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I’ve also made a start setting up the course structure on WikiEducator.

The plan is to model the structure on the information in our recently developed programme document.  This will be a section of WikiEducator that is specific to our course.
I also intend to start a project aimed at building a library of massage education resources in collaboration with other massage education providers.  I’ve started a page for this, and I plan to bring the subject up at a meeting of massage education providers that I will be chairing in several weeks, then I intend to pass the word on to some of my networks in Australia & the US.

The OP specific course structure will link to relevant resources within the library.  I imagine that initially most of the work in developing educational resources will come from OP, but over time I hope that there we will have input from many other providers.


After some discussion with Leigh yesterday, and some experimentation with different platforms, I’ve decided to go with Pageflakes as the course hub.

Pageflakes allows you to amalgamate feeds or other widgets within a single page fairly easily, then publish this to the web. Here’s a link to the page that I’ve set up for the 1st year of the massage therapy programme (main cohort).

I’ve set up a blog in blogger for each of the courses within the first semester of the programme, and this page has a feed for each of them. The idea here is that the Anatomy 1 lecturer only needs to look after the Anatomy 1 blog.

On the right side of the page is a sustainability feed based on my tags. I only need to tag a page with sustainability & it will show up here.

This page took me about 30 mins – 1 hour to set up (including setting up the blogs, and creating a gmail account) . I’m not including the time that I took playing around & figuring out how pageflakes works (perhaps 2 hours).

This page is designed for full-time students, but the beauty of it is that I can fairly easily set up a page for a part-time student stream. If I go through the same process I can set up a page that only has feeds from whichever courses the student(s) is(are) enrolled in.

Once a student is enrolled in the course all I need to do is to send them an email with a link to the course hub that is relevant to them.

I’m pretty stoked with this solution :-). The look is not ideal at present, but I can upload my own banner, so I plan to talk with marketing about this soon.

It’s about time for me to demonstrate that I’ve met the learning outcomes of the Designing for Flexible Learning Practice course that I started in February of this year.

According to the course wiki I can demonstrate these through a blog posting, so here goes. Rather than talking to the points below, I’ve decided to submit links to material that I think demonstrates competency.

At the successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Discuss principles and processes of flexible teaching and learning to facilitate culture sensitive adult learning;
  2. Critique the design and application of existing flexible teaching and learning options in relation to the literature;
  3. Analyse and evaluate challenges that arise in the design of flexible learning environments;
  4. Explore and justify the strategies for the development of flexible learning environments;
  5. Create and evaluate a plan for the implementation of a flexible learning experience.

Assessment One – Weblog

The Weblog contains evidence of the following:

Reflection about principles and processes of flexible teaching and learning

to start with.

Learning methods and resources utilised in the course

Discussion on a range of issues/considerations for flexible learning design

The above links should cover it.

A critique of flexible teaching and learning options from current research

Ideas and exploration conducted for a flexible learning plan


Assessment Two – Teaching Resource

The Teaching Resource (WikiEducator article) has the following attributes:

  • accessibility to the intended audience
  • an understanding of good practice in teaching and learning
  • usability for the intended purpose
  • supports teaching and/or learning
  • clearly addresses issues or considerations

I think most of the above are obvious from viewing the article.

Incorporated feedback from the lecturer and members of the class

Leigh added directly to the article, and I found his addition to be appropriate. I presume this is sufficient here.

Assessment Three – Reference List

The Reference List has the following attributes:

  • availability to others
  • references relevant to flexible learning and teaching
  • a variety of sources
  • other
  • comments

I added quite a few links to useful/relevant/interesting articles to the DFLP07 reference list in I don’t think my reference list can be accessed directly, but I’ve sampled it here. Reference List

Assessment Four – Flexible Learning Plan

The Flexible Learning Plan includes the following:

  • ideas and strategies which demonstrate an understanding of flexible learning principles and processes
  • a range of strategies, appropriate technologies, learning methods and resources; all of which are pedagogically sound
  • realistic solutions for issues and considerations
  • ideas which align with the learning weblog, teaching resource and reference list
  • evidence that feedback from the lecturer and the class has been incorporated
  • an analysis of the learner’s needs
  • a scope that is:
  • fit for purpose
  • realistic
  • aligned with the organisational profile i.e. able to service existing learners more efficiently AND/OR going to help access learners not currently engaged in a programme
  • demonstrating project outcomes/deliverables which match the strategies and methods to be used
  • other
  • comments

I’ve just submitted an application to fund the move to a blended delivery model which I believe covers all of the bases here. I’ve just tried to post this to my blog from Google docs, but it hasn’t shown up yet. Hopefully it should arrive shortly.

Taking Otago Polytechnic’s Designing for Flexible Learning Practice course before Facilitating Online Communities has definitely been a huge advantage to me in that I was already aware and partially competent in the use of many of the web-based technologies that we have used in the course.  This has freed me up to concentrate on content rather than technicalities, and I am aware that the need to develop competency in the use of these technologies has been a barrier to some of my classmates which to their credit they have overcome.  The observation of this has really reinforced my belief in the need for computer pre-requisite skills for online courses or at least significant computer support built into online courses.

