Evaluating eLearning

My homework for my E-learning Theory and Technology course at the Cork Institute of Technology is to review this Wall Street Journal website about the Kowloon Walled City.

We were asked to spend time exploring it and then reflect on the following three points:

  • Engagement of learner
  • Quality of interaction
  • Advantages and disadvantages over traditional ways of learning.

First I would like to say that we were supposed to spend 10 minutes exploring and reflecting. Here I am 25 minutes later beginning my reflection while trying not to return to the website and explore more!

So as far as the engagement of the learner goes I think that this is an amazing site. The following things are the positives I would say the site has for engagement.

  • It is visually appealing on every page.
    • Each page is unique but to me, that unique element does not distract from the experience but heightens it.
    • One of the points the digital story makes is that the Kowloon Walled City was a maze of buildings, alleyways, and people. I think that the visual changes in the story build on that maze feeling and reinforce the chaos that many people must have imagined it to be like, yet the site also reflects the order that the residence described as the reality.
  • The story uses sound, images, and text.
  • The short clips are just the right length to keep the learner engaged but not lose interest because they drag on.

As for the quality of the interaction, the quality of this digital story is amazing. The elements are put together in a way that tells a story if you go from point A to point B through the site, but also tells the same story if you play a bit of alphabet soup along the way! Everything ties to something eventually. The way the stores of real people who lived within the walled city are woven throughout the site makes you the reader feel what it would have been like to live and work there.

The advantages of this type of learning platform are that a learner can attack the learning in whichever way they prefer. They can watch a video or just read the text. Nearly all of the text on the first page (People) reinforces the video, yet does not copy the video 100%. You are getting less information if you only choose one method but you are not “missing out” on the whole picture of what the walled city was like.

This type of platform allows for someone to experience through first-hand interaction a place that they may never get to visit. Having recently visited Hong Kong and hearing about the tiny apartments and “cage” houses still in Kowloon, it was very interesting for me to see what it had once been.  As a way of learning, first-hand experiences are a good way for learners to connect with a learning experience and make emotional connections with them. Even if those first-hand experiences are only through video interviews and not live person to person interviews.

A disadvantage to this type of platform is that for some it can be visually overstimulating. They may get distracted easily and jump from place to place within the site without really engaging with the learning.  This could be especially true when they get to the “Imagination” page and begin watching video clips of movies.

Overall I think that this is a great learning piece if you just want to get a feel for what it was like to live and work inside the walled city.

If you wanted a detailed look at any element of the walled city, I don’t think that it would achieve any level of detailed information.

Personally, I like this platform. For me, it was just the right amount of information to keep me interested in exploring without losing interest or getting off task (which is a huge problem for me!).

 

Don’t forget the learning!

I have just begun a short certificate course in preparation for a Masters program which I will begin in January.

I was asked in one of the courses to review a couple of sites to critique the advantages and disadvantages of them as eLearning sites.

Advantages – They were both visually appealing. Visually they were interesting and understandable to a general, basic level. They both give you basic information in both text and image format.

Disadvantages – Once you got past the Ohhh, Ahhh of both you realize they each had flaws.

NY – https://www.nationalgeographic.com/new-york-city-skyline-tallest-midtown-manhattan/
This one used the scroll down to scroll sideways which at first I found interesting but then when I stopped twice along the way I couldn’t remember how to move.

It also only showed the color coding key at the very beginning.

BBC – http://www.bbc.com/future/bespoke/20140304-how-big-is-space-interactive/index.html
This one scrolled down and down and down and when you got to the end it helped you understand a bit of scale but the elements along the bottom that were supposed to help with scale were completely mathematical in nature and not visual. Telling me that 1 Pixel – 1,000,000km does not help me understand the scale (not to mention that the UK uses miles so it means even less to people!). Also, I never did figure out what the graphic on the right was supposed to be showing me.

Neither of them uses any sense but the eyes. If you don’t read or can’t see well you have no way to interact with these sites.

They both were lacking in further information. On both, I wanted to click into the boxes/areas that had a sentence description and have more detailed information pop up. Neither did.

While I learned at least two new things while scrolling through the BBC site, only one was learned by reading (Nuclear test went farther than the ISStation the other fact I learned I had to Google because the site did not fully explain what it meant.

This type of thing is what I deal with on a weekly basis in Education. Teachers ask me for apps or resources that look fabulous, but when you get to the actual nitty-gritty of what it is teaching, you get not a lot. But the ones that maybe look less interesting actually teach what they need to teach.

It is important to focus on visuals because without them nobody will use your learning product, but you can’t only focus on the visuals at the expense of the learning.