Creating online research relationships

A spin-off of using the Values Exchange – an internationally networked online ethics tool, has been the opportunities to meet others in related (and unrelated) fields and to forge collaborative relationships with them.

I have been very fortunate to have been a user of the Vx from almost its point of inception. It had developed over time as a series of concepts in books and then a wooden puzzle and around 2004/2005 coding began to transform it into an online platform. As an early adopter I have had the privilege of contributing development ideas and have built up strong networks among other users. Because of my long association with the site, and having studied its underlying philosophy I am sometimes contacted by other users for advice or to ask if I can share my teaching resources. I will often share ways in which I use the site or specific cases and in return have access to a wide repository of resources to utilise in my own teaching.

I’ve also had some amazing opportunities to collaborate with others – and in the main they are people I will not have met in person.

For example I have just returned from the 6th International Clinical Skills Conference in Prato, Italy where I co-facilitated a workshop with 3 paramedics from Monash University. Before the conference we had never met in person. We chatted on the VX, using the Vx Instant messaging, followed up with a couple of Skype calls and when we did eventually meet at the conference had already established a great working relationship, leading to a really great workshop.

Workshop presenters from AUT & Monash
Workshop presenters from AUT & Monash – meeting face to face!
Prato workshop - we first showed them how it worked and explained the background. Ee then got them to brainstorm on how they could use it to enhance clinical skills education. The participants crafted a scenario which we loaded and the audience responded and analysed the group's responses.
Prato workshop – we first showed attendees how the Vx worked and explained the background. We then got them to brainstorm on how they could use it to enhance clinical skills education. The participants crafted a scenario which we loaded and the audience responded and as a group we analysed the group’s responses.
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The Values Exchange: innovative web-based tool for ethics education

The tool I use the most in my teaching is the Values Exchange (Vx).

AUT Values Exchange Current Home page
AUT Values Exchange Current Home page

This was developed by Professor David Seedhouse. Originally only AUT had a Vx but now it is used in around 20 international universities as well as in several schools and a UK National Health Trust.

The Values Exchange offers powerful ways for creating teaching, learning and research opportunities across disciplines and between educational institutions. Using a range of philosophical frameworks and a social media type interface, the Vx assists users to explore practice-based decision-making, enabling deep thinking and offering unique ways of learning from others.

The Vx uses a Socratic method of posing questions and there are a number of different formats for doing this, such as a simple poll, a survey, a discussion three, digital sharing boards, quizzes and the most sophisticated method – the Think Screen.

The Think Screen is a series of 3 interactive screens that present users with a challenging ethical sceanrio. Users must decide to what extent they agree or disagree with a case proposal and who matters most. In the 2nd and 3rd screen users are presented with a series of ethical concepts and practical considerations and they choose ones that will most help them build a strong argument for the position they have taken. An important factor of the system is that there are no objective right or wrong positions; a ‘good’ response is one that is clearly justified.

Once the user has completed their case deliberation they submit their reasoning and gain access to all the responses of others who have also responded to the same case. This provides a unique insight into the thinking of others and provides rich opportunities to learn about the decision-making process of oneself, one’s peers and those from other professions.

The Vx system is also networked with other licence holders and so students have the ability to share cases and insights with students from other countries such as Australia, USA, UK & Eire.

Students have more or less the same access rights as the lecturer (although it is possible to set specific cases to hide responses for assessment purposes) and so it reflects a very egalitarian learning community. I begin the semester by loading cases that I think have relevance for the students but once they are familiar with the system they load all the content, based on their experienced and anticipated practice situations.

A familiar ‘facebook’ style social media interface with ‘Vx friending’ and Instant Messaging wraps around the various Socratic questioning methods. Other features such as the provision of private and public groups provide an effective place and space for teaching & learning. The system feels like a real innovative learning community. Ethics is notoriously difficult to teach and for me the Vx is an engaging way of thinking about ethics and decision making.

Private group: This private group contains all the teaching content and interactive activities for my current online students. This is where they receive announcements, interact with one another and post questions for deliberation.
Private group: This private group contains all the teaching content and interactive activities for my current online students. This is where they receive announcements, interact with one another and post questions for deliberation.
The private class group has interactive digital sharing boards. The one displayed here provides weekly content with links to key readings and links to various Vx activities for the week.
The private class group has interactive digital sharing boards. The one displayed here provides weekly content with links to key readings and links to various Vx activities for the week.

audioBoom – what might it offer my teaching & learning?

Three weeks ago I signed up to audioBoom and started working out how it worked and what its potential was in terms of making use of it in my teaching & learning.

From the outset I really liked it. I liked the fact that you could produce a short audio recording with a static visual image. I tested it out by very simply drawing up a very rough ‘assessment’ outline and made a brief recording.

Here it is: listen to ‘assessment outline’ on audioBoom

I thought I could make use of it in my online class for explaining assessments, as the students could be reading the actual assessment guidelines from the paper booklet while listening to me explain aspects of the assessment in greater detail.

My assessments are always relatively complex with lots of small tasks. I purposefully do this I think as future health professionals they will need to be able to follow a series of instructions rather than respond to an essay question. It does mean that students can get a bit anxious as I sense they are perhaps more used to the simple essay format!

I’m now thinking about how I can use audioBoom as a learning tool for my students and wonder how easy it would be to implement next semester.

I think they will learn better if they see me using it first and I will be a better teacher if I have first had to master its use. So my ideas just now are to use it as a teaching aid in the first half of the semester – to explain written documents and maybe even to give verbal feedback on their assessments (I’ll maybe start by using it for the formative feedback I give them). Then as the semester progresses I’d like to see if I can get my students using audioBoom to perhaps explain an ethical analysis they have completed. My main tool is the Values Exchange: http://aut.vxcomunity.com where, among other things, students deliberate practice based case scenarios. The system generates a summary report of their deliberation and I can see how they could then use audioBoom to talk about their own analysis- perhaps reflecting on what they’ve learned about their decision-making process, while displaying their report for the listener to read.