In the early stages I was quite actively involved in following the structure of the course as defined by Blackboard and the course blog.  My experience of this was somewhat frustrating.  I initially wasn’t able to login to Blackboard due to password/user-name problems.  Once I finally got involved, I found some of the exercises and readings to be quite interesting and others to be seemingly less relevant and overly theoretical.  I did like the idea of marking the focus of activities as being individual, group, or class. 

Bronwyn & Leigh – Do you know if we can use the images that are used for this within the Blackboard shell?

I really enjoyed Geert Hofstede’s article on Cultural Differences in Teaching and Learning.  I was keen to try out communicating through the Blackboard discussion forums, but actually found this to be fairly awkward.  Also there was a fairly low level of participation in the forums which meant that our learning projects made little process which was frustrating, and in the end I gave up on this aspect of the course.

By this stage the group had mostly decided to move the focus of the course outside of Blackboard anyway.  So we moved on to a series of guest lectures, which have been generally fairly thought provoking.

Some participants have expressed some concern and dissatisfaction with the seemingly unstructured nature of the course from this point forwards.  Personally I came into the course with few expectations, and have been happy to ride the wave of learning experiences.  I think that most of my learning has actually come from engaging with the technology, communicating with other participants, and observing other people doing the same rather than the course content.  It’s been somewhat useful to be introduced to different speakers, ideas and theories, but I think that most of my learning has come through the discussion & observation of the discussion that has wrapped these experiences.

Has a community of learners developed in this course?

The course google group was the first place where group communication really happened on a regular basis, and I think that this communication channel has probably been an contributor to the development of community, however…

I first noticed that I was getting a sense of a community through blogging.  From the start of the course I been browsing everyone’s postings through my bloglines RSS reader, and after about 5-6 weeks of doing this I felt that I was really getting a sense of the other participants although there was still only a little cross-posting happening at this stage.  Interestingly enough I commented on this on my blog and in the group email forum and feedback from other participants was that most people did not have this same experience of a community.  I’m interested to know how many course participants now have the experience of being part of a learning community.


Have we developed a community of learnersPersonally I’ve really enjoyed the experience of blogging in this community of learners.  It’s been great putting my ideas out there and (lately) getting fairly instantaneous responses from other people in the course giving their perspective on my thoughts.  I think the reason that I’ve found blogging to be more effective than email communication in creating a sense of relationship with other learners is that blog postings are typically more considered than emails.  They take you deeper into the thought processes of other people, and you get more of a sense of who they are and where they’re coming from.

The elluminate sessions and skype channel have also been fantastic communication options.  It’s been good to have some synchronous options.  With the 10 minute elluminate lecture series we’ve all had the opportunity to meet around a shared conversational topic and to discuss in realtime the issues that were important to us.  Skype’s also been a great way of communicating with other participants and getting a response fairly instantaneously – generally I’ve found that we’ve used it to discuss issues that we’re thinking about, or having trouble with.

So I guess that each of the communication channels that we’ve used have had their benefits.  They’ve each allowed us to communicate in a slightly different form, and I believe that all of them have been useful in community development.

Lately I’ve been guilty of following my own interests to large degree, and have treated the course offerings as food for thought and stimulation of my own processes rather than basing my learning around them.  On reflection, perhaps this is a good thing.  I guess that in a real-world learning community people will follow their own interests, and their motivation for being involved in the community will presumably to be inspiration, motivation, reflection and food for thought.

I think I’ve noticed that as the group matures (& becomes more of a community?) other participants are also focusing on the issues that are important to them, and I believe that our communications have more depth as a result.

There has been controversy, and at times it’s seemed to be potentially divisive, but to the credit of the course facilitators any controversy and criticism has not been taken personally, and the conflict seems to have strengthened the community if anything.

So in response to my initial question.  I believe a community has developed, and is getting stronger by the week.  Although I probably won’t choose to facilitate any of my online teaching in such an unstructured manner, I actually believe that it’s been a valuable learning experience for us.  It’s been useful to experience & observe others struggling with technology and reflect on the implications of this to my teaching.  Being relatively unguided has presented us with the opportunity to follow our own interests, and to try to find our own meaning.  Perhaps this has actually helped to stimulate the creation of community & relationship?  It has certainly provided plenty of scope for discussion of many issues relevant to facilitating online.

I’ve stated before that I think online educators should consider developing using a simplifed software engineering model. My rationale here is that online educational experiences may often be similar in many ways to software applications particularly if they involve multi-media elements and/or assynchronous learning where the educational experience may be accessed by the students independently of the learning facilitator.

The following image comes from the website of a software development company called Sciencesoft , and illustrates the software engineering process in a manner which is fairly easy to relate to the development of online educational resources.

The Sciencesoft model is intended for fairly large software projects. In the discussion that follows I am assuming that the developer is developing a fairly small scale educational resource that is one component of an online learning programme, however I believe that the same process can be applied to a larger-scale project with some modification.

Define Project Scope

I see this stage being an initial planning stage where the developer will consider factors such as

· Course learning outcomes and how the online educational resource (OER) will help students to meet them.

