You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2007.

I’ve just been reading about how a growing number of teachers are now geting their students to use Google docs & spreadsheets for their homework so that they can easily access their work.

An interesting idea. I can see that this could be useful in our massage course. Students would just need some way to indicate that they were ready to “submit” the work. Another option is using Google docs & spreadsheets to store shared information (such as class

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As part of the facilitating learning communities Aoteoroa course that I’m taking part in, Konrad Glogowski recently discussed his model for creating an online environment that supports the development of community in online education.

Konrad has based his ideas on some ideas that have come from the project for public places. This project looked at thousands of public spaces around the world, and determined four main attributes that contribute to the effectiveness of a space.

What makes a great place?

Konrad has taken the ideas developed by the project for public spaces and applied them to the online education environment. For details I strongly recommend downloading and listening to his lecture.

My two primary aims in creating an online environment are to

  1. Support the development of community
  2. Support effective learning of course material

Konrad’s discussion was based on the first of these…

What I’m about to describe are things that I believe need to be in place first in order for the community to emerge, and in order for the participants to engage in meaningful and personally relevant learning. (Glogowski, 2007)

…but on consideration I don’t believe it need’s much modification to support both of these effectively. In actual fact his model would support the second point without modification if students could be free to pursue their own learning interests. I imagine this would work for an english writing class, project-based learning, higher level learning, or other subjects where subject material could be less structured.

In the case of programmes (such as the Otago Polytechnic massage therapy programme) where the subject material is structured, I believe that Konrad’s model does need a minor tweak to support this second priority.

First attribute – Uses and Activities

Konrad says that the goal of the facilitator needs to be the creation of opportunities for students to use their expressive and creative voice. If the aim of the facilitator was to do this, but also to provide an environment which supported structured learning activities, then I believe this attribute would support both of my aims in the creation of an online environment.

Second attribute – Comfort & Image

The primary task of the facilitator with respect to this attribute is the provision of the freedom to customise, design and build. Konrad described how this could easily occur with the creation of individual blogs. I don’t see any need to modify this goal at all.

Third attribute – Access & Linkages

According to Konrad the goal of the facilitator must be to promote all activity, make it visible, and easy to access. Again, there’s no need to modify this goal.

Fourth attribute – Sociability

Konrad described the goal of the facilitator as suporting the freedom to interact and network both within the class and with external parties. This goal is also congruent with the achievement of specific learning outcomes, and there’s no need to modify it.

Wayne McIntosh of Wikieducator visited Otago Polytechnic yesterday, and provided an interesting talk/discussion regarding Wikieducator and it’s place in contemporary education.

As part of his talk he brought our attention to the Commonwealth Computer Navigator’s Certificate project.

The Commonweatlh Computer Navigator’s Certificate (CCNC) is a free content project to improve access to computer skills training. Building on the foundations of the Open ICDL project, the certificate is unique because it enhances the freedom of learners to aquire and enrich their basic ICT skills using free software.

… so it’s got some strong commonality with the Computer Literacy Resources for Teaching (CLRT) project I’m involved with. Helen Lindsay (the CLRT project leader) and I discussed this after the meeting, and agreed that we needed to have a look at it. I’ve been browsing the course, and it has a significantly different structure to the one envisioned for our project.

The CCNC is composed of a number of structured modules that will be created to a certain level before being released. The modules are designed to provide a complete education, and are focussed purely on freeware.

Our vision is to create more of a living library of open-content resources that can be used by teachers in supporting the computer literacy of their students.

So whereas it’s probably not appropriate to merge our efforts with the CCNC project, I’m sure that there are fertile grounds for collaboration & resource re-use. I’ve contacted them via their discussion board, and asked if they are interested in this type of collaboration. Lets see what comes from that.

I’ve just had a meeting with Stephen Griffiths, the manager of the Community Learning Centres in Dunedin.

Happily he could see no barriers to my plans of the CLCs being available to help our students with computer-related issues in their local area. There are CLCs in Wanaka, Queenstown, Cromwell, Alexandra and soon in Balclutha, so most of Otago is fairly well covered.

