In the last post we started to cover the elements of search which have the potential to impact on learning. You can pick up that post from here if you missed it. As well as different ways of refining searches today I wanted to look at federated search and the ability to instantly review search queries and results within the browser.
SharePoint 2007 contained federated search but this has seen improvements within SharePoint 2010. The key premise is the ability to search others sources beyond resources living within your SharePoint. This has the potential to be a major application within education as the ability to bring in search results from search engines and sites like Wikipedia and Youtube will allow students to complete research from multiple sources all from within SharePoint. From a collaborative perspective it also allows searches to be performed across multiple SharePoint sites so that federations of schools can share their data quickly and easily. External databases can also be searched so that many of the administrative elements of a school can be enhanced by the ability to use SharePoint as a central search point.
As well as federated search students will benefit from the ‘Google type’ experience of suggestions. These come in two forms with the pre query suggestions as you are typing and the ’did you mean’ responses when returning a search result. Pre-query suggestions are based on previous searches so the more SharePoint is used the more suggestions appear in a similar way to Google. The ‘did you mean’ suggestions are based on the content in the indexing and although some might argue that this aids students too much it more closely reflects the web world they live in.
A long running debate within our team at Twynham has taken place about the most important aspect of a SharePoint Learning Platform. Dave Coleman has always argued that search is the key attribute which makes the learning experience vastly improved within SharePoint. Although I did not agree with Dave that search was key with SharePoint 2007 it has made major steps forward in SharePoint 2010 and in many ways is now comparable with the same search experience learners will find with the Internet.
The diagram below shows a breakdown of the different types of search you can get with SharePoint 2010.
Faceted Search in SharePoint 2010
One of the biggest challenges with schools is the vast amount of information which can end up sitting on the Learning Platform. With SharePoint 2010 search results which bring up a large number of responses now come with a refinement panel which allows you to filter results by site, author, modified data and tag. You can instantly see how a teacher or student will use this to sift through information and find the most relevant resource for them. An example of the refinement panel can be seen below.
Complex keyword search
Of course you want learners to refine the search results but perhaps more importantly you want them to be able to refine their search terms. This is now possible in SharePoint 2010 with the ability for example to use AND, NOT and OR to further specify what you are looking for. To use a History example you may choose a search of ‘Hitler AND Mussolini’ if you wanted to focus on the relationship of the two dictators. This would likely bring up the Pact of Steel or Munich Conference where the two leaders are referenced together. You could also choose ‘Hitler NOT Mussolini’ if you wanted to look at Nazi activity unrelated to the Italian relationship. Finally if you wanted to generally search for the two dictators for research but it did not matter which one (for example if you were looking in general at fascist European leaders) you could search ‘Hitler OR Mussolini’. As Agnes Molnar showed in her recent article on EndUser SharePoint it is possible to then undertake more complex search as you can see below.
Filed under: e-learning, SharePoint, SharePoint 2010, Social Computing
Having looked at MIS and VLE integration it is time to move on to one of the more powerful and often underused features of a Learning Platform- tagging and rating. This feature has made significant steps forward from SharePoint 2007 and in SharePoint 2010 it has genuine potential to support the learning process through reflection and review.
Tagging and Rating
In many ways the arrival of SharePoint 2010 has led to the liberation for end users who are now active participants. This is immediately obvious in the ability to rate documents within SharePoint 2010 as can be seen below.
The image shows end user ratings for documents and files on a 1-5 star system. Although it is a simple system it has the potential to be profoundly useful for teachers and learners. One of the biggest challenges within SharePoint 2007 for an educator was knowing which resources are proving most useful for support and study. With a simple 1-5 system it is instantly possible to see which resources students are finding most useful. This can allow the ‘bubbling up’ of the best resources to the top so that they can instantly be viewed when accessing a page. The same system can be applied to a multimedia library as shown below.
Of course a 1-5 star rating has its limitations in terms of the amount of feedback it gives the creator. You could create a document which you thought would be very useful but which gets a low rating- why? This is where tagging comes in. This gives the end user the ability to add additional metadata to a resource which can include an explanation of why the like it. The ‘I like it’ feature is shown both above and below in the top right corner of the ribbon.
Students can then add information about why the liked the resource which can support teachers in adaptation or the future development of resources. This is shown below.
As you can hopefully see tagging and rating have significant potential to be useful in the development of a better learning environment both for teachers and learners.
Another feature of a SharePoint Learning Platform is the integration of a VLE. The most common and best integrated solution for SharePoint is the SLK or SharePoint Learning Kit. This is currently being upgraded by the SLK co-coordinator Richard Willis for SharePoint 2010 and should be available in August.
At Twynham School we use an authoring tool called Author Expert which I will be covering in greater detail next week but here are some screenshots of what is possible. The first shows the ability to integrate images into the scorm resource. As well as this you can embed flash files, audio and video files as well as word and PowerPoint files for a rich media experience.
In addition to creating instructional elements to deliver to learners it is possible to compile a range of quizzes and tests which can be delivered, completed, marked and reviewed. The image below shows a Multiple Choice and Multiple Selection example.
As a final example, with high quality authoring tools it is possible to create a wide range of question types to vary assessment and reflection. Below the image shows a drag and drop exercise which is completed at the end of a unit to demonstrate understanding.
There is of course much more to say about the VLE potential within a SharePoint Learning Platform and I intend the devote most of next week to covering the SLK and particularly authoring tools.
Having taken you through the differences between a VLE, MLE and Learning Platform I thought it would be useful to exemplify features of a SharePoint Learning Platform. You will be unsurprised to know that I will be using examples from Twynham School’s Learning Gateway to illustrate the different elements which can create a rich Learning Platform.
The first example is integration of what schools in the UK call an MIS or Management Information System. The classic example is our Online Reporting web parts which can be seen below.
The actual student details and contacts are removed but this shows a typical profile of timetable, attendance and performance which all students parents and teachers can see directly through our Learning Platform.
In addition to Online Reporting we are able to pull through a wide range of data which helps school leaders to manage the school. The image below shows the Headline GCSE results for the school in 2007/8. These appear instantly within the SharePoint Learning Platform and can then be interrogated by Faculties, Subjects, Class and student (more on this nearer exam results).
A recent addition to our Learning Gateway is the ability to pull headline attendance data from the MIS and interrogate it to look at different groupings of student and their attendance levels. An example of a report is shown below.