Interviews, interviews, interviews

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Source: Pixabay

We’re coming to the end of week 9 (I think, who can even keep track anymore?) and I’ve been spending a lot of time interviewing people! I’m really starting to see how beneficial these experiences are. At first, I was a little apprehensive about carrying out the interviews, but it was great to step out of my comfort zone a little, and I think so far they have been a success! Technical writers obviously spend a lot of time communicating with subject matter experts, so it’s an important skill to practice. 

This week I had my interviews for my RM6011 proposal, in which I propose an online resource for UL students. I interviewed a staff member from the library, and a staff member from the Writing Centre. I am still amazed and so grateful that people are willing to give their time to help me in my studies. Both interviews went great, and I came away with a lot more clarity around some things (and a lot of questions about others!). I’m looking forward to processing the interviews as I write up my proposal. When I recorded my usability tests last semester, I didn’t fully trust my phone’s recording app. This time around, I used an app called Voice Recorder, and I was very happy with. I was able to easily upload the recordings to Google Drive straight from the app. 

As a result of the interviews, I’ve started thinking a lot more about how I might present my lessons. This is mostly summer’s problem, but I guess there’s no harm in considering it now. While I already anticipate using Dreamweaver and Animate CC, I’ve started looking at options such as screencasting (e.g. Screencast-O-Matic) and video animation software (e.g. Moovly)for some parts. Based on my audience survey, interactivity is going to be key. 

My interviewing days aren’t over yet! On Tuesday, I am taking a field trip over to Mary I to interview an educational technologist for TW5212. I have all my questions ready to go, and I have sent them over to the interviewee so he can have some time to consider them beforehand. Other than the fact that I’m obviously going to get lost in Mary I, the interview should be a fantastic experience! 

Now, hurry up Easter  🙂 

 

Virtual team assignment: submission time

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On Monday, we said goodbye to our virtual team assignment!

In the end, despite all my hopeful thinking at the beginning, I would say we had engagement from 1 of the 4 American students. Those aren’t very impressive numbers, but I’ve learned from this experience that I can’t expect everyone to prioritize work in the same way. I was lucky to have Toni on board! She copied and pasted all our Facebook messages onto documents for Sulis, as in the end I don’t think any  communication took place on there. The French students were thankfully very involved, and finished their translation with very little trouble.

With everything said and done, I believe Toni, Caroline and myself managed the assignment pretty well. While we always kept the others in the loop, we ensured that we were picking up any work that was leftover. I found that towards the end, the updating of the document got a little confusing. We were uploading new versions of the Word document and sometimes were unsure which was the most up to date version. I don’t know the best way this could have been managed… perhaps by just one person carrying out the edits? Or emailing documents may have been more beneficial at this point. I liked that we waited for each others opinion on making changes at the end and were able to talk through them logically, without wasting time.

So, I now know nearly everything there is to know about Google Slides! I had used it for group projects before, but there were loads of features I hadn’t seen before. For example, I think it’s pretty handy that you can search for images from within the app, and even filter through them (see image 1).

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Image 1

Another assignment ticked off the list… hard to believe we only have around 5 weeks left!

 

Software limitations and frustrations

software

I would like to learn all the software and create all the pretty things, however real life doesn’t quite work that way. I have spent a lot of this weekend researching the various software applications available for creating e-learning content. I feel I need to make a decision now, as I am creating a digital resource for EL6072, and it makes sense to learning the software that I will ultimately create my summer project with. However, is that the right decision?

My original target was to use a combination of Dreamweaver CC and Animate CC to create my courses.
Pros? Both come with Adobe Creative Cloud, which costs a meager €20 a month. The cloud comes with many other applications I am excited to learn, including Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. I have already committed to this license, and have all the apps ready-to-go on my laptop. I have been enjoying using Illustrator for my interface designs for EL6072.
Cons? They are unfortunately not the technologies of the future. I realised today, when I went to play a Flash game (to get an idea of the capabilities), that Google Chrome disables Flash by default. That is a worrying trend.
Thoughts? I read this blog post on Adobe.com about how much more flexible Animate CC is than its past incarnations. It seems that being compatible with a HtML5 Canvas is a must these days, and if I can optimise my course for that (as my preliminary research shows), it may be more accessible across different browsers. There seem to be plenty of tutorials online showing how to convert Action Script 3.0 to HTML5. It has also become apparent to me that nobody on the internet agrees. Across independent blogs and discussion forums, there seem to be many people against the idea of Animate CC, but just as many rooting for it.

The other obvious choices are Storyline Articulate and Adobe Captivate. Both are rapid authoring tools, and classmates have reported good experiences with Articulate. Unfortunately, both come with a hefty price tag that I can’t reach. I am now considering perhaps downloading the Articulate Trial to learn the ropes and perhaps create my EL6072 resource, but ultimately Animate/Dreamweaver appears to be the path I am on for my summer project. I think it’s important to factor in the fact that we are heading into Week 9, and I have many other assignments to complete alongside the EL6072 resource.

