Usability - Productivity - Business - The web - Singapore & Twins

eLearning day at Catholic High School

Yesterday some schools in Singapore conducted an eLearning day including Catholic High School where my boys are attending P4. The eLearning day's purpose was to gather experience how school can continue if access to a school campus isn't feasible ( natural disaster or an epidemic like SARS or Swine flu). The boys suspected rather different motives for the date set:" They just don't want us to see tired teachers since they were up all night watching the world cup finals" (In German we would say to such a statement: Kindermund tut Wahrheit kund <g>). Working from home I rather curiously watched how that eLearning would work. It became very obvious that this day was very experimental. On one side that is good. Only through experimentation experience can be build to find the right mix for optimum performance. On the other side the way the tools were used was utterly inadequate for a comprehensive eLearning experience. All teachers by now should have access to a gMail account and Google docs. The students access their learning materials through the Lead portal, which is also linked to Google docs and their schools website. I made the following observations:
  • The website didn't cope well with the load and some alternative access had to be given. Having not prepared for the estimated load is bad, but remedial actions like notifying via SMS for the alternate access worked well
  • Tasks arrived in many ways: some were posted on blogs, some on the school website, some were emailed. All in all it felt quite messy. I would expect an integrated homework assignment system that works for students every day
  • Submission of completed work items, unsurprisingly was messy too. Some teachers required the documents to be emailed back, some wanted a form based on Google spreadsheets to be filled
  • There was a total format mess. Everything could be found: PDF, Doc, PNG. Very messy to process, especially when you are on a Mac without MS Office. I taught Ernest how to download files and then re-import them into Google docs
  • There was no real eLearning at all. All the tasks were file representations from worksheets that used to be paper handouts in class. Big disappointment there
  • None of the tasks were collaborative. Everything was solitary: complete your assignment and be done with
  • The sharing facility of Google docs wasn't used. Instead eMails were used to share documents. Did MOE miss something when opting for Google docs? Training eventually?
  • Teachers were not available for chat to ask questions or discuss results. I would have expected at least Google chat or an active bulletin board. While we (I live here 10 years, so I think it is OK for me to speak of "people of Singapore" as we) pride ourselfs with a world class network infrastructure I can understand that in a first of such events video and voice chat was out. In contrast on a recent team assignment Ernest and his school buddy happily chatted away on Skype video chat (but 1:1 video is much easier than catering to a whole class and many of them concurrently)
  • The LEAD portal has a Windows dependency for a series of functions. So no iPad for the gentlemen anytime soon
I'm sure these topics will be brought up in a de-briefing (at least I hope so). So what would I change?
  • Improved Homework and task assignment and submission. Preparing for a digital world the schools should adopt such a system for general use, not just for the eLearning day. It also would ease the teachers' task of tracking who has submitted an assigned task and who has not. A good starting point could be the applications listed at schoolforge.net, OS4ED, OSEF, EduTech (University of Geneva), EduCause or Wikipedia (also here)
  • More collaborative task to learn teamwork. E.g. a task could be split into 2 where one part is to obtain information from a peer and interpret/analyse it
  • Back channel: eLearning without chat/chat room is incomplete
  • Full use of Google documents (I like LotusLive's collaborative editor better, but that's not what the schools bought) instead of emailing stuff around. No more use of other formats. This also would include reformatting work for use as electronic documents rather than files that only look good when printed
  • Material that is better suited for eLearning and properly managed. Maybe Moodle would be a good start. Of course creating good eLearning materials is hard and creating dual use material even more.
  • Mobility enabled content: works on Android, i[Touch|Phone|Pad|Mac], Linux tablets

Posted by on 12 July 2010 | Comments (2) | categories: Singapore


  1. posted by Brian O'Donovan on Thursday 15 July 2010 AD:

    I am involved in a group looking at ICT usage in Irish education (see { Link } for details).

    I think the Singaporean schools sound like they are fairly advanced in their usage of ICT even if they are not perfect. I would encourage you to work with the school to improve they way the use ICT, I guess they would be delighted to leverage your expertise.

  2. posted by Stephan H. Wissel on Friday 16 July 2010 AD:
    @Brian: I'm in contact with the school. The challenge we have identified and want to tackle is having a single point of access for all assignments and grades. Kind of a GTD for students. Of course Google integration is a challenge.