Here are some of my previous posts on this topic

So this covers onsite computer-support.  I now need to determine if our help-desk will be able to provide off-site computer-support, and to what extent.   Currently our help-desk is only open to 5pm, but I imagine that plenty of our students will be working on course work after this time.

I’ve just read an incredibly interesting article.

Hofstede G (1986). Cultural differences in teaching and learning. International Journal of Intercultural Relations 10 (3) 301-320

The article considers key attributes of different societies and how these relate to the expectation of teachers and learners.  Unfortunately it’s not an open access article, so I can’t link to it here, but I have found a summary of the important tables of attributes within the article.

It’s a start, but the original article also stated which countries had which attributes, and without this information, the tables are of limited use.  Is anyone aware of a source of this information?

I think these are invaluable considerations for anyone who deals regularly with students from other countries.  If I had more time on my hands I’d take on the project of summarising the findings of the article into an open-source format.

Teaching seems to be out of fashion. In the discussion that I’ve been involved with regarding teaching and facilitation, it seems to me that the general consensus (especially in online circles) is that facilitation is the thing to strive for over teaching.

I think that the word facilitation is used somewhat loosely depending on who’s mouth it comes out of. However if I am to contrast teaching with facilitation (in the context of these discussions), I think that it’s safe to say that teaching has more of a directive connotation for most people, and that facilitation is more learner-directed.

A recent reading from the Facilitating E-learning communities course currently being run by Otago Polytechnic & MIT illustrates these two perspectives nicely.

In Australasian, European, US and Canadian online classes, there has been a move towards active, student-centred classes where the role of the students is to interact with each other and to regard the facilitator as just another participant. In the many parts of Asia and the Pacific, however, learning is still currently a very teacher-centric affair. It generally would not be considered appropriate to challenge any assertion made by the tutor and any tutor could appear lax and disorganised if she or he allowed the class to arrive at its own conclusions.

It’s been my feeling that an effective teacher will move between teacher-directed and learner-directed styles depending on the needs of the group for some time. I was recently reading through an essay that my wife wrote which discussed models of leadership (McQuillan, 2007) :), and found it interesting relating these models to the above ideas, so I thought that it was worth laying them out here.

I think most people are familiar with Tuckman’s model of group development (1965). Tuckman described the stages of group development as forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. I’ll come back to these.

According to Situational Leadership Theory, leaders need to modify the way they interact with their followers. In this model a leader’s behaviour may be represented in two dimensions, by a combination of how much task-oriented interaction and how much group orientated interaction they exhibit. Different degrees of each suit different stages of group development.Situational Leadership Model

Quadrant S1 may be related to the forming stage of group development. In this stage a group is new, finding their feet and typically lacking confidence. The leader should exhibit a high task orientation and a low group orientation. In other words they need to be directive – telling the group what tasks they need to be doing. In this stage a teacher-directed style is optimal.

Quadrant S2 may be related to the storming stage of group development. The group will be establishing social dynamics, and culture. Leaders in this stage should provide a significant amount of direction (gross tasks and roles), although more input should be sought from the group regarding the detail of how tasks should be carried out. The optimal teaching style is still teacher-directed, but with some learner input.

Quadrant S3 relates to the norming stage of group development. The culture of the group settles into form. Task competancy is gained, and the group is more able to make decisions about which tasks they are to carry out, and how they are to do them. The teacher should be mostly operating as a facilitator at this stage. Ideally, learning should be directed by the group.

Quadrant S4 relates to the performing stage of group development. The group should be able to carry out tasks without much interaction from the leader. A teacher in this stage should be operating as a facilitator, but only when required.

Considering my experience of teaching and facilitating with students, it’s clear that reality is much more complex than this model suggests (always the case with models). I imagine that these models might most accurately reflect the dynamics of a group working on a specific project.