Data time

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Source: Pixabay

Decision Time

For my summer project, I am building on a project I proposed for EL6041 (Instructional Design) last semester. My preliminary needs assessment demonstrated a need for an e-learning resource in UL, covering topics related to academic reading and writing, including referencing and presentations.  Currently, there are resources available to students via the Regional Writing Centre, the library website and I’m told there is a new Academic Writing module for incoming Arts students in September ’17.

However, I felt there was a gaping hole in digital resources, specifically interactive content, and that the so-called ‘digital natives’ of UL would benefit from an online platform tailored specifically for UL students. I brought this topic forward for my summer project because I am really interested in learning where the exact need lies, and also the English Major in me refuses to die.

Audience Needs Assessment 

I decided an online survey was the easiest way to reach my target audience. I tested out Google Forms, however my test participants had trouble using it and appeared confused by the form’s feedback. So for best results, I decided to pay the €35 for the premium options on Survey Monkey. It’s been well worth it, the interface is so user friendly and all the data analysis is done in seconds. The app is also fantastic, meaning I could keep an eye on my results while I was away at the weekend. I started circulating the survey via student mail a week ago, and I have 67 responses (64 complete so far), which I’m very happy with. I think that’s more than enough, so won’t go bothering everyone again. As nice as the even 70 would be…

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Survey Monkey Android App

I haven’t looked deeply at my results yet, but so the data is very encouraging so far, with students showing a lot of interest in the resource.

Subject Matter Experts

As well as carrying out a needs assessment, I decided to speak to some SMEs to get a better overview of the needs from their side. Next week, I will interview one person from the library, and another from the Regional Writing Centre.  I’m hoping to speak to them about the issues students bring to them, and what they find works/doesn’t work, especially for first year students during their transition to higher education.

Proposal 

The point of all of this research is to write a strong proposal for RM6011 (Research Methods). Thankfully, having written a detailed proposal for EL6041, I have a lot of the ground work done. I will need to tweak a lot of it as I have changed my content focus, and I think I can do much better interface designs now!

All kinds of everything

 

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Source: own image

It’s Week 8 and we are so busy!

I found week 7 to be the most challenging of the MA so far. On Friday, I submitted both my XML assignment, and my proposal for the EL6072 assignment.  The next morning I escaped to Amsterdam for a couple of days, for a well needed break. Having spent the weekend wandering the beautiful streets and eating an absurd amount of pancakes, I’m happy to be back in Limerick feeling mentally refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the semester. I tried to write this post from the WordPress android app while I was away, but while it’s great for seeing an overview stats/comments/etc., I couldn’t get it to cooperate when I tried to format the post. Need to spend a little more time with it!

TW5212 Workplace Issues in Technical and Professional Communication 

The XML/CSS assignment felt like a huge achievement. I could have spent another two weeks messing around with it and learning more complicated CSS,  but I’m happy with the outcome. My biggest problem (as usual!) was coming up with a topic, and I drove myself demented by constantly changing my mind. In the end I went with something very relevant to my studies right now – attributing images on a blog!

I spent a lot of time looking through the Creative Commons website. I’m glad I chose this topic as I learned a lot about the different types of licenses, mainly the difference between Royalty Free (you purchase a license once and use according to those terms), Creative Commons (there are lots of CC licenses, and a great way for artists to have control over their work while still sharing it) and Public Domain (no restrictions or copyright, but still always a good idea to read the terms). I still have a lot of research to do to understand these licenses fully, but I find Techopedia great for straight-forward explanations. I feel this is invaluable knowledge, especially as I plan on using vector images for my summer project.

EL6072 Interactive Courseware Workshop 

I got off to a rocky start with the proposal for the digital learning resource, but felt much more confident after getting really helpful feedback from Ann on my draft.

I am honestly amazed at how much I have learned since September. When I created interface designs for EL6041 last semester, I spent hours upon hours clobbering something together between Microsoft Paint and Word. They looked OK, but the proportions were off, nothing seemed aligned, they became fuzzy when resized, and they were so stressful to make. This semester, I have learned some basic tools on Adobe Illustrator and the difference is amazing! I still spent quite a lot of time on them, but I was getting faster the whole time, and they looked a lot more polished and professional. And there was practically no stress!

The real challenge will come when I try to actually create any of this in Animate and Dreamweaver but let’s just cross one bridge at a time!

I have a lot on the agenda for the rest of Week 8. The French students are just about finished their translation for the virtual team assignment for EL6082, so we will be spending some time ensuring everything is consistent. I am also eager to get ready for my TW5212 interview, as my interviewee would like to see the questions ahead of time.

 

Whoa, we’re halfway there (kind of…)

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Source: Student Problems (Facebook)

I know that every week I express my astonishment that another week has passed, but seriously, we’re heading into week 7? Seriously?  This is my 10th and final semester of university, and it’s flying by!

