Online Videos project; 2016

It was a crazy fall, writing up a reply to an RFP for our operational contract, and so as part of that, we created a summary of some of the work done on the Online Videos project (with of course the caveat that our Survey 2016 results tell us that there are entirely too may clicks to watch a video).

Autism Videos @ ACT (AVA) – 2016 in review


Following the Google Analytics Flow

We’re collecting website stats for our Quarterly Report, and I’ll report on the usual stats: our registrations, where our visitors come from (email/search engine/direct link, etc) and so forth. But I can’t help but start looking through Google Analytics. I have only lightly scratched the surface, and was getting frustrated with the bounce rate, exit and entrance pages. There are multiple ways that people arrive at and use our site and I was getting frustrated drawing conclusions based on an entire site of activity. Our site has many, many pages (too many?) which clouds our understanding of what people are doing and perhaps dilutes our objectives?

So I explored some more, and right now I’m enamored with the Visitors Flow: at a glance it’s telling me where most of my visitors are landing, and most importantly where they go next. I’m also learning that our site is organized in such a way that Google Analytics (GA) sometimes has trouble following. Due to our odd information infrastructure, it’s not making connections that a human makes, and I either can’t or haven’t figured out how change how pages are categorized in GA. Due to the sheer number of pages on our side, GA has categorized most of them as “misc”, it seems. I’m not sure how much of this is due to the fact that our site is built on Joomla, which creates specific nesting of sites and how much of it is our IA. Both, either, that and more?

Regardless, lots of happy browsing ahead. Any advice or suggested readings?

Following the pathways: our flow 

Reflections on moderating a discussion

These last two weeks, I moderated a discussion in the SCoPE community. I’ve moderated and set-up discussions before, but I feel like a newbie every single time!

Sylvia Currie, the fabulous coordinator of SCoPE sent me a well timed email asking me how it went, and so instead of blithely saying “fine”! I gave some thought to my objectives, the outcomes and the stuff in between.

In general, I felt like it got off to an awkward start, as there were some what I felt were absolute answers about video in education, so we didn’t get into the instructional aspect (what DO you tell your students. how do you measure those outcomes) as much as I’d have liked. This was a case where I perhaps had too many threads going on, so didn’t question/ pick at as much as perhaps I could have (while of course, still being respectful), since I was trying to start too many conversations at once (trying to be all things to all people).
It was however VERY useful for me. I feel like I made peace with the long lecture capture video that we do at ACT. It’s not a 5 minute succinct block of one concept with annotation and fancy transitions, but it’s what we’ve got and it fills a purpose, and we do good stuff with it. And I’m working to make it better, and I’m okay with that.
 because many practices are best practices
And in the end I summarized it with what I’m calling video-instruction Bingo. I use the bingo platform quite a bit when trying to explain that many practices are best practices. Can’t we just all get along?!
So all in all, a good exercise for me, and hopefully got some people thinking about their objectives and assumptions.
because many practices are best practices

Writing Community Guidelines

As I’ve mentioned, I’m in the process of developing, building, and soon to be nurturing an online community.

This week I’m thinking about who our users are (personas), privacy issues, and writing community guidelines.

I’m a generally positive person, and I like to believe that all will be sunshine and butterflies. And it won’t, but I don’t want the fear or worry to prevents us from building the community, or worse (?) creating one that is so rigid and fierce with rules that it sucks all the fun out of it. Since you know, the goal is a community, not enforced participation like in the prison yard at lunch (er, for example).

Question #1: is it pessimistic that I’m thinking about this before someone even posts?
Question #2: I’d love to have the community collaborate on these guidelines, but the members will come and go, and besides, as above, it’s not open yet!

So do some research
I’ve started by looking at some examples. One was short and sweet:
“We love hearing from ya. We try to keep it light & fun (it’s only decorating), so we’ll nix comments that are snarky/spammy (our moms are reading). If you don’t see your comment it’s because they’re manually approved (it should pop up soon-ish). Occasionally our spam filter eats one. Boo spam filter.” from <a href=""Young House Love, a recommendation from a colleague.