The learning experience of a group of students can be considered to be composed of a number of learning projects which may overlap. For the purpose of this discussion I will define a learning project as the students movement towards meeting the learning outcomes of a topic. Consider for example our students who in the course of a term may study up to 8 different subjects concurrently. In each of these subjects multiple learning projects may exist, starting & finishing at different times. Are these models still relevant given this complexity?

The social development of groups of students can be seen to move through the stages of forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. Teachers/facilitators should probably consider these models when attempting to build community in the group.

The overall learning competancy of the group can also be considered from this perspective. Ultimately our role as teachers may be defined in part by a responsibility to ensure that students gradute with a set of key competancies that are considered essential in the industry, but we should also aim to develop self-directed learners that are interested and passionate about driving their own learning. These models may be used to provide perspective on the development of students towards this end, and the appropriate methodology of a teacher who aims to guide students towards this end.

With respect to the individual learning projects involved in a course of study, it’s my experience that a group of students tends to move fairly dynamically between different stages of development and competancy. I believe there is a need for teachers to be aware of and sensitive to the social dynamics of each group of learners, and to be able to move between the role of a teacher or a facilitator depending on the needs of the group. In many areas it seems that as a new topic is broached it may be advisable to be fairly directive. Once students have some familarity, discussion can be opened and this can become part of the learning process, as learning deepens students can begin to lead the learning process. Again this is not necessarily a linear process. At any point the group dynamics can change, and the teacher should be prepared to step into a more directive or more facilitative role. I see this as being a natural intuitive part of teaching, although it could probably be developed by a process of post-teaching reflection.

How does this apply to online education?

I’ll attempt to relate these ideas to online education. I’m not especially familiar with online theory, which might be a disadvantage or an advantage depending on how you look at it. Nonetheless if you’re reading this, I would appreciate links to any relevant resources.

In the disussion that follows, I’ve considered a macro-view of the course and have assumed that the group will move through their process of socialisation at roughly the same time that they move through their process of development as learners. I’m not sure if this is a safe assumption.

When a programme begins that employs online methods, the class will typically be composed of students with a range of computer skills and backgrounds. As well as the normal orientation processes and group formation, there is also the need to orient to working and communicating within the online environment that the course operates within. Orientation involves both gaining familiarity with relevant software applications and gaining competancy in use of the communication media that are utilised in the course.

Forming

In this stage I think the main questions that drive the student will be

  • What do I need to do?
  • How do I do it?
  • Who is here?
  • How do I relate to other people in the course?

The role of the teacher/facilitator is to

  • Provide a clear framework consisting of course structure, learning objectives, and assessments, all linked to a timeline if relevant.
  • Provide opportunities for socialisation.
  • Provide opportunities to develop literacy in the use of the computer applications and communication media that are used in the course.
  • Learning activities should be teacher-directed

Storming

Questions that will drive the student

  • What do I need to do, and is it relevant?
  • Who do I agree with?
  • Who do I relate to?

The role of the teacher/facilitator is to

  • Provide opportunities for discussion & controversy
  • Be active in facilitating & leading discussion
  • Learning activities should be teacher-directed with some group participation

Norming

As the students move into being more comfortable with the group and in the environment they should become more self-directed in their learning. Learning activities should be learner-directed with some teacher participation.

The teacher/facilitator should provide opportunites for self-directed learning, and also directed learning so that students can move into self-directed learning when they feel comfortable doing this. Group projects fit well with this stage of development, as they enable less confident learners to learn from more confident learners.

Performing

As the students become more self-sufficient as learners, learning activities can move to being almost completely learner-directed. Project work can become based around individual projects rather than group projects (depending on course learning outcomes).

NOTE: In some cases it may not be appropriate for course work to be largely learner-directed. For example our programme content is largely determined by the requirements of our professional association. In this type of situation, learning activities should move to being learner-directed where this is appropriate. Constructivist approaches may be worth considering.

Conclusion

Groups of students move through stages of development in both online and off-line courses. An important element of the teacher’s role is to act as a leader of the group. To be effective in this role, a teacher must be able to move from a teacher-directed style to a learner-directed style depending on the social dynamics and needs of the group. In the earlier stages of group development a more teacher-directed style is often more appropriate and in the later stages of group development a more learner-directed style is often more appropriate, however the appropriate style of leadership can change rapidly and a teacher must be able to adapt to the needs of the group.

