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Elluminate gremlins and all

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Suki Haider
29 March 2013

Activity 1b Wk 8 Design Narrative: Elluminate gremlins and all



In my role as OU associate lecturer I have designed and facilitated an online tutorial (Elluminate) for my own group of 1st level undergraduate students studying an interdisciplinary module in the arts. The Elluminate session is supported by supplementary exercises posted in the Tutor Group Forum.

The Elluminate session took place 28th April 2012 8-9pm. 4 students participated.


This was online tutorial was presented toward the end of the module and so most students should have been familiar with the technology. However, one student had not used Elluminate before as she had preferred to attend face to face sessions. None of the tutorials on the modules I teach are compulsory. The students join it because they want advice on the next assignment, that is, they expect the session to be very relevant to their TMA preparation. The date was chosen because it fits well with the assignment timetable, weekday evenings are preferred by students to weekend sessions.


The Elluminate classroom is only open to students in my own tutorial groups: that is I have combined 2 North East Scotland groups. The Elluminate sessions are synchronous, but I also make a recording available to students who could not attend, and the link is provided in the Tutor Group Forum along with additional exercises. The Forum is asynchrous and will be open in the run up to the TMA submission date. The students in the group do not have a strong relationship; most of them know each other only through the VLE.

I am confident using Elluminate at a basic level. Since starting H800 I have been made aware of the gaps in my wider elearning knowledge.


I had several aims, but my overarching intention was support the students preparation for TMA 6 which was due in 2 week’s time. My aims were as follows:

 To discuss the risks in the question (that irrelevancy is a mark loser, as is story telling)

To help students understand the question (their question had 4 parts, and was complex to structure)

To highlight the importance of the Chorus to the essay (students would probably miss its contribution unless I outlined its major role)

To discuss how best to make notes for the TMA (on the module I teach there is a lot of attention paid to study skills and so there is an ongoing discussion of reading, notetaking and essay writing)

To give advice on using quotations (again, as part of the induction on essay writing, I show students how to use quotations in their writing)

To have a short exercise on using quotations in this TMA (to give students a chance to think for themselves, but its kept short because of the constraints of Elluminate)

A remind on the importance of using jargon in their TMAs.

To refer them to important sources in the text book.

To underline the importance of the supporting exercises on the Tutor Group Forum.



The measures of success are subtle.

 A) Success is demonstrated by the students’ willingness to talk to me, and each other during the Elluminate session. But silence does not necessarily reflect a poorly designed lesson it can be the result of the talkative student being absent, or the fact that the students have not prepared for the session and do not have the confidence to discuss the issues involved. Silence is also caused by technical difficulties: microphones not working for example.

B) Success would be measured by the students’ engagement with the academic issues raised by the Elluminate and by their feedback when I ask them are they clear.

C) Success would be shown by later level of participation in the supporting Forum exercises. Success would also be apparent from the number of students who listen to the recording of the Elluminate, but the technology does not provide that information. 

D) Success would also be apparent in the submitted TMAs, in that answers are relevant, use quotations effectively and refer to the role of the Chorus. That is, students who participated in the Elluminate or listened to the recording would produce better quality work than those who did not.

E) Success would be shown by active engagement with the Forum exercises, evidenced by the number of posts and the dialogue between students and myself.



The Elluminate slides build, layer by layer, the issues important in upcoming TMA. I provide a lot of verbal development of what they can read on the screen. I keep information on the screen to a minimum to help the students feel confident that they are keeping up. I also try to make the slides visually appealing and will sometimes include cartoons to try to keep the mood relaxed. I repeat important slides to highlight key points in my conclusion. I also instruct students on how they can download a copy of the slides.

The first slide asks for students to explain to me what they think the question is about. I allow time for students to volunteer to answer, by raising their hands. If no one volunteers I sometimes will ask students who I know won’t mind being put on the spot. 



 After the students have offered their thoughts I then add points that they have missed, or have left hanging, half-baked.

 I spend 10 minutes discussing the question, making sure that the students have identified its variable parts and understand what it means. This section of the tutorial is complete when students are satisfied that they are clear. I ask for feedback verbally, and use the tick / cross etc.


Having discussed the question we then unpick the guidance note. Students are asked to pinpoint the vital advice from the module team, and what it means. The same formula as before is followed: students are asked to suggest ideas and I contribute to their thoughts.

The lesson progresses on this basis. Below is shown a slide that illustrates how students might take notes for the TMA. We discuss the kinds of things that they might include.



This slide forms the basis of a discussion around using evidence in the TMA. I ask students to think of several ways to use the quotation I provide.







I want students to participate more in Elluminate tutorials, as turn out is less than at the face2face sessions. However, I appreciate that some students lack confidence in their understanding of the course materials, and some are intimidated by the technology and so I try hard to build their confidence in both. I encourage students to discuss within the main classroom, I do not use break out rooms, because from experience, students become very nervous when they cannot hear my voice! I have also seen that when students do not have a good knowledge of the module materials time spent in the break out rooms is wasted because the discussion can add to their confusion.



I had not anticipated technological problems, I should have! 2 students had difficulty logging on to Elluminate and consequently were 30 minutes late. One student continued to have technical difficulties as her microphone wasn’t working, and discovering this in the session made for a few minutes of silence, interrupted by me trying to be helpful. These are the type of difficulties that deter students from joining in Elluminate. The students who listen to the recording may well be less likely to participate live because they vicariously experience the gremlins in the system each time they listen. (I provide an Elluminate tutorial on a regular basis, and so there must be about 4 recordings available. In none of the sessions has every student had working audio).

Because students came in late I had to provide summaries of the work that they had missed. The positive side of this was that the latecomers were able to catch up; the disadvantage of course was that for the original student there was a lot of repetition. And because I had to provide a summary I needed to work backwards through the slides, I used the drop down menu but wasn’t able to find my place, and so had to manually go back several screens which I didn’t feel was professional.

There was engagement from the students. Even though I was the one doing the most talking, students asked questions and offered their thoughts. The students’ feedback (using ticks, crosses and the emotions) increased as the session progressed. There was also good use of the text chat, which showed that students were engaging with the session.

It is reasonable to conclude the students all understood the subject much better as a result of the Elluminate. Indeed this is what they said at the end. I think that there was also a degree of group participation as one student who had ‘got it’ was able to explain a point to a student who was stuck. I would have preferred a greater turnout of students – there were 4 – but I understand that some students are put off by the technology, and others don’t have the confidence to participate if they are behind in the reading. I also suspect that some members of the group who, knowing that a recording will be available, do not feel the need to participate live.

Since the session there have been a few posts in the Forum, which indicates that the tutorial has been successful in achieving its aim of reaching other students.


The Elluminate was successful for the students involved because they appear to have a much greater understanding of the TMA task having participated. I also believe that the recording will have the similar effect, although I doubt the engagement will be as deep because unless students post questions on the Forum their individual queries may not be answered. (I’m making a lot of assumptions that the technology will work, in the past recordings have not always played back effectively for everyone).

I would use an Elluminate tutorial again to support students with this TMA. I am happy with the slides, and they were a helpful prompt for me to discuss sections in the text book and other resources. What I do want to improve is my ability to move between slides, without having to go through each one. I need to anticipate that students’ questions will require me to change the order of the presentation, and so I need to have greater skill at locating the relevant slides quickly. Perhaps if I have a print off of the slides at my side, that will help? I have had a listen to the recording, and students do sound happy at the end! J


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