I have no news to share re: virtual team assignment. We’ve heard nothing from the French students since we passed it over to them on the 20th. I’m going to continue working under the “no news is good news” school of thought, and not worry about it.

Here’s a round up of how everything else is going:

TW5212 Workplace Issues in Technical and Professional Communication
I’ve been tipping away at our XML/CSS assignment. I’ve been looking forward to learning XML since last semester, as I know it’s a requirement for any technical writing position these days. I like it- there’s something very comforting about knowing that x does y. It’s a change of pace for me as a former English major, but I LOVE learning these new technical skills. There’s such a buzz in inputting all this code and something actually appearing on the screen! Even if it’s hideous! Other than the trustworthy w3schools website, I’ve been using CSS Tricks for examples.

I’ve also sorted my interviewee for the interview assignment, so that’s another massive relief. I’m meeting with him on March 28th, so need to get my questions in order soon. I’m looking forward to actually carrying out the interview, but securing someone was stressful and a little awkward. That’s all part of the process I guess!

EL6072 – Interactive Courseware Workshop 

We had our Dreamweaver/Flash workshop on Wednesday, and I’m so glad I went! I went home and repeated the process on Animate CC and it’s pretty easy to work with. I haven’t tried anything fancy yet, but if you ever need to make yellow circles bounce up and down the screen, I’m your woman.

I’ve also been working on my proposal for our digital learning resource. I’m creating a resource that will teach older people (or those with lower digital skills) how to keep themselves save online, by learning to recognise fraudulent content. I’m really enjoying the topic, which in a way might be a bad thing, as I keep getting distracted with news articles as I’m doing my research! My next task on that is to put together some interface designs, but I’ll certainly be employing the KISS principle on this one.

EL6052 – E-Learning Theories and Principles 

I’m still enjoying the Twitter assignment, and it’s great to see everyone else getting so involved. My only issue is that I actively use my own personal Twitter, and constantly have to double check which one I’m on before I Retweet something!

We have a digital literacy assignment due today, and it was quite interesting to think about all the skills I don’t have, or could certainly do with improving. I consider myself a ‘digital native’ in many ways, but so often the simple skills can be overlooked. I chose to focus on ‘open practice’, ‘revision of work’, and ‘searching online’, all of which are relevant and useful to my degree and my future career.

RM6011 – Research Methodologies in Applied Language Studies

I received provisional approval on my ethics application today. I need to tweak a few things, and then I can send it back for final approval. I’m trying to somehow put together my survey to have it ready to go once I receive approval, but there seriously are not enough hours in the day!

To conclude, I’m busy but hey, I’m learning!

Virtual Team Assignment: Reflecting on Communication

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Source: Pixa Bay

All quiet on the virtual team assignment front this week. The document went off to the French students on Monday. We have checked in with them, but they haven’t reported any difficulties so far. They’ve been involved since the beginning, so I’m confident they will reach out if they have any issues, and will produce a good translation (not that I would know… my French begins and ends at pain au chocolat).

Having the break from the rush of the assignment has given me time to think about our various approaches and how we organised (or didn’t organise) our transfer of information.

Email

Pros:

  • Easiest way to make introductions right off the bat

Our experience:

  • Some members of the group didn’t use their university email as their main email so I had some doubts over which emails I should be contacting.
  • Not getting a reply to an email is beyond frustrating and confusing. Did they get the email? Do we have the wrong email address? Did we not receive their reply for some reason? Very little correspondence was carried out through email.

Sulis

Pros:

  • Available for the lecturers to view at any point
  • Everything gets posted in chronological order.
  • Has analytics to show how much students are engaging with the site.

Our experience:

  • We only used Sulis for posting our updates to keep track of them ourselves.
  • If this was an assignment with only UL students, this would have been the obvious choice. Personally I feel that since we had so much trouble communicating with the other students as it was, Sulis may have caused even more trouble.

Facebook Group

Pros:

  • Works well on mobiles so great for communication on-the-move.
  • Shows whether members of the group have viewed posts, so easy to tell who is up to date.
  • Can be used as a platform for uploading files, photos and videos.
  • Can be kept completely hidden online.

Our experience:

  • It took a long time to get everyone on board, and I had to send out the link a few times
  • Turns out, Facebook seems to order posts by popularity as opposed to date, so it got awkward trying to find certain posts after a while.
  • We ran into issues towards the end when trying to upload new versions of the Word document, which led to minor confusion when trying to get the final document

As you can see, we never really managed to establish a concrete method of communication. Looking at my list, in an ideal world, the group would introduce themselves via email and then move over to Sulis for discussion, and document sharing. We don’t, however, operate in an ideal world. This assignment has been an experiment in virtual collaboration, and I’ve come to appreciate the need for minimal methods of communication.