Over the past six months I’ve been gaining familiarity with blogs, email groups, wikis, elluminate, discussion boards, Blackboard, Google talk, del.icio.us, bloglines, rss feeds, and other web-services.  All very interesting, but how do they relate to this project of blended delivery of course content.

I sat down last night & started getting my head around this issue, then this morning had a meeting with Leigh Blackall to get some more clarity around what options are actually possible & workable.

The model that came out of this process follows….
(Please note that this is a draft, and has not progressed through consultation with staff at this stage)

The long-term intention is to create open-source content and activities.  These will most likely be stored on Wikieducator.org.   The main barrier is that we use copyrighted images in our teaching.  We will undergo a process of sourcing open images, but in the meantime we need a means of locking down the content to prevent unauthorised access.  Blackboard will be the medium that is used in the short-term with this end.

Each course will have it’s own blog.   Lecturers will post weekly/daily updates/guidance/activities to their course blog, and these postings will feed into a meta-blog (supaglue (spelling?) or some similar engine).

Each programme will have an email group set up & this will be the primary communication medium.  I have some issues with email groups.  I find that when a photo is placed next a text message I feel more of a sense of connection with the writer of the message, and feel that this is important for community building.  Google groups do not have this functionality.  Also the informal structure of email groups (relative to discussion groups) means that threads of conversation are not so clear, and discussion topics quickly fall out of the discussion space if they occurred say a week ago or more.  However given these issues, email groups still remain the best medium for communication within an online group that I have seen.  Leigh suggested that one way to ensure that students did not miss important threads of conversation was to regularly summarise important threads & post them on the course blog.  Hopefully Google moves to add in the functionality that I would like at some point in the near future.

The purpose of Blackboard will be as a storage place for copyrighted course material in the near future.  To improve the student’s ease of experience, postings made to course blogs should be mirrored in the announcements tab with links made to relevant activities/materials.

I also see us using elluminate for regular web conferences, and social software such as del-icio.us.

As the content is moved to an open format it can be converted to wiki-format.  I mentioned that I was not very enthusiastic about the prospect of typing all of my word documents into the wiki format (complete with esoteric indicators of formating, etc.), and Leigh suggested that I consider eXe.  I’ll look into it.

I’m feeling pretty happy with myself.   I’ve just nabbed

basicmassage.wordpress.com for our Certificate of Relaxation Massage

stressmntspa.wordpress.com for our Certificate of Stress Management and Spa Therapies

advancedtherapeuticmassage.wordpress.com for our Diploma of Advanced Therapeutic Massage (name not totally decided, yet, but I think getting this blog URL is almost enough to swing it) .

This blogging is addictive.  🙂

I’ve been working on the programme document this morning, and realised that I hadn’t mentioned at all my investigations into the phenomena which is the title of this posting.

This blog is intended to document the process of development of the massage therapy programme including any consultation relating to the development process. The reason that the info below hasn’t made it into my blog yet is that the discussion occured through an email group. Funnily enough, we’ve been having a conversation in a course I’m taking part in currently – Facilitating E-learning communities on the downsides of using too many communication channels. 🙂

I wish that I could give you a link to the discussion stream, but unfortunately the email-group is not open access, so I’ll need to copy & paste the relevant bits. There’s quite a bit of text here, but there are some interesting points. I think it’s worth persisting with.

David McQuillan

I’ve just been talking with Judy Magee, a lecturer here at Otago
Polytechnic who coordinates a foundation course in Bioscience. This
is the first year that they have taught Bioscience online. She said
that while there was no real difference in outcomes of the students that
participated through to the final examination, there was a significant
drop-off in student numbers getting to this point
. Of the 50 (or so) students that were
participating at the start of the course the numbers dropped to 34.
This is much more than the drop-off rate in previous courses which
were taught in the class-room setting. She is going to investigate to
see if she can find out any contributing factors – I’ll let you know.

