This is a short paper looking at how to TheBrain is being to support the students learning experience on a Business Strategy module on the second year of a BA in International Business.
What is TheBrian? TheBrain.com software was designed in the USA by TheBrain Technologies to be used as a mind mapping and ‘personal knowledge base’ tool. Its original intention was to help commercial companies organise, store, retrieve and make commercial decisions. It uses a dynamic graphical interface (that has a 3D effect) which helps to map hierarchical and network relationships. It includes the ability to add links to Web pages, YouTube videos and files as well as notes and events using a built-in calendar It is cross-platform, available for Windows and Mac OS X. It is available in a free edition as well as in commercial editions with additional features. TheBrain has a Cloud functionality that allows multiple users to access the material uploaded to the system. Access to the material can be controlled by the owner of the original Brain.
Firstly I will explain how TheBrain is being used in a teaching context of the Business Strategy module. I will show how the learning materials are organised in TheBrain, uploaded material includes; module syllabus, assignment briefings, lecture slides, additional readings in PDF format, video, and web links. Also there is a self-contained section for module revision that includes key syllabus areas and examples of past examinations. I will also show that TheBrain has a non-linear way of organising its content that differs from more standard VLE’s, such as Blackboard or Moodle.
Secondly, I intend to briefly outline how we are evaluating the use of TheBrain in this pilot project. Towards the end of the first semester I asked the students to complete a short questionnaire on their experiences of using TheBrain. The results gave an interesting mix of opinions; some of the students liked its non-linear approach whilst others became lost in the complexity of TheBrain as they had to explore the linkages to access relevant material. I also followed this up by interviewing the lecturer to find out his views on using it as an aide to deliver the module. This process was repeated in a second semester and the results were compared.
To conclude I will outline some of the improvements we made to make TheBrain easier to use and more accessible for the students. I will outline some of its main advantages and disadvantages from both a student and lecturer’s perspective. Finally, I will outline our future plans to develop The Brain on this module and plan future assessment opportunities using the ‘TeamBrain’.
Phillips, R., McNaught, C., Kennedy, G. 2012. Evaluating e-Learning: guiding research and practice. Abingdon: Routledge.
TheBrain.com. Available at http://www.thebrain.com/[Accessed 9th March 2013]
Evaluating the Brain. Available at https://totallyrewired.wordpress.com//?s=mikko Accessed 9th March 2013.