Martin and myself have just finished putting our student run seminar on-line and before the activity even begins I feel that I’ve learned a fair bit about creating online e-tivities.
During my time studying both Introduction to Blended and Online Education and Supporting the Blended and Online Student Experience I’ve felt that the discussions have been one of the most effective learning tools on the course. I benefit from the process of articulating my thoughts and committing them to (e-)paper. That said, when we first started thinking about the type of activity we wished to run, I was keen to try to move away from the standard offer up a question and begin the discussion approach.
I’ve always been an avid games player in any form, from hours spent playing computer games in my youth to livening up a quiet evening in the pub with a game of 21, so any form of competition or play present in my learning tends to engage me more than normal. As a consequence I wanted to try out some type of game in our seminar to see if it grabbed people, and drew them in. The simulation and role-play areas were suggested in the assignment spec and so it was towards those we gravitated when thinking up our task.
Martin raised the idea of a debate on widening access to education quite early on and it seemed a good subject to bring out a lot of different opinions. How to turn it into a game though? I was getting a little extravagant with my ideas, thinking of things such as giving each participant a character and making them role-play the entire debate, or simulating the widening of access of a university over a 20 year period by giving each participant one variable to research and control. In the end though, having thought it through, I decided we just didn’t have enough time in 2 weeks to do something quite so complicated. In the end, we decided that turning the debate into a simple 2-side role-play might be enough, and that’s what we did. To bring the main characters to life we decided to record their speeches (sound effects and all, thanks Martin!) and give the whole thing a setting. I’m unsure whether it’s enough of a change from normal to raise the engagement for the participants but I’m quite excited to see how people take to it.
What I’ve already learned from this process is that creating something a little more innovative and different from the norm takes far longer. I think we could have run a normal debate on the subject and it would have taken all of 30 minutes to set up, but because of the requirements to think up a setting, two quite extreme opinions and deliver them in an engaging manner (the audio files with SFX) it took more like a couple of days. Of course this could be used over and over again though so it could be worth the initial investment.
Aside from all that though, I quite enjoyed making up the setting and the characters and writing the little accompanying introduction so it didn’t feel like it took much longer. And we’ll soon see if it makes a difference. Updates to come after Drs Johnson and Helmsley face off across the podium!