I’m aware that this has been a problem for online education in the
past. What are generally thought to be the causes of this drop-off?

Veronique

I’m really familiar with the course you are referring to having helped
to design it and write most of the course material. I’m sure there
are several reasons that have contributed to the drop-out. Perhaps
the most obvious is that foundation level students often do not have
well-developed learning skills or self-management skills (you have to
be fairly organised and self-directed), they may have difficulty
asking for help and some older students have few, if any computer
skills, so basically they may not be very well prepared for online or
learning, and its easy for them to become demotivated when they feel
lost and overwhelmed. Of course this can be helped with preassessment
of skills and making sure the students have realistic expectations
about what is involved, maybe a taster so they see what’s involved
before committing themselves, and offering lots of support at the
start, but I think there will still be some people that are simply not
ready for it or will always prefer a more traditional method.

In the course you are talking about, not only are the students new to
it but so are the teachers, with no experience as online teachers or
students themselves. So that has perhaps been an added difficulty as
the teachers have also been on a steep learning curve themselves.

Leigh Blackall

Veronique, I think you are dead right to point out the differences between
novice and expert learners, and Dave is touching on a troubling and
important issue for online learning generally.

When I was working in Australia, the NSW Department of Education (NSWDET)
started allocating funds based on course completion rates. Ring any bells
TEC? Unfortunately these rates were reported in percentages. Where as a
course prior to being online would attract 20 or so students and see 15
through, the online version would attract 100 students and see 30 through.
Comparing these two instances in terms of percentages instantly makes the
online course look like a failure, but it needed to be reported that the
online completion rate was a 100% increase on the face to face course…
I’ll try and track down the paper that pointed out this flaw in the NSW DET
reporting standards.. it was back in 1999 or 2000.. long before I was using
Del.icio.us bookmarks 😉

I did find this brief article from
Educause<http://www.educause.edu/apps/eq/eqm06/eqm06311.asp>though:

In some cases, online students do not have the incentives and pressures of
classroom-based students; they can become lazy and unfocused. I had several
students who quietly dropped out of one of my online classes and later
contacted me to ask for an extension. Online drop-outs are more difficult
for an instructor to notice than in a classroom situation where daily
attendance and participation indicate a student’s involvement.

Educause is full of very good articles (this one being pretty so so),
especially in the 2005/2006 era. Well worth a browse.

I’m not entirely sure why, but I think it was Veronique’s point about novice
and expert learners that makes me want to point out Jay Cross’ Big Picture
of Informal Learning <http://www.jaycross.com/informal_book/poster.htm>.. I
wonder if it will spark some reflective thinking in us about “setting people
up for failure” in online course developments…

Linda

I was interested in the various comments on motivation to stay in
contact on distance programmes. We have no great problem with this in
the post graduate programme in the OT school. However, classes are
smaller (e. from 8-15) and students are supported with
teleconferences. They are well motivated generally speaking but most
do miss the face to face aspect and I noticed in the last feedback
that they woudl like to be in touch with others who work in similar
area of practice. This means deliberatley setting a task to ensure
this happens – it seems to give them permission to contact one another
(by email and by phone as well I notice)

Bronwyn Hegarty

hey david
this is an excellent question. My immediate answer as I know the course
involved – is that the students had an expectation that they were coming
on-campus to study in class f2f. there was an initial two weeks on-campus
everyday, then they were studying off-campus and working through self-paced
materials. For some self-directed learning is a skill to be learned. I don’t
believe there were any online facilitated activities. someone may correct me
here if i have got it wrong.

I believe there is a bit of a myth running around in some circles that when
something goes online you can just leave people to it. Lots of students do
respond better to having a facilitator/teacher presence online and there are
many studies to show that this helps reduce attrition rates in online
classes. There is also another side to the debate that moderation also know
as facilitation of online activities does not always make any difference as
it depends on the student group. so that is why it is so important to get to
know your learners…as you know.

Of course there are other factors such as learning styles, computer
competency, academic level. etc.

