#ocTEL Week 0 Group Discussion

Here is a bit of a résumé of the activity in our small group during this first week of the #ocTEL MOOC. This is all part of my “cluster” policy and also a pretext for me to play around with some of the platforms and media to get a better idea of how they work. I’m quite pleased that I was able very quickly and easily to link my ScoopIt to WordPress. I just need to figure out now if there is a way of keeping the different content separate.

Anyway, here is the résumé:

Grant: Hi, I’m not a technology expert, just a lecturer with an interest in the technology. I’m also just going with the flow at the moment. I’ve used this kind of platform before but with small numbers of participants and after an initial face-to-face session. This is different and a bit bewildering. I’m also hoping that the webinair will pull things together. Anyway, nice to “meet” you all.

Paul: Nice to meet you Grant! I know the platform is Mahara. LIke you I’m exploring a bit, not sure if there is page where I can customise my feeds ‘n’ such as there seems to be forums all over the place. If people are new this the it’s a lot to take on board. This is why I created a group straight off the bat, so others wouldn’t have too and it takes a bit of the stress out of the situation.

Sounds like you’re already doing some good work with the technology where you teach, were the forums well used?

c. collis: I appreciate your take-up of my comment about this group’s becoming medium-sized, hellycorke and Paul Rettey. Is a “small group” a scalar entity relative to the size of the overall MOOC? Or is there a small group limit that applies regardless of the size of the larger course of which it’s a part? It’ll be interesting to see here if there a size at which the small group becomes incoherent or too large. Thanks for triggering thought about this.

Grant: As c.collis indicates, whether or not the group is small is quite relative. I think my question at the moment is “Now we’re here, what do we and how are we going to go about doing it?” Any thoughts?

Glenn: I think one of the challenges that “always” appears and I feel did do today during the live webinar, was that although we are advocates of new technology, the technology is quite often not reliable, leading to those who are new to online learning or more frequent users, frantically searching their own machines for the slightest thing that they/we could have caused to fail, this in itself can put people off using the technology due to the bad experience that is caused and so often remembered.

During my time as a learning technologist, I too have ran a week “0″ to allow users to check the systems work correctly and to iron out glitches. This has been well received, but on every other session that followed I still spent a lot of time at the start of the session helping users to “get started”. So long as you approach this with a smile and are flexible within the set time limits things normally settle down and by week 10 of 10 things are running like clockwork!

Grant: @glenn I agree, and there are often little things that can/should be anticipated and prepared for (like the short confusion today over sound quality until everyone muted their mics) that can reduce some of the initial frustration.

Dominicennis: What can we tell about the range of experiences and preferences among ocTEL participants?

What challenges does this present for the course?
In what ways is a MOOC like this one well or poorly suited to these challenges?

Hi, thought I’d paste the reflection topic to keep me on track.
The range of experiences: well just getting a flavour of that, seems very wide. encompassing many different professionals with correspondingly different motivations for being here! However it is difficult to form a clear picture of this? Is there a summary profile page with names, roles, institutions and reason for attending course? Or could one be created perhaps as a self enrolling group?

How are the aims of a ‘teaching’ participant different to developer or multimedia resource creator? Is there a clear line between teacher and those who support online teaching and learning. And what of the trainer or facilitator who directly assists or inspires students to try novel technological approaches to their learning? Are we all travelling in the same direction on different vehicles and arriving at different destinations at different times. How are the commonalities articulated and made useful?
Perhaps a MOOC like this with such a diverse membership enjoying multiple channels of input and modes of participation is a rich and effective way of addressing such challenges? The ability for parcticipants to indvidualise their own learning pathways must also be a positive facet of such a course in light of the diverse nature of fellow travellers.

Paul: In response to Grant, I missed the webinar! Darn it..

The questions to explore for Activity 0.2 are:

What can we tell about the range of experiences and preferences among ocTEL participants?

What challenges does this present for the course?

In what ways is a MOOC like this one well or poorly suited to these challenges?

In all honesty I don’t know about the first point, but I can surmise.

What can we tell about the range of experiences and preferences among ocTEL participants?

That we all have a background in education and/or training and/or IT/Computers
Some people have been in e-learning since the advent of computers and networks (PLATO)
Some people have recently joined education/training.
People take different routes into e-learning / Technology Enhanced Learning / Learning technology, some have been teachers in the past, others have come straight into the industry.
Some people still don’t get what ‘it’ is and it’s confusing.

My own preference during online activity is to try and be organised and considerate of other users and I definitely don’t like things being overly complicated or in the wrong place. Einstein said it best ‘Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler’. Good course design is about providing good usability and clarity. Everything in a course must have a clear reason and purpose for being there.

What challenges does this present for the course?

People will come with differing / conflicting views about aspects of e-learning (see I did it again, it’s taking time to get used to the term TEL) and what it is supposed to do. There is likely to be an expectation that everyone knows how to use the technology or understand how behaviors change between online to offline. With around 270 members in this course, I’ve yet to see evidence of this amount of people in the forums. The challenge is ‘could more be done to engage each participant?’ after all teachers must do this in the classroom to ensure that everyone has been engaged, why should this be any different online?

The other challenge is the sheer volume of communication / information, I still get this feeling I’m missing out somewhere as this is my first MOOC (i’m not a veteran) that I’m actively engaging with mainly to see what will come of it. I’ve managed to gain one very good piece of information which is the SAMR model.