· How these outcomes may be assessed (e.g. can this process be automated, or does the nature of the assessment mean that it requires the judgement of a course facilitator)

· Communication technologies which may be used

· Nature of the user interface

· Learner profile

· Needs of the students for scaffolding or support (either technical or educational)

· Development budget


This model separates development into three stages – design, implementation and integration.

In this stage the developer will determine which components will be required in the OER, how they will work together. A search for pre-existing components that may be incorporated within the OER would take place at this point.

In the implementation stage the developer will create the first working version of the OER.

Integration in software development is where all of the components of a software development are brought together to operate as a complete unit. This will probably not be necessary in most online educational development because learning resources will typically operate independently without needing to pass data to other learning resources (as components of computer programmes do).

(or testing)
Testing is an essential part of the software development process, and it is something that seems to be lacking or perhaps not understood in online education. If an OER is to be used independently of the facilitator, it is essential that the resource is thoroughly tested before any students use it. Ideally a tester should consider all of the possible pathways that students can follow within the OER and ensure that all of them work (consider online tests, auto-feedback, hyperlinks, etc.). This can be a fairly time consuming process, but is important if preventing student dissatisfaction is considered important.

Deliver Product to Customer

Once the OER has been thoroughly tested, it can be released to the students to use.

Maintenance & Support
Most OERs will require a certain amount of maintenance. Hyperlinks need to be updated, software updates may wreak havoc with something that worked perfectly well beforehand. A developer should bear this in mind & consider how much responsibility they are prepared to take for this. For example if you create a resource that other teachers with less technical competency than you are using it’s quite likely that they will be unable to fix it when it breaks down. Will you be prepared to commit to the ongoing maintenance of the resource? When a programme has a fairly large online component is it worthwhile employing a staff-member whose role is purely to check & maintain learning resources?

It’s also worth considering what support the students may need to access the resource, and to use it effectively. What supports are in place, and are any additional supports required?

Non-linear development

It’s worth nothing that development should not be expected to occur in a linear fashion starting with the definition of project scope and progressing stage by stage to finish with maintenance and support. It is quite likely that development can jump back to a previous stage. For example in the Stabilisation (testing) stage it’s common to find a problem with the OER. Depending on the nature of the problem the developer may need to jump back to the implementation stage, the design stage, or even the definition of project scope.

There was an elluminate meeting last night to discuss strategies for managing technology glitches in online education. The meeting started with everyone marking on the map below where they were connecting to the session from. Most of the group were people enrolled in the Facilitating e-learning communities course, although Derek Chirnside from the TALO email group also attended (from Sydney).


After that initial ice-breaker everyone collaborated to

1. Create a list of technologies which they are using or planning to use in their teaching.

2. Make a mark next to the technologies which each individual is planning to use in their teaching

As you can see from the diagram below most people are either using or are planning to use most of the technologies on the list.


Technologies such as flikr, youtube, video conferencing, slideshare, podcasting were less popular probably due to lack of familiarity. These are all technologies that we haven’t really investigated in any great depth in the course so far.

After this primer, we discussed the different technology glitches that could occur when using the above technologies and strategies that could be used to manage them. A summary of the strategies follows.

Strategies for managing technology risk

Have plan A & plan B (& also maybe plan C)

Back-up communication channel

  • Skype
  • Audioconferencing(
  • check with OP Property & services
  • Email-groups
  • Point of contact in case of emergency

Prepare for technology use

  • Making sure students and staff download and are able to access tech well before use
  • Practice & play with the tools before you use them

Managing server risk – communication channel with people who look after the server

Having a 2nd person involved


The first two strategies are quite strongly related. It’s quite important that if everything turns to custard there is a back up plan. A back up plan might be to use a secondary communication channel if the original proves to be un-usable, although there are other options.

Skype, audio-conferencing, and email-groups were all mentioned as possible back-up communication channels.

Skype worked quite well for some of the class last time, and the synchronous nature of the communication is probably quite well suited to salvaging a synchronous elluminate session or something similar.

The benefit of audio-conferencing is that it is independent of the computer, so if there were network connection problems, audio-conferencing would still be able to be used. The downside of audio-conferencing is that there is generally a reasonable cost associated with it’s use, and that network problems are likely to only affect a couple of participants.

For a back-up communication channel to be effective, all participants must be clearly informed that if the primary channel fails for some reason the back-up channel is to be used. It’s also a good idea to have a point of contact for someone in an emergency situation (e.g. if a student has a problem with their local connection).

Preparing for technology use is also fairly important. If Skype is to be used in a teaching session, all participants must have downloaded & installed Skype before participating in the session. It’s also a good idea to have time to play with and get familiar with the technology before using it for an important session.

Having a second person involved in teaching/facilitation was mentioned as a strategy that might be useful in managing technology glitches. Using Elluminate as an example, if the facilitator’s connection went down for some reason it’d be handy to have a second person on hand to continue the facilitation of the lecture.

When technology issues are related to the server (e.g. Elluminate), it’s probably a good idea to have clear communication channels between the server managers and the academic staff who are using applications that are server dependent.