Here are some references re views for and against having a
teacher/facilitator presence.
“Learner-paced learning facilitates learner independence and autonomy.”
(Holmberg and Keegan, 1989).

” ..two way communication, where significant and frequent interaction
between instructor and learner and among learners is the essential, enabling
learning feature.” (Garrison, 1989).

“If you add the interaction on as an afterthought to the course, then you
are missing the whole point of the interaction. Right from the beginning we
analyse tasks, determining if they are best accomplished alone, in small
groups or whatever. Then we ask, ‘how are we going to make this happen?’
“(Anderson et al, 2005).

AND this one I particularly like:
Organised discussion groups may not be the solution . “Emerging Internet
based technologies create opportunities for new types of learning
communities that allow learners around the globe to study at their own pace,
yet engage in meaningful interactions with others – in essence, allowing
them “to have their cake and eat it, too.” (Anderson et al, 2005).

– The search for learning community in learner paced distance
education: Or, ‘Having your cake and eating it, too!’
<http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet21/ajet21.html>by Terry Anderson,
David Annand and Norine Wark – Australasian Journal of Educational
Technology 2005, 21(2), 222-241. AJET 21. An excellent article about online
communication.

Which statements do people agree with or not?

Gordon Robinson

To respond to Bron’s question below, a couple of phrases come to mind…

Successful online instructors realise that building a sense of ‘community’
in the online classroom is necessary for successful learning outcomes… The
development of community becomes a parallel stream to the content being
explored in on-line courses (Palloff & Pratt, 1999). Quoted by Woods and
Ebersole 2003 (http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring61/woods61.htm)

The key to successful on-line learning would appear to be the formation of
an effective on-line community working under the guidance of a skilled
facilitator. One of the principles of distributed learning is that the
‘knowing’ resides within the individuals. The whole point of the community
is being able to draw this knowledge out for all to share, analyse and build
on.

Anderson et al appear to be referring to the emergence of the so called Web
2.0, which I hadn’t heard of until I (quietly) attended Leigh’s discussion
session at the recent eFest. The advance from 1.0, if I understood it
correctly, was the social networking aspect of the media technologies
available. Again this appears to depend on the formation of a community, in
whatever shape or form, of similarly interested individuals or groups.

Organised discussion groups may not be the answer? That may depend on the
situation surely. How would we feel right now about being bombarded by well
meaning (and other) contributors with all sorts of differing opinions,
thoughts, videos, podcasts etc.. Would we be able to wade through it all
then sort the wheat from the chaff? Would this be an effective community?
Organisation must surely have it’s place…or am I talking about censorship?

Leigh Blackall

An ex colleague and mentor of mine from Australia was able to dig some good
stuff up regarding Dave’s query about drop out rates:
G’day Leigh
> an interesting topic – and one that hasn’t been researched very well yet.
> The factors are much greater than a purely f2f versus online face-off…
> particularly when the online course is a new offering that is probably only
> a rework of the f2f material anyway – what online facilitation training have
> the lecturers had? What instructional design parameters were applied to the
> online offering? etc, etc
> One study that demonstrates some of the complexity of this issue is Diaz
> (2002) – http://www.technologysource.org/article/online_drop_rates_revisited/
> – this study indicates that the demographics of the online and f2f groups
> often differ, that the online groups often perform better (supported by
> several other studies including Albritton (2006) –
> http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue11_10/albritton/index.html) and
> that students who drop an online course are often making a mature/informed
> decision in terms of their overall needs, whereas students remaining in a
> f2f program may risk failure or a poor mark as a cost of continuing.
> Hope that this is of some help,
> Jock David McQuillan

My impression from talking with Judy was that there were some
facilitated activities which were run through the Bb discussion
boards, and that these were perhaps the primary way in which the
teachers attempted to build community. The facilitators/teachers
participated in these discussions.

There was quite a lot of participation in the discussion boards. One
forum had over 500 postings. Most of the discussion board activity
seemed to occur in the early stages of the course & was focussed
around getting to know other participants, and building interest in
the programme.