In what ways is a MOOC like this one well or poorly suited to these challenges?

Going back to my earlier point of the amount of people on the course vs the amount of participation. I’m glad the group members in this forum are conversing. As I’ve noticed other forums have 1 or 2 members, this is a flaw. In theory you could end up in a group that has members who never participate or drop out. There are strategies to avoid this and it’s about getting engagement going ‘hitting the ground running’ I call it. Forum Moderators have to work very hard during the first few weeks to establish rapport and provide the fertile ground for these activities to be achievable or to ensure that there are enough people in groups to ensure success. They also need to ensure that people are guided to success.

What I have noticed is that a number of people have already created forums based on location or status, To use an analogy

It’s a bit like a big conference room where people have left the main discussions area, gone to a room, put a notice on the door that it’s for people only from ‘xyz’. They’ve then shut the door, instead of leaving the door open and inviting people in they’ve ended up on the own.

There maybe a reason why this happens, but it strikes me as odd.

In summary my view is MOOC’s are still developing as a concept, but the success of MOOC’s rests in the hands of the people running them.

Could it be that high drop out rates are a direct result of people being allowed to fail? because not enough is done to chase low attendance or the lack of contribution.

Grant: Hi, Thanks to Paul and Dominicennis for posting the questions to explore, it will certainly make it easier to stay on track. Pail, there is a recording of yesterday’s webinair available. Today is a Bank Holiday in France so I am going to muse over the questions as I potter around in the garden. I will post the results of this later

Stuart: Having watched the webinar recording and still trying to get my head around the course, I see there are a wide variety of people from all walks of backgrounds taking part. The difficulty is that we all have reasons for taking part and you may eventually end up by not getting the answer(s) you are looking for. MOOC is a great way to learn, flexibility, drives participation and collaboration, the only challenge I see is that the system is up to scratch. At the moment, it’s a bit hard to navigate. I guess this will improve in time. I do like how emails are being sent with the task, this is something I want to bring into my work place.

I am concerned more with how, through exploiting technology, can I drive behavior change, how it can be sustained, and then linking it back into business results. This is a big topic for me at the moment and I hope to find some answers here.

Grant: As others have said, it seems clear that there is a great range of experiences and preferences among the participants. I don’t know if this is just my perception, but it does seem to me that there are more “technologists” than “teachers” here. I think this may have advantages and disadvantages for me personally. So far the advantages have been in the sharing of so many technological resources and the quick and effective help of fellow participants which has allowed me to finally start getting my head around Twitter and get a blog going. What I have perhaps missed so far is exchanging with other teachers about how they use this technology to successfully enhance the learning experience of their students and their own teaching experience. However, I’m sure these conversations will take place over the coming weeks once everything gets going and we start getting a bit more organized.

I think it’s still early days to say how a MOOC like this one is well or poorly suited to these challenges. Everything so far is suggesting that it is well suited to doing so. I think it will be largely up to the individual participants to make sure they have a clear idea of what they want to get out of the course and find strategies that allow them to construct the best way of reaching their objectives. I’m counting a lot on the Dave Cormier model I came across earlier in the week: Orient, Declare, Network, Cluster and Focus.

I think the badge system and the one-thing-a-week approach might help. It’s my first experience of a badge system and so far I’m enjoying it and feeling quite motivated by it.

Belinda: We’re all interested in learning, to have joined ocTEL (or we really like badges, and being online :-)). It seems that there are participants from a range of backgrounds and experiences. Some are educators looking to bring ‘something special’ to their teaching, others are keen to share their expertise and make new connections, others are interested to experience online learning for themselves, and others bring a more technical perspective – all have a different level of skills. I think that this brings the challenge of how to enable each individual to participate in ways that they feel comfortable with, yet at the same time feel challenged by. I believe the course team are addressing this by aggregating the Various channels of communication that participants have chosen, so that the choice is up to the individual – bloggers, tweeters, google+rs (is that even a word?!), and advising us to try something new….. Which means it will help many of us in our roles of educators to empathise if or when we introduce new (and hopefully innovative, fun and sound) ways of Learning.

c.collis: “Hi Grant: I’m also particularly looking forward to hearing and learning from teachers about their TEL experiences. I’m benefiting from the participation of many ‘technologists’ here because this is their world and they have a wealth of resources and references to share. In practice, I find that sometimes technologists and teachers work at cross purposes: technologists are rightly more focussed on the tech and all the things it can do and how great it would be if we implemented it in our teaching; teachers are more focussed on the subject content and how it can be taught effectively, whether this involves TEL or not. Teachers sometimes feel beseiged by what they perceive as overzealous technologists bombarding them with things they need to add to their already full courses; technologists sometimes feel frustrated at what they perceive as stubborn academics who refuse to try new things that the technologists know could enhance their students’ learning experiences. I can see the frustrations of both groups (and I know the lines between these two groups are nowhere near as clear-cut as this post indicates). It wil be interesting to see how these two groups interact in this MOOC, or whetehr they are in fact identifiable as two groups in this environment. I’m learning from both. “

c.collis: As a result of thinking that through, I’ve come up with one new initiative: I’m going to invite one of the Learning Designers to attend each of my department’s monthly departmental meetings. The LD will have a standing agenda item each month: s/he will either give an update about a piece of tech that is working particularly well in our areas at the moment, and/or take questions from academic staff about tech ideas they have. Could be a neat way to bridge the sometimes gap between techs and academics, a way to get us working together.




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