that they aren’t like courses at all, IMG_1747and experiments may be the moving towards a more appropriate term for their groupings of activities, knowledge and forums. This group of initiators wouldn’t be creating a traditional course in anyway, but promoting a range of opportunities and forums of creative outputs ranging from 30 minute videos focusing on 100 meters of a street; to groupings of performances, translations and discussions based on selected Hindi readings surrounding ideas of time. While an initiator may be guiding knowledge exchanges and the developing of a learning community, the participants were equally vital in the development of the courses/experiments growth based on submitted readings and creative contributions.

The final day of the workshop allowed for the groups to plan the handover of EduKitchen. Workshop participants and the GIEP team discussed the capabilities of the program, the technical needs and possibilities of the system (from web hosting to user permissions to optional paying for courses). These suggestions now serve as our final guides to preparing the site for the hand over as well as developing documentation on how to customize and change existing materials, while also providing suggestions for further development and system maintenance.

Overall it was an incredibly fulfilling time spent collaborating. It’s rewarding to see how people are going to see how they will use something currently being developed and how their passion will help to facilitate new learning and knowledge exchanges across disciplines.

Making Sense of the City

Now that Moodle has been chosen, we’ve been doing a lot of work regarding the development of the EduKitchen LMS, as well as discovering, promoting and making new course content. The flexible learning team has been in the process of creating a course, inspired by Bangalore Walks. Our course, ‘Making Sense of the City’ is a five lesson course which asks learners to utilize one of their basic senses to explore the city that they’re currently living in:

In creating this course, we will try to utilize a variety of features and capabilities of Moodle from the instructor perspective, as well as what potential barriers and strengths are available for collaborative course creation. This course creation will also allow us to help prep a two and a half day workshop for next week. The University of Michigan team will be facilitating an instructional and creative workshop with EduKitchen instructors from Delhi and Mumbai. ‘Making Sense of the City’ will also serve as a learner-user testing device, as we’ve invited interested participants at the Center for Internet and Society, University of Michigan’s Global Activities participants in the School of Kinesiology and School of Social Work. And, having said that, we invite interested parties to take a look at the LMS, register and take part in the ‘Making Sense of the City‘ course.

We’ve got a winner!

And the chosen platform for EduKitchen is… drumroll… Moodle!!

It’s been an interesting process starting the initial EduKitchen project with the assumption that Moodle would be best, and then working through elements of the design process questioning wether WordPress might serve as a better, more flexible system for addressing the diverse needs and goals of the the project and expected users. But, we’ve since circled around and Lawrence Liang, one of the individuals behind EduKitchen and our Indian partner for this project, has chosen Moodle. While, we had been developing a Moodle and WordPress option in parallel, Moodle was will be able to support the development of courses by instructors in a more user friendly way, while also providing numerous ways to structure individual courses and lessons that meet the needs of instructors, but also meets the instructor where they are in their tech abilities.

Now that the platform has finally been decided, the GIEP Flexible Learning team has been working at successfully installing Edukitchen onto the Centre for Internet and Society server. We are also looking at how we can imitate some of WordPress’s strengths within moodle and are still aware that depending the projects needs, a companion site through WordPress may be necessary to help showcase the content and community creations outside of the Moodle platform. Until then, our team is hard at work at finding open source courses, learner user testing, planning for a meeting with future instructors, and creating our own course which has learners utilize their senses to explore their citiies and communities, then share it with the EduKitchen community.

Research and Learner Groups

Over the past week, since arriving, our team has had the pleasure of visiting various parts of Bangalore. Along with the other GIEP groups, we’ve been able to present our project at the Centre of Internet and Society and Microsoft Research. These opportunities were rich opportunities to see how people reacted first to our project in India, outside of the project team. People have been warm and given us lots of considerations for the project, including how we may want to consider communities within this learning tool in terms of using cohorts or asynchronous means of allowing people to navigate course materials and interact with others. These talks have also reinforced the need to step away from the binary of instructor/learner, used by many online learning systems, and view users as falling somewhere on the spectrum, and being able to have various roles that support the growth of learners, courses and the overall learning community.

At the end of our orientation to Bangalore, our team had the opportunity hold a focus group with 4 learners in India: 1 recently graduated secondary student, 2 current university students and a student with a masters degree. The focus group experience was comprised of a pre- and port-survey, teacher led learning experience (thank you Joyojeet Pal), and a follow up discussion about the experiences surrounding the mini-course and learning in India.

This learning opportunity was meant to serve as a baseline to see what learners expected, took away from and reacted to an in person learning experience, using course material that is also available on our learning management system. Joyojeet Pal, GIEP’s faculty lead and guest instructor, presented information concerning the various portrayals of Disability in Indian Cinema to the focus group. Based on the surveys and discussion, we will see how learners’ expectations, reactions and needs compare across various learning platforms using the same content of Disability in Indian Cinema. This information will help us to determine what is necessary to engage learners online. Over the next several weeks, we are eager to see how various learner groups will impact the growth and development of our LMS.

Bangalore

We’ve arrived!  After enjoying a week of orientation (getting acquainted with the area and visiting tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Infosys), we have now started work at the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore. We’re currently in the process of refining two learning management prototypes we have created – one on WordPress and one on Moodle.  On Wednesday of next week we will showcase each to our partner, Lawrence Liang, who will make a final decision on which system we will continue to develop while in Bangalore.  Stay tuned!

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Higher Education in India: Vision 2030

When researching the state of Indian Higher Education, I came across a report from Ernst & Young about the vision for higher education in India.  The report imagines what India‘s higher education will look like 15 years from now, in the year 2030.  I found the following of particular interest to the goals of EduKitchen as it speaks to students “learning from themselves, their peers and their immediate environment just as much as they would from their professors” and that “by stroking students’ innate curiosity and encouraging them to learn in self-directed ways, it has enabled Indian graduates to be independent, critical thinkers”…we’re onto something! unnamed – Brandon