It’s worth mentioning that we only talked for 30 minutes, and that
these impressions may not be completely accurate.

Yvonne

An article on attrition rates in online maths courses gives an
interesting description of the problems facing students in this
subject area and I wondered if Bioscience may have some similar issues
(if maths is a significant part of the learning).

Article at http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet21/smith.html

Smith, G. G. and Ferguson, D. (2005). Student attrition in mathematics
e-learning. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 21(3),
323-334. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet21/smith.html

What caught my attention was the issue of communicating in online
forums using mathematical notation and how this can be difficult and
off-putting for learners.

Leigh Blackall

Hi Yvonne, I haven’t read the article yet but your comment above prompts me
to point to communication platforms like Moodle <http://moodle.org> and
Wikieducator <http://wikieducator.org> that have mathematical symbols
available in their edit bars.. I don’t know much about communicating with
such symbols, but do these cut the mustard? Or I have heard of teachers
using the white board features on various web conferencing platforms to
write these symbols…

Gordon Robinson

Yvonne,

This is a subject close to my heart as a former maths teacher.

A significant issue, particularly for maths learners, that hasn’t been
mentioned in the article is that of self-confidence. So many students have
poor maths educations early on that can permanently affect their subsequent
learning. I discussed this in more depth on a previous course so will just
go over the key points here. Often early teachers are jacks of all trades,
no disrespect intended to them, however they often don’t understand the
maths themselves at higher levels and can impart this unwittingly to their
students. In this subject perhaps more than others, if the groundwork is
shaky then the rest of the learning is problematic. The good news is that
this can be turned around but often needs 1-1, f2f, where the individuals
can be mentored closely, coaxed and generally encouraged until they regain
enough confidence in their own ability to be independent learners again.
Nothing better for a maths teacher to hear the words “Is that all there is
to it?” or “Why did I have so much trouble with this before?”

So I guess the fundamental question here is, can this closeness be
replicated in the on-line environment? Can the teacher/facilitator-student
relationship be built up to the required level in cyberspace?

There was an excellent response from the Networked Learning Google Group. Helen Lindsay, Leigh Blackall, Sonny Teio, Dave McQuillan, Sandra Elias, Wendy Ritson-Jones and Phil Morrison all attended the meeting, and it was very productive.

We talked energetically about the benefits of having learning resources distributed over the internet via popular distribution channels such as you-tube, or having them centralised (on an OP server for example). We eventually decided that we could have the best of both worlds by having a centralised page (now set up in bare bones form on WikiEducator) linking to learning resources which may exist anywhere on the web. If you’ve got anything useful please jump in & create a link to your resource to get this page going.

We established that we need a fairly complete package or learning resources to be ready by the end of the year to send to all new online students (CD-ROM & Booklet is the current vision). The priority list of what could be included in this package is still to be made so let Helen know what your requirements may be, and also let her know if you are able to contribute to the project.

Resources will need to be continually developed/sourced to keep them current with the changing software environment.

Resources can be developed by either staff or students (The option of embedding this as an assessment item for Sonny’s BIT students was mentioned). Pre-existing quality resources could also be sourced from various web-sources.

Leigh showed us some software which could be used to create learning resources fairly quickly & easily (i.e. within about 10 minutes once competant). Cam studio / Camtasia – to create video resources, Screen Hunter (to take static screen shots out of video), several others that I can’t remember the name of??? There will be another meeting for anyone who’s interested in getting some tuition in the use of this software. I think this is next week on Wednesday, but contact Leigh or Helen for confirmation if you’re interested.

We talked about the need to support students with different learning styles by a combination of video & text-based resources.

We talked about the place of the community learning centres in online orientation. I said that my vision was for my students starting their online studies to be provided with a range of online orientation activities that were supported by the staff of the CLCs (f2f)and our departmental staff (online). It was pointed out that not all students are able to come into the CLCs for various reasons and we discussed the option of phone support which could also perhaps come from the CLCs? Helen is going to follow this up & see if this type of support for online orientation is possible.