Another colleague suggested that I look at the Guardian Newspapers standards and participation guidelines. I particularly love the last entry, that reminds us that the conversation belongs to everyone (I may steal this for mine). Overall however, it was a bit strident perhaps (and given that their commenters by nature have strong opinions about divisive topics such as politics, perhaps necessary). Do like their inclusion of a section on Moderator Approach (will steal this, too), and their final summary “In Short:”

Then I asked Twitter, and boom, received two suggestions to look at Flickrs Community Guidelines. And I like these ones. They start with the Do’s, not the Don’ts, and they’re knowing in their admonitions: “Don’t be creepy. You know that guy. Don’t be that guy.”

So after this day, my conclusions are:
I’m going to have a Please Do, Please Don’t and Moderator responsibility sections. Start with the good! Tell people where to do with concerns! I’m going to talk about copyright and linking (don’t cut and paste), and I’ll have to bring up how to disagree responsibly. I hadn’t considered that people may try to sell or solicit on the forums. I’ll have to consider how people looking for contractors or people looking for contracts might be able to connect. It’s not our responsibility, and we can’t vet contractors, but….

I think that this is a good thing to do. What I learned in post-secondary was that it was when you didn’t have the classroom guidelines that things went bad. It gives other community members something to point to (“hey, read this”), and shows the community members that we are committed to respectful and productive conversation.

So now I guess it’s time to start drafting something up.

Creating user profiles

I’ve discovered that in Moodle, I can modify the user profile to add custom fields. So in addition to having the option of city/town, photo and general description, I can add new sections to the profile.

Which sent me on a whirlwind through what’s in a profile anyway? There is a good chapter in the book Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web, raising additional questions of community reputation.

So what kind of information are people willing or able to share. The purpose of these field is what?
– to help people find others they’d be connected with
– to encourage people to share what they think is important, resulting in a better sense of community (?)
– to describe to the user the purpose or focus of the community

This is the beginning of quite a bit of thinking and decision making for me. What fields matter and add meaning?

The assignment process gives me cognitive overload

I was reading about cognitive overload yesterday as relates to problem solving, and consequently, why sometimes it doesn’t result in learning. Research seems to suggest that our working memory can handle five to seven items in our head at a time, which is why telephone numbers are seven digits, and why you have to write down a longer grocery list. However, how often do we use our brains to memorize numbers or a simple list? And so really, our minds can only grapple with two or three ideas at a time. If we can’t access some of the information we need from our long term memory, we move back and forth from, for example, written documents (hence one difference from novice and experts). And then….

I’m taking a couple of courses right now at the post-secondary level. The instructor is deviating from the course outline at times, which he admits is part historical document* and part updated by himself. The consequence is that last night, we were assigned three different things, two of which were moved up a week (just the assignment information, not the due dates). There was an online discussion question assigned, a small individual assignment, and part one of a major project. The verbal instructions are modifications from the outline, and the assignment handouts we were given didn’t quite match the assignment titles on the course outline. Result? Confusion.

When I would work with faculty on the development of an online space to supplement their face to face teaching, I would harp a bit about easy navigation. I told them that the students should be using their little grey cells to evaluate and apply the course content, *not* trying to remember where things are posted, or which assignment is due when.

This combination of reading and experience yesterday made me consider my working memory, and what I *want* to be thinking about, and my expected outcomes. I’d rather use my attention to consider discourse communities, clarity in communications, creating unique learning experiences or mobile learning.

* “why is assignment two due in hardcopy, when assignment one was due via email”. “I’m not sure. Because it’s always been done that way. Would you prefer to email it?” “yes!”

Classroom of persuasion

I like to listen to the CBC Radio show Age of Persuasion. It’s topic, advertising, is something that I see everyday and Terry talks about it as a fond parent. The misses, the assumptions, the innovations and the traditions.

I find many parallels with teaching. There are some tones or approaches that work well, and as an instructor, you use them over and over again. And sometimes you try something new – because you want to really emphasize something, because you think the chemistry (in the class, in society) is right, or because you just want to do something different.

And in an episode that I was recently listening too, Terry was talking about advertising fails. And he uses the word fail – he doesn’t beat around the bush. But he advises to fail forward. And I took from that to reflect on the process and the outcomes, to consider what might have worked, or what decisions led to the fail.

I’m scared of trying new things sometimes, and so are the instructors I speak too. It will take too much time, energy or resources, it probably won’t work, students won’t care anyway. And the same excuses exist for the advertisers.

But if you don’t fail forward, then what direction are we going in?