GoogleTranslate Service

Hearing the learners’ voice

December 9th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

One big thing was missing from last weeks Online-Educa Berlin conference was the voice of the learners. Not so strange I suppose in view of the cost of the conference. and not so strange when compared with other conferences on technology Enhanced Learning. Although we talk about leaners a lot, how often do we talk to them or, more importantly, listen.

Although many projects talk about user centred design, and research based design, I get the impression that there is more talk than action. Often technologists are happier with usability rubrics than they are sitting down with real learners.

Of course there is a problem of methodologies. How do we research what learners are doing with technologies. What research methods can help us and how can we interpret the results? Ethnographic studies are one obvious approach and one that many researchers I have talked to have advocated. However, ethnographic approaches, at least in the traditional form of the discipline, are extremely time consuming and require extended access to the subjects of study. Within the Mature project, we have used an approach dubbed Rapid Ethnography. What this really means, I think, is extended case studies.

The UK Jisc funded Learner Experiences of E-learning strand is extremely impressive in this regard. Initial project work helped us, they say, “to understand the complexity of learners’ lives and experiences.” The projects found

  • “Learners are living complex and time constrained lives. In these circumstances efficient and flexible access to learning materials, experts and communities are becoming increasingly important. Learners appreciate flexible access to course related resources.
  • Learners make frequent use of technology both at home and within their institution. They use the internet as the first port of call for information in their lives and expect to be able to locate and download relevant resources for their study.
  • Similarly, many learners are used to establishing and maintaining frequent technology mediated connections and expect frequent and responsive communications in relation to their study.
  • Personalisation and choice are core elements of technology use in learners’ lives that they expect to transfer to their study.
  • There is evidence of an ‘underworld’ of informal learning which is not expected or supported by the institution or its courses but may be enabled and sustained by use of technology.”

I am especially interested in the last of the bullet points and will return to it in a later post.

The methodology is also outlined on the project wiki pages. They found that

And best of all they have “produced a set of recipe cards for different types of data collection methods, particularly well suited to evaluations of learners’ experiences of e-learning:

This is an impressive piece of work. But I particularly like the use of the wiki, not only to provide access to the outcomes of the projects, but to share tools and methodologies with other researchers. If all projects were to follow such an approach we could collectively begin to address some of the methodological challenges for involving users in technology design.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by David Dixon, Martin Hawksey. Martin Hawksey said: Great summary and collection of techniques for capturing the learners' voice [S] […]

  • Search

    Social Media

    News Bites

    News from 1994

    This is from a Tweet. In 1994 Stephen Heppell wrote in something called SCET” “Teachers are fundamental to this. They are professionals of considerable calibre. They are skilled at observing their students’ capability and progressing it. They are creative and imaginative but the curriculum must give them space and opportunity to explore the new potential for learning that technology offers.” Nothing changes!

    Graduate Jobs

    As reported by WONKHE, a survey of 1,200 final year students conducted by Prospects in the UK found that 29 per cent have lost their jobs, and 26 per cent have lost internships, while 28 per cent have had their graduate job offer deferred or rescinded. 47 per cent of finalists are considering postgraduate study, and 29 per cent are considering making a career change. Not surprisingly, the majority feel negative about their future careers, with 83 per cent reporting a loss of motivation and 82 per cent saying they feel disconnected from employers

    Post-Covid ed-tech strategy

    The UK Ufi VocTech Trust are supporting the Association of Colleges to ensure colleges are supported to collectively overcome challenges to delivering online provision at scale. Over the course of the next few months, AoC will carry out research into colleges’ current capacity to enable high quality distance learning. Findings from the research will be used to create a post-Covid ed-tech strategy for the college sector.

    With colleges closed for most face-to-face delivery and almost 100% of provision now being delivered online, the Ufi says, learners will require online content and services that are sustainable, collective and accessible. To ensure no one is disadvantaged or left behind due to the crisis, this important work will contribute to supporting businesses to transform and upskilling and reskilling those out of work or furloughed.


    The European Commission has published an annual report of the Erasmus+ programme in 2018. During that time the programme funded more than 23,500 projects and supported the mobility of over 850,00 students, of which 28,247 were involved in UK higher education projects, though only one third of these were UK students studying abroad while the remainder were EU students studying in the UK. The UK also sent 3,439 HE staff to teach or train abroad and received 4,970 staff from elsewhere in the EU.

    Other Pontydysgu Spaces

    • Pontydysgu on the Web

      Our Wikispace for teaching and learning
      Sounds of the Bazaar Radio LIVE
      Join our Sounds of the Bazaar Facebook goup. Just click on the logo above.

      We will be at Online Educa Berlin 2015. See the info above. The stream URL to play in your application is Stream URL or go to our new stream webpage here SoB Stream Page.

  • Twitter

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Meta

  • Categories