Sunday, 20 September 2009

eLearning Sucks

Check out this SlideShare Presentation: I found this via David Hopkin's blog Don't Waste Your Time. It is a thought provoking presentation so I am posting this for future reference.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Learning to Use Office 2007

In my experience as a Learning Resource Assistant (IT) the autumn term is traditionally a time for initial assessments. People wishing to embark on a new course, develop skills and hopefully change their lives in some way have to sit an online assessment program for English and Mathematics. For many this is quite daunting especially if they are not very familiar with using computers or have learning support needs. It is our role to support all levels of ability and we take our role very seriously. However we have our own learning issues to face.
We returned to work after our summer break to discover that Office 2003 is now upgraded to Office 2007. There is no time to wait for professional development so we are busy trying to find time to train ourselves in between assessment duty.

Students are starting classes soon and will require support in using the intranet and VLE with technical support and how to questions for applications. We are faced with the task of learning to use Office 2007 to a good level of proficiency.
There are other issues which I will not go into here but just say that it presents us with a number of challenges that will affect the quality of our support. For this article I want to look at the methods we are using in our attempt to become proficient in Word 2007.

Microsoft Word is the obvious starting point for upgrading our knowledge of the Office suite. Once we can use Word we expect to be able to transfer that knowledge and apply it to the other applications used by students to carry out research and produce coursework. There are a number of methods we are using to achieve this.

We work in a learning resource centre so we are surrounded by tools for learning. But the first thing I did was just open the application and jumped in. Then one of us found a book called ‘Teach Yourself Word 2007’ on the shelves. It’s written by Moira Stephen and although designed for beginners it is very useful for users experienced in Word generally with clear progression from the basics to IT proficiency. You can find out more about the series from their website.

Books are good because you can carry them around and dip into the section you want. You can have the book to refer to as you work through and this book has some useful images but this is an elearning blog so let’s look at a few elearning options for Word 2007.

1. Online videos are great tools for learning and I found some on this website There are just a few videos of a few minutes duration and the site does have a comprehensive list of features in Word 2007 to explore and discover. It explains something that for me was initially the most confusing feature of Office 2007 – the ribbon. After years of menu bars and drop-down menus it is quite a change but with a few video demos and some demos from colleagues I recognised that in reality those dialogue boxes were still there.
Here is the video that introduced the Office 2007 Ribbon...

We also have some learning resources available on the VLE but I found these difficult to use as I have to switch from window to window to carry out tasks and exercises. I did not get any positive reactions to these resources from my colleagues.

2. The Microsoft Office site also offers some learning tools but I am unable to use them at work as the video player uses Silverlight. Installing anything is prohibited on the college network so I am not able to tell you about that.

3. The application itself offers help as we would expect. One colleague pointed out a really useful item called Reference: Locations of Word 2003 commands in Word 2007. This is neither training nor learning tool but it is a good reference tool which shows the equivalent of Word 2003 tools in Word 2007. It's just what we need.

This upgrade experience illustrates how we take different paths to learning. One of us uses video and practices the application by creating documents and exploring tools by doing. Another of us uses the Teach Yourself book and learns by reading and doing the bits that are relevant or interesting to them. We are all sharing what we’ve learned so far with each other, demonstrating and therefore reinforcing our own learning by sharing. It turns out that we have all learned different things so while I have focused on inserting tables, clipart and objects like text boxes, my colleagues have focused on formatting tabs, using the quick toolbar and headers and footers for example. This is a good thing as we will be able to complement each other as we provide support for learners. How long before we feel as confident with Office 2007 as we do with 2003 is another matter.