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Anna Orridge's Design Narrative: Putting Articulate into action
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31 March 2015
Putting Articulate into Action
In 2014, I was working as English Language Tutor at a London branch of a British university, and was tasked with developing online multimedia tools as part of my role.
This tool was designed with a group of pre-sessional students in mind, all of whom were hoping to enrol on undergraduate or postgraduate business or marketing courses. They were studying for 5, 10 or 15 weeks in preparation for an English entrance exam. Classes were 12 – 15 strong, with twenty hours of contact time per week, and all had access to computers or tablets. Many students had come from educational cultures that were very assessment-centric, and expected classes to focus on exam practice. Their teachers, however, felt that time would be better spent developing their communication skills and confidence and giving them a more rounded and holistic educational experience.
I hoped to develop an e-learning tool which would allow students to access a full range of information about the writing component of the summative assessment. The Articulate Suite, which allows the author to create a complex web of interactive slides and embedded content, was the software of choice. Students would be able to work through a series of activities guiding them through the exam rubric and the writing process. Through model answers, they would be exposed to a range of academic writing and made aware of the marking criteria and how to go about improving their style and accuracy.
It was hoped that this would free tutors up to use class time for more creative and participatory activities, and lessen pressure from students to do practice paper after practice paper.
Success would be measured through student feedback forms and interviews with tutors.
A series of meetings with the co-ordinator and tutors were arranged to compile common difficulties students experienced with the writing paper and to consider e-learning activities which could help them to overcome these.
I began to develop the presentation using the Articulate software. Through labelled pictures, audio, animations and pop-ups, learners were shown the structure of the presentation to follow. Guidance followed with highlighted sample papers, in-depth question analysis, and the brainstorming and planning process modelled. A series of interactive drag-and-drop and matching activities were used to help students identify stylistic and grammatical errors. Links took students to YouTube videos and sites with related content and to relevant Moodle pages. The presentation finished with a short formative test to allow learners to see how much they had absorbed. The process of authoring was extremely time-intensive – it took around 40 hours to produce a presentation that would take around three hours for the learner to complete.
The presentation, when completed, was posted to Moodle and tutors were encouraged to use it, either in class, or to set it as a homework activity and distribute feedback forms subsequently in class.
Take-up for the presentation was high, with all tutors using it at least once. Tutors did, however, report problems with persuading students to complete the task and to reflect upon it afterwards. This was not something that I had anticipated. This was largely because many students were confused about using Moodle and it was not yet an integral part of the course design. Some workshops were scheduled to ensure that they all knew how to log on to the site and access relevant materials. A welcome additional outcome to this new tool, therefore, was an increased use and awareness of the VLE amongst our students.
Quite a few students, when informally questioned about their reluctance, said that they did not like to go through presentations on their own without some guidance from tutors. This seems to be quite a common difficulty with 'individual' e-learning tools in general, and requires some serious thought.
80% of students who completed the presentation and the feedback reported that it had provided them with useful information about the exam and that they intended to view it again. Tutors reported that students were less likely to 'badger' them for exam practice in class and many were enthusiastic about similar presentations on other exam components.
Around 40% of students claimed on the feedback form that they found the presentation rather difficult to read. When asked to explain further in interview, many said that there was too much text on one slide, and they found this frustrating.
E-learning tools, such as those pioneered by Articulate, can be very useful in providing learners with an introduction to a subject and raising awareness of available resources. The teachers felt that they had real value, but did stress that students still needed some direct support, as not all the queries and worries they had could be addressed by the presentation. Face-to-face guidance cannot be disposed of. The process made me very aware that many of the pitfalls associated with conventional Powerpoint style presentations (avoid multiple bullet points and dense text) are equally applicable to projects such as this, which are meant to be perused individually.
Articulate is a paid for service, but does allow a feel trial period. Follow the link below if you would like to try it out.