Annabel Treshansky's Blog

…in which I don't go up mountains

Category: Learning Technology Page 3 of 5

Remote teaching: a camera filming a blackboard

Transactional Distance

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Transactional distance describes the psychological and communicational distance that may arise in any instructional context. It is determined by the degree of interaction amongst learners, teachers, their institutions, and their environments.

According to the Manifesto for Teaching Online, distance is not only geographical, but also psychological, temporal, spatial, communicational, emotional, political, and social. All of these interact in online education and profoundly impact on the students’ engagement with courses and programmes, and so it is important to consider it in our teaching and learning design.

In general, as transactional distance increases, student experience, satisfaction, course engagement and completion, and educational outcomes are all reduced.

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blue and yellow smileys

Video Discussion: Thoughts on Campus and Distance

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Here are my notes on this video about Distance from the Near Future Teaching Project:

There will be more and more online education.

Online education is a great equalizer.

With artificial intelligence and you can access online resources, would you still need to go to university?

Online education is more accessible to students in rural areas who have less options.

We should be looking at how to get our degree courses available as online learning.

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Disengaged student

Online Teaching: Case Studies with Disengaged Students

Reading Time: < 1 minute

We were given three case studies of students who were disengaging from an online course for different reasons, and asked for suggestions about how to respond.

The universe does not have laws, it has habits, and habits can be broken

Fortune cookie image: Chow-fun philosophy., via Footnotes on epicycles.. Licence: CC-BY-3.0

These were the three disengaging students:

  1. difficult work life balance, with a demanding job and caring responsibilities. Asked early on what the minimum was and seems to be only doing that.
  2. Busy, travels a lot for work, posts very briefly from his phone, leading to frustration from other students.

  3. very keen international student, posts frequently and is eager to interact but other students do not respond well to this.

Personally, I feel like I have been both A and C!

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Workspace for Online Teaching

Unknowns in Online Teaching

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Teachers who are moving from on-campus to online teaching will have a lot of questions. Here are some examples:

Questions about Teaching Online

  • How often is it necessary to be online?
  • Should they have synchronous teaching sessions or rely more on asynchronous discussion boards?
  • Would they need to work unsocial hours?
  • How would they know if students were struggling?

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Graphic: Artificial Intelligence


Reading Time: 5 minutes
Photo of a friendly robot

This is actually Pepper, not Teacherbot

What is Teacherbot?

Teacherbot is an artificial intelligence project to automate some aspects of teaching, thereby improving efficiency and allowing for the more ‘teacher-light’ tuition required for providing courses on the scale of MOOCs.

I had been interested in hearing more about Teacherbot ever since I first heard of it at the IT Futures conference in December, so it was a very nice surprise to see it featuring in the online education course.

Teacherbot was created to engage with students of Edinburgh University’s e-learning and digital cultures MOOC on Twitter. Teacherbot replied to tweets containing the #edcmooc hashtag, with responses drawing on keywords and how they were linked through terms such as “and” or “not”. It engaged with hundreds of students, tweeting about 1,500 times over the duration of the course.

Teacherbot could answer simple questions, and could respond to more complex questions by posting key quotes or asking ‘Would anyone else like to connect?’ Students felt it helped them engage with the idea of automated teaching, and said that Teacherbot had prompted them to think.

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Photo of a laptop showing the back of a teacher writing on a blackboard

Engaged Online Teaching and the University’s Strategic Plan

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Image: Not very engaged online teaching

Why teach online?

The University of Edinburgh’s (2016) Strategic Plan endorses “a digital culture that will culminate in a university where: every core service is fully digital; every educator is a digital educator; every student is a digital student”.

Who are our distance learners?

Online students tend to be older, more professionally minded, and with greater challenges to overcome in their work-life balance. Engaged online teaching can help with this.

What are the unique challenges faced by distance learners?

In ‘Making Distance Visible: Assembling Nearness in an Online Distance Learning Programme’, the authors make some key points

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Web Accessibility Word Cloud

Accessibility Experiment: Listening to a Web based Article via Audio

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Accessibility Experiment

When I looked up the article about Teacherbot, I decided to try out something else new, and take advantage of an accessibility feature of the online journal it was in: I noticed they had an audio option available and I thought that was great, so I had the article read out to me!

Screenshot of a professional journal with an audio option

Audio version of Teacherbot: interventions in automated teaching. Journal: Teaching in Higher Education
Critical Perspectives
Volume 20, 2015 – Issue 4: Twentieth Anniversary Special Issue.

Audio version of Teacherbot: interventions in automated teaching.
Journal: Teaching in Higher Education: Critical Perspectives Volume 20, 2015 – Issue 4: Twentieth Anniversary Special Issue.

It was an interesting experience in itself, and listening through the navigation options was a valuable reminder of the importance of making the navigation as accessible to those who can’t see where the options are as to those who can.

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Community Memory

Group Working in Online Learning

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Group Work: Video Reflections

Students will find a way to do group work, even online across time zones. They will be designing their own digital creations, organising via email, Skype, and similar applications, screen sharing and sharing films.

Assessments should be designed as much as possible so that they can align with what all the students are doing in their different contexts.

Group work raises the fears of letting the group down, and taking a lot of time. It’s important to set expectations of what is due and when.

If new technology is required, it’s very important to provide good guidance and not assume that all the students will have the required technical skills.

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Community word cloud from the online education course

Community Word Cloud

Reading Time: < 1 minute

I’m quite enjoying these word cloud generators they use on the course.

Here’s the word cloud my cohort in ‘The Edinburgh Model for Online Education’ course came up with for Community:

Community word cloud from the online education course

Community, as seen by students of The Edinburgh Model for Online Education

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Graphic: Social Media, Internet, Communication, Community

Creating Community Online: Group Project Review

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Well this is ironic. No one else from my group is anywhere to be seen, and the task is this:

In this activity you are going to be working in groups to discuss some of the challenges and opportunities around the size and scale of learning communities, particularly online. In your group discussion area, share a positive and/or a negative example of your experience of being part of an online community (informal or formal). What were the key things that made or make the experience positive or negative? Provide a short overview of your personal experience in your group discussion area. Once you have all posted your entries then, as a group create a list of your:

  • three essentials considerations for positive community building
  • three things to avoid or mitigate when trying to build